LONG POND, Pa. - Dale Earnhardt Jr. passed Brad Keselowski down the stretch to win a thriller Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
Earnhardt led only 11 laps but his No. 88 Chevrolet was the car to beat at the end, and he zipped past the dominant Keselowski, who had debris on his grille and a hot engine, with five laps remaining in the 400-mile race. Keselowski was second for the second straight race.
Earnhardt won the Daytona 500 and now has multiple wins in a season for the first time since 2004.
Keselowski had a runner-up finish to go with his 95 laps led. Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and rookie Kyle Larson completed the top five.
Earnhardt gave Hendrick Motorsports three straight wins, following back-to-back victories by Jimmie Johnson. Johnson overcame a pit road mishap to finish sixth.
"I don't have much to do tomorrow," Earnhardt said, grinning. "Tonight's going to be a long one."
Keselowski had the car to beat in his No. 2 Ford when a piece of trash stuck to his grille. He appeared to yield the lead to Earnhardt in an attempt to clean off the front grille and not lose time. He stalked Earnhardt down the stretch, but could never recover, losing his shot at his second win of the season.
"I was trying to make a move to clean it off," Keselowski said. "I realized I made a mistake."
His misjudgment worked out just fine for Earnhardt.
Earnhardt, long NASCAR's most popular driver, gave the Pocono crowd plenty of reason to go wild. He pulled away from Keselowski and won for the first time at Pocono. Earnhardt said Keselowski may have had the best car - but he had the best one at the end.
"He had me beat. I couldn't get to him," Earnhardt said. "I've lost in some strange ways, so it feels good to win one like that."
Junior shook off the red gauges in the No. 88 that could have had him meet a similar fate as Keselowski.
"They were still within good reason to stand on it and give it hell," he said.
Earnhardt's second win means he is guaranteed to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field. He won for the 29th time in 519 career Sprint Cup starts.
"We were there all day running great," he said. "We had a fast car just never really got that track position until the end. You've got to be there and we were."
Johnson's bid for a third straight win took a hit when he connected on pit road with Marcos Ambrose. Coming off wins in the Coca-Cola 600 and at Dover, Johnson was fifth when he pitted under yellow. Johnson hit Ambrose and made a 180-degree spin, forcing him to back into his stall for more repairs. He needed two tires, had right-front damage and dropped to 29th on the restart.
Busch posted his first top 10 since his win at Martinsville nine races ago. He salvaged a rough day for his team that saw fellow Stewart-Haas Racing drivers Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick drop from contention with various issues. Stewart held the lead and was in great position late to win until he was busted for speeding on pit road and was dropped to 31st. Harvick was running second when had tire trouble.
Stewart finished 13th, Harvick 14th, and SHR's Danica Patrick was 37th after she smacked the wall with 22 laps left.