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Shifting fortunes at Pocono favour Gordon

Further back, Kyle Busch had been powering through the backmarkers to 12th place after qualifying in the 34th spot, but it was clear that trouble lay in store for him: Kevin Harvick was conspicuously stalking him over the race track, 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."

When Harvick backed off, it seemed that the word had gone out to his team mate Jeff Burton to take over: clearly the Richard Childress Racing team were carrying on their boss's vendetta with Kyle onto the track. "He knows he has one coming," Harvick told ESPN.com. "I just wanted him to think about it."

Busch, though, was trying to keep away from all the mind games and resisted being lured into retaliation. "I was running my own race – it was another car I had to pass," Busch said after the finish."Seemed like he was trying to make it awfully difficult on me. There's a couple times where I just had to back off and wait, got back to him and tried to pass him again ... Maybe kind of shows his character and who he is, how he feels he needs to race on the racetrack," Busch said of Harvick's aggression. "But it's not my fight. He's trying to turn it into one."

Once NASCAR handed the warning to everyone involved, the feud simmered down and racing got back to the business at hand; Harvick himself ended up on pit road early after failing to get a full shot of fuel during his previous stop, which helped put some track distance between #29 and #18.

Before the green flag pit stops came around on lap 47, Hamlin's lead had grown to almost 4s ahead of Juan Montoya and Kurt Busch, with Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon closest to him. Hamlin quickly picked up the lead again after the stops cycled through and continued to lead for the next 27 laps with only Juan Montoya managing to hold on despite his two-tyre gambit as Hamlin stretched his command of the race; Kurt Busch by contrast was fighting a loose #22.

Pretty soon Carl Edwards was not among those in pursuit: he took the #99 onto pit lane on lap 60 reporting that the car's engine had a terminal problem. "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, following that change NASCAR made to gear ratio settings for the race. "No, I don't think that had anything to do with it. I was trying really hard to be easy on the engine and only shifting in one and two and I was short shifting into fourth. I didn't want to over rev it."

Edwards' retirement would have major consequences for the Sprint Cup championship. He'd arrived at Pocono walking away with the lead by 40pts, but afterwards his lead would be slashed to just 7pts following his classification in 37th place here. "That is racing I guess. What good is the point lead if you don't use it? We are using it today and we are going to need every bit we can to get out of here with the lead today."

While Edwards wondered off and took up residence as an unexpected addition to the TNT commentary team, among others failing to make race distance were Sam Hornish Jr. - returning to Cup racing for the first time this year - and Marcos Ambrose.


by Andrew Lewin



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Jeff Gordon celebrates winning the 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono Raceway, his record-tying 5th victory at the track. [Picture Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Jeff Gordon crosses the finish line to win the 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono Raceway, his second victory of 2011. [Picture Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Jeff Gordon and Juan Montoya battled for position throughout the 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono Raceway. [Picture Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Despite leading a race-high 76 laps, Denny Hamlin experienced trouble on lap 159, having to pit twice after his left rear tyre went flat. He finished 19th. [Picture Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images]
Kurt Busch leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field to the green flag to start the 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono Raceway in June 2011 [Picture Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images]
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, lead a group of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Kroger/P&G Chevrolet, lead the field on a late restart during the NASCAR Nationwide Series John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 at Kentucky Speedway on June 27, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Kroger/P&G Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 at Kentucky Speedway on June 27, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Kroger/P&G Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 at Kentucky Speedway on June 27, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Kroger/P&G Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 at Kentucky Speedway on June 27, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, left, talks with Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway on June 27, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky.  (Photo Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Series UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway on June 26, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Series UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway on June 26, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway on June 26, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway on June 26, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Panasonic Chevrolet SS, races to second place Sunday, June 22, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway in Sanoma, California. Gordon leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, puts a winner sticker on his car as he celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 22, 2014 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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