Jeff Gordon took his second win of the 2011 Sprint Cup season with the 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono Raceway - his 84th career win in 631 Cup races - to become only the fourth driver with multiple wins so far this year. That last fact alone should mean he makes it through to the post-season Chase via the wildcard even if he didn't get through on points alone.
Gordon took the lead by beating Kurt Busch out of the pits under caution on lap 157 and then jumping Juan Montoya at the restart; Gordon led for only 39 laps in the race while Denny Hamlin (who led for 76) suffered a flat tyre late in the race because of a missing valve stem, which caused bodywork and brake damage and sent him back to pit road.
A perfect late-race green flag stop on lap 177 clinched the deal for Gordon, who agreed that his crew shared the victory: "You guys won that one in the pits! Way to go!" he said over the team radio as he took the chequered flag.
Kyle Busch came in third place after early friction with old rival Kevin Harvick caused NASCAR to issue both drivers with a warning. Harvick seemed to be doing all he could to antagonise Busch first by repeatedly crowding him as they battled for position and then later following Busch to the inside and staying glued to the #18's bumper. NASCAR told both teams to stop fooling around and concentrate on the racing, which infuriated Busch.
"The #29 is all over me!" Busch retorted, and his crew chief Dave Rogers sought to calm his driver down by agreeing. "Keep your composure in that race car, bud," Rogers replied; "I've lost mine about four times already."
However Busch's troubles were not over when he finished the race in third place at the chequered flag. NASCAR subsequently announced that the #18 had failed post race inspection with a height issue on the left-front and had been removed to the NASCAR R&D Center for further investigation - serious penalties could follow later in the week.
Championship leader Carl Edwards suffered an engine failure 59 laps into the race and was forced to retire, meaning that his previous lead over Jimmie Johnson in Cup points has been dramatically cut back from 40pts to just six.
"One of the valves got in an argument with something in the engine and lost," Edwards explained. "We broke one valve. We don't think it was from an over-rev or anything. We just think it was a parts failure." He said it didn't seem to be related to the return of the need for drivers to shift gears during the Pocono event, after NASCAR made changes to gear ratio settings for the race.
Full results and times available
Full race report