Gordon on the rise as Stewart closes back in on Johnson
Jeff Gordon was the main NASCAR Sprint Cup mover in the Castrol EDGE Rankings on a weekend in which Jimmie Johnson’s late mistake also proved costly.
Johnson had looked in full control at Pocono once he had moved to the fore on lap 39, but he hit trouble on what proved to be the race’s final restart.
On the 91st tour of the circuit, entering Turn 1 on the inside of Matt Kenseth, the five-time champion’s bid for back-to-back wins was derailed when he got loose and slid up the banking into Kenseth.
Gordon, following behind, held his inside line as the action unfolded and inherited the lead as a result.
He held it until the finish, which arrived after 98 laps after stormy weather brought proceedings to an early conclusion.
Victory proved a boon in the Rankings, with Gordon jumping two spots to 26th, arresting a gradual slide which has occurred over the past few months.
The chain of events also left Johnson vulnerable in the Rankings.
It was only a week ago that he had moved to the top of the Sprint Cup pile with victory in the Brickyard 400, but by surrendering victory his position was almost immediately under threat.
Events ultimately conspired to save him for at least one more week. Not only was Johnson able to rescue the situation and come home 14th, but his nearest Rankings rival Tony Stewart was not able to fully capitalise, missing out on the podium by finishing fifth.
He nevertheless closed the gap significantly to Johnson, meaning simply finishing ahead of him at Watkins Glen this weekend could be enough to displace him at the head of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Rankings.
Not to be left behind by Stewart, Carl Edwards (11) and Matt Kenseth (12) also gained one spot apiece.
That came despite a massive disparity in the pair’s weekend fortunes: Edwards finishing seventh and Kenseth 23rd, the final man within one lap of racewinner Gordon, after his clash with Johnson.
While their gains kept Edwards and Kenseth within touching distance of the top pair, they were also closed down as Kasey Kahne leapt up the order following his runner-up finish.
Rolling across the line due to a punctured right-rear, Kahne nevertheless clung on to second and with it a three-place rise in the Rankings, carrying him to an all-time high of 15th.
Marcos Ambrose managed to match his gains, rising up three spots to 48th in the Rankings following his top 10 finish.
Both were outdone by polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya, who secured a massive Rankings progression despite falling back heavily in the race.
20th when the race was called, the Colombian still rocketed nine places to 70th overall, his highest Ranking since March.