An explaination for the uninitiated: Over the years, many NASCAR fans have dubbed the first or second races at a track 1 or 2 (ie: Dover 1, Dover 2.) This of course is to help differentiate each race since there are only a handful of races that have an established historic name (ie: Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, even the Coke Zero 400.) This week a look at what I consider to be the 10 Best Pocono 1 races. All of these races have been held at or around the same time in the month of June. Of the two Cup events at Pocono, this event is the youngest having began in 1982 compared to the July/August race that began in 1974.
On to the list!
10. 2001 Pocono 500
It was a battle between Hendrick Motorsports and Robert Yates Racing in this one. Unfortunately for Jeff Gordon, he didn't only have to contend with Dale Jarrett, he also had to beat Ricky Rudd. Gordon led the most laps with 86 while Jarrett led 69. Rudd led 39 circuits but most importantly led the final one, taking the win and ending a winless drought that lasted nearly three seasons.
9. 1987 Miller High Life 500
This race is widely remembered as the one Tim Richmond won in his return from battling serious illness. What is forgotten is that the race was a duel between the three best drivers at that time in NASCAR; Richmond, Elliott and Earnhardt. Even though Richmond led the final 47 circuits, his margin of victory over Elliott was only 1 second. Considering the track and that many races of that time were determined by far more than 1 second, it was a fairly close finish.
8. 1999 Pocono 500
The 1999 event was a very competitive one. Seven drivers led 10 or more laps in the event. Dale Jarrett led the most with 71, but in the closing stages of the race it looked like Pennsylvania's Jimmie Spencer was cruising to a win at his home track. It wasn't meant to be though as Spencer got in oil from Bill Elliott's blown engine in turn one and spun. Bobby Labonte inherited the lead and fought off Jeff Gordon to win by three-tenths of a second.
7. 2002 Pocono 500
Dale Jarrett, Jeff Gordon, Bill Elliott and Ryan Newman all had their time in the lead in this race but it was Ricky Rudd who looked to be the best on this day. After leading the most laps in this one (60), Rudd looked poised to take the victory. However, a flat tire took Rudd's chance at a win away and gave the lead and the eventual win to his teammate at the time, Dale Jarrett. To make things worse for Rudd, he spun in the third turn on the last lap forcing the race to end under cauion.
6. 1993 Champion Spark Plug 500
It was absolute domination on the part of Kyle Petty as he led 148 of the 200 laps in this one. While there was little racing for the lead, the race proved to be very interesting as many of the top drivers/teams were forced to bow out due to mechanical issue. Dale Earnhardt looked to be Petty's closest competition, leading 20 laps but even he was done in by mechanical woes, an oil leak on his car.
5. 1994 UAW-GM Teamwork 500
1994 seemed to be the season where if you had a black car, you were running up front and winning races. The June event at Pocono was no different as Rusty Wallace dominated while Ernie Irvan kept Wallace within close proximity throughout much of the race. Late in the going after pit stops there was much confusion amongst NASCAR officials who had trouble sorting out who was supposed to start where. Meanwhile, Dale Earnhardt's team had gambled and taken two tires and the race lead while Wallace's team took four. NASCAR finally got things right and was able to restart the race on the white flag lap. Wallace's four tires prevailed over Earnhardt's and he was able to take the victory.
4. 2003 Pocono 500
The 2003 Pocono 500 is likely one of the most competitive races in the history of Pocono Raceway, perhaps one of the most competitive in the past 30 years. Nine of the top 10 finishers led at least one lap. 11 of the top 12 finishers led at least one lap. (If you can find another race where a large number of drivers led laps and finished high like this, please post a response.) There were 28 lead changes in all with Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Sterling Marlin, Elliott Sadler and Jimmie Johnson each taking the lead for a good amount of time. Stewart ended up first to the checkered flag ahead of Mark Martin who, surprisingly has yet to win a race at Pocono.
3. 1998 Pocono 500
This race will always be remembered as being Jeremy Mayfield's first NASCAR Cup win along with being one of the final real good finishes for Darrell Waltrip. Mayfield was clearly the dominant car, leading 122 laps. With 30 laps to go, Darrell Waltrip was in the lead hoping for one last dance with glory. It wasn't to be as Mayfield passed his childhood hero for the lead with 20 laps remaining. In the last handful of circuits, it looked as though Jeff Gordon was going to play spoiler and take another win, as he was apt to do at the time. Mayfield held him off and took the win by three-tenths of a second. Waltrip finished sixth, the last top 10 finish of his career.
2. 2000 Pocono 500
Jeremy Mayfield was the star again at Pocono in 2000. Though he only led 9 laps, Mayfield was in contention to win in the final laps, only needing to get by the black #3 of Dale Earnhardt. On the final lap, Earnhardt got tight off the tunnell turn allowing Mayfield to get close enough to "rattle his cage" in the third turn. Mayfield applied the bump, Earnhardt got loose and Mayfield went by to take the lead and the win. Amazingly as he did in 1990 in the Daytona 500, Earnhardt was able to save his race car and bring it home to the finish, 4th on this day.
1. 1992 Champion Spark Plug 500
There's no question in my mind that the 1992 season was the greatest championship run in the history of NASCAR. Every single finish in every single race by Alan Kulwicki and Bill Elliott meant something. This race proved to be Kulwicki's final career win in Cup. This race featured a fantastic duel between the eventual champion and season runner-up as Kulwicki and Elliott dueled for the lead. With 10 laps remaining, Kulwicki was able to take the lead away from Elliott. Up until that point, Ken Schrader had led the most laps with 51 while Kulwicki led 48. The final handful of laps Kulwicki lead in this race ended up giving him the five point bonus for leading the most laps.
There you have it for this week. Agree/disagree? Please leave comments (and please be civil.) I enjoy having discussion on what I might have missed. Next week, Michigan 1 races!
Opinions expressed in blogs are those of the individual bloggers and do not necessarily represent the views of racing-reference.info.