August 3, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Sunday's motors roundup: Dale Earnhardt victory earns Pocono sweep

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has three Sprint Cup victories this year, his most in a season since 2004. (Jeff Zelevansky / Getty Images)

Long Pond, Pa. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. traded hats, waited for his cue, and flashed three fingers for the cameras.

That’s one for every win.

The beer baths, champagne toasts, selfies, and photo opps in Victory Lane are almost routine now for Junior.

He added a new wrinkle at Pocono, a broom.

Earnhardt hoisted the broom high over his head after he completed a season sweep at Pocono Raceway, the third win in a season that has served as a career renaissance for NASCAR’s most popular driver.

Earnhardt now holds the No. 1 seed in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Can he hold it headed into NASCAR’s version of the playoffs?

“You’re the broadcaster,” Earnhardt teased crew chief Steve Letarte about that question.

“You don’t,” the departing Letarte said. “You’re too far from the Chase.”

The legion of Junior Nation fans roared when Earnhardt stormed ahead of the pack off the final restart with three laps left for the lead. His third win — he also won the Daytona 500 — tied him for the most in Sprint Cup this season.

Earnhardt held off the hard-charging Kevin Harvick to become the first driver to sweep both races at the track since Denny Hamlin in 2006.

He tweeted “Lookin for a broom” last week when he landed in Pocono.

He found one in Victory Lane.

“This group all really enjoys each other,” Earnhardt said. “We want to see everybody happy.”

Earnhardt also became the fifth straight Hendrick Motorsports driver to win at Pocono. Owner Rick Hendrick was not at the race, though he did talk to his winning driver on the phone on pit road.

“I told him thanks for believing in me and making my life better,” Earnhardt said.

Earnhardt’s sweep followed Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson last year and Jeff Gordon in the August 2012 race.

Earnhardt has his most wins since he won six times in 2004. His three wins are one shy of his combined total from 2005-2013. His win Sunday was the 22nd of a career still without a Cup championship.

“We had a fast car all day,” Earnhardt said. “Steve’s strategy was perfect at the end. I don’t know if anyone knew what was going on there, but it was pretty awesome.”

Earnhardt and Letarte are clicking in their final season together. Hendrick Motorsports named Greg Ives the crew chief for 2015 once Letarte heads to the broadcast booth.

“I think he’s going to make me look bad,” Letarte said. “Mr. Hendrick has a remarkable talent of matching drivers with crew chiefs.”

Harvick, who clinched a spot in the Chase, was second, followed by Joey Logano, Clint Boywer and Greg Biffle.

Earnhardt, who swept a track for the first time since Talladega in 2002, had few cars left to hold off on the lead lap after several potential contenders got knocked out.

Hamlin triggered a 13-car wreck with 43 laps left after he got sideways coming out of a turn. Brian Vickers tried to avoid Hamlin and slammed into Matt Kenseth to send cars all over the track.

The Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet rested atop Paul Menard’s No. 27 Chevy.

“I can’t drive it because my car is on top of the other car,” Stewart said over the radio.

Stewart, Vickers, Menard and Matt Kenseth all visited the NASCAR care center.

“Big wrecks are always frustrating when you’re in it,” Kenseth said.

IndyCar

Scott Dixon went from last in qualifying to win the Honda Indy 200 at Lexington, Ohio, won his fourth win at Mid-Ohio in the last six years, coasting in on low fuel to end Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s victory drought in 2014.

Dixon also won on the road course between Cleveland and Columbus in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Sprint Cup point standings

1. Jeff Gordon…757

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.…-17

3. Brad Keselowski…-70

4. Matt Kenseth…-89

5. Ryan Newman…-115

6. Jimmie Johnson…-124

7. Joey Logano…-124

8. Carl Edwards…139

9. Curt Bowyer…-140

10. Kyle Busch…146

11. Kevin Harvick…-149

12. Kyle Larson…-162