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Jeff Gordon lucks into stormy Pocono win

“When I was cooling my tyres down through the tunnel coming to the green I noticed that something didn't feel right," explained Johnson after the race. "I kept trying to clean the tyres off and it got a little better so I just assumed I had trash on my tires.

"But when I got down into turn one I realized that I had a right-rear flat. Unfortunate that we lost the lead there and we got a couple of cars in the process. I shouldn't feel bad about that but not much you can do with a right-rear flat." Later on Twitter he mused that he must have run over some debris under the previous caution laps.

The accident sparked chaos in the tightly-packed field behind them as everyone scrambled to avoid piling into the wreck. The primary casualty other than Johnson was the man he'd hit going into turn 1.

"We took off and the #2 [Kahne] didn't get going and I had a pretty good gap, so I crossed the line and was going to pull behind Jimmie," recalled Kenseth. "When I pulled down to go behind him I got a little draft and actually pulled up to his door, and so I decided to race him through there and we went off into one and I could hear his pipes. I wasn't sure he has lifted yet. He drove in really, really far and spun out underneath me and I got wrecked."

Kenseth was sceptical about Johnson's explanation of a right rear tyre problem: “I don't think he had a flat, did he? I don't think so," he said. "“I am not mad at him, it is just that you race for the win and I thought I gave enough room down there. He drove in hard because he is racing for the win too. We are in a situation where we need to win some races too."

As well as Kenseth, Denny Hamlin didn't make it: "We all went in turn 1 and the leaders got in trouble and next thing you know one of the cars slid right in front me and that was about the end of it," said Hamlin, who ended up T-boning the side of the spinning #17. "We weren't going to win anyway and at this point all we're racing for is wins." Hamlin was okay after the crash, although he was taken to the medical centre after reporting some pain in his stomach that quickly subsided.

But where there's a threat, there's also opportunity - as Jeff Gordon was about to discover.

"I've never seen the seas part quite like that before like they did going down into 1," laughed Gordon. "I got a great restart and was able to dive to the inside in front of Kasey and I saw the #48 get sideways and it just took them all out. And I was like: wow!"

Gordon popped out with the lead under the ensuing caution, with his Hendrick team mate Kasey Kahne in second place despite a flat right-rear tyre of his own. He wouldn't be able to make the restart and would have to pit - assuming that the race was about to go green again. Keselowski had also survived in fourth place but was similarly holding on by a tread, the #22 running on empty and leaving him to shut off the engine and coast down the straights in order to eke out a previous few extra minutes of track time.

"I was thinking about the restart and what we were going to do," said Gordon. "I didn't want to have the same thing happen to us that happened to the #48. And it started raining."

It started with a light mist postponing the restart; a couple of minutes later it was definitely raining, and a restart was no longer an option. NASCAR threw the red flag and then the heavens opened properly, drenching the track and making it impossible for the race to resume on Sunday. Since the halfway mark had been crossed, that meant one thing: the race was called.




Related Pictures

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NASCAR fans pack to the Pocono grandstands as Matt Kenseth drives the #17 Zest Ford during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 5, 2012 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Crew members work on the #18 M&M`s Toyota, driven by Kyle Busch, after he was involved in an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 5, 2012 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, holds his daughter, Lydia Sunday, November 22, 2015 before final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Johnson and other Jeff Gordon teammates at Hendrick Motorsports wore tribute hats to honor the retiring Chevy driver prior to the start of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick finishes as the runner-up in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Former racing driver Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton pose during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with a burnout after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the series championship and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Daniel Suarez, driver of the #18 ARRIS Toyota, lead the field on the first lap of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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