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UPS Game-Changing Moments: Pocono

June 09, 2013, Staff report,

Moments that changed the course of the race at the Tricky Triangle

No. 88 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief Steve Letarte knew his driver needed Jimmie Johnson to make a mistake -- which he also knew was unlikely to happen. 


"Anybody can miss a shift, make a mistake, miss a groove. There’s a lot of opportunity,” the crew chief said. “We take for granted how easy Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and these guys make this look. They’re doing a lot of work out here. There’s a lot of opportunity for mistake. But that guy that won, he’s won a lot of then, so we weren’t expecting him to make too many mistakes.”

That doesn’t mean Johnson wasn’t concerned. “Restarts are so tough, and around here if you can get the clean air on a short run, especially with the series of cautions we had, it would be tough to pass him,” he said. “But even with having a dominant car, I didn't want to be in that position of running second and have to worry about getting by somebody.  I learned a lot on the two restarts where I was on the outside of the (Ryan Newman), and that helped me a lot going into those final three with Junior on the outside of me.”

Ryan Newman parlayed an off-sequence pit stop strategy into a fifth-place finish. Overall, it was another strong performance from Stewart-Haas Racing, which seems to have turned a corner over the last three weeks.

“Definitely progress, for sure,” said Stewart, who followed his win last Sunday at Dover with a fourth in the Party in the Poconos 400. “It’s one thing if one car runs good, but to have two or three of us running good shows that we are gaining momentum.

“It’s not just one team. The whole organization is gaining momentum.”

The third caution for an accident in the Tunnel Turn on Lap 133 came when Juan Pablo Montoya drove hard into the corner under Matt Kenseth, lost control of his No. 42 and started a synchronized spin with Kenseth. Montoya finished 14th and Kenseth ended the day 25th, his third consecutive finish of 15th or worse after four top-eight results.

On the restart after that caution, Brad Keselowski was running fifth when he nearly wrecked in the same turn as he and Tony Stewart spun together before each saved his car. By lap 139, Keselowski lost plenty of ground with his remarkable save, sliding back to 15th and finishing 16th. Meanwhile, Stewart was able to hold on for his second consecutive top-five finish.'s David Caraviello and the NASCAR Wire Service contributed to this report.