Pocono Update: Johnson cuts tire, hits wall to bring out yellow at halfway

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The GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway is under yellow at the halfway mark after race leader Jimmie Johnson suffered an apparent right-front tire failure and took bodywork damage after brushing the Turn 2 wall. After his crew worked to tape up the damaged section of his car, he finds himself in 28th.

As a result of Johnson’s incident, Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne leads at halfway, followed by Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and last week’s winner, Ryan Newman.

The race got off to a ragged start with two incidents within the first 15 laps. Moments after the green flag, Ricky Stenhouse slid into the Turn 1 wall in an incident that also involved Juan Pablo Montoya and Matt Kenseth. Then on Lap 14, Denny Hamlin got loose in Turn 3 and slid up into the wall, knocking him out of the race.

Johnson chose to stay out on the track during the Hamlin caution, as did Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and three others.  On Lap 34, Johnson relinquished the lead to come to pit road under green, but retook it on Lap 48 after the pit cycle ended.

Lap 53 saw David Gilliland tag the wall in Turn 2 to bring out the third yellow of the day. Strategy shuffled the field once more as Johnson opted to pit and second-place Keselowski decided to stay out and take the point.

When the green came back out at Lap 58, the Top 11 drivers were the ones who didn’t pit under the Gilliland caution. Kurt Busch took 2 tires to win the race off pit road and restarted 12th, while Johnson was 13th after taking four tires.

Kahne put up a strong challenge against Keselowski off the restart and was able to get in front of the reigning Sprint Cup champion in Turn 1 at Lap 59. He then promptly stretched out his advantage to several seconds until he gave up the lead to pit on Lap 71.

That was part of a green pit cycle for those that didn’t pit on the previous yellow, enabling Johnson to return to the front at Lap 74. But two laps later, he went into the Turn 2 fence to bring out the most recent caution.