2012 Pennsylvania 400
|Race 21 of 36 in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series|
|Date||August 5, 2012|
|Location||Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania|
|Course||Permanent racing facility
2.5 mi (4.023 km)
|Distance||98 laps, 245 mi (394.28 km)|
|Scheduled Distance||160 laps, 400 mi (643.737 km)|
|Weather||Isolated thunder storms with a high temperature around 80; wind out of the S at 7 mph.|
|Average speed||139.249 miles per hour (224.100 km/h)|
|Driver||Earnhardt Ganassi Racing|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports|
|No. 24||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports|
|Television in the United States|
|Announcers||Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree|
|Nielsen Ratings||4.449 million |
The 2012 Pennsylvania 400 was a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stock car race held on August 5, 2012 at the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Contested over 98 laps of 160, it was the twenty-first race of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. On August 10, 2011, track president Brandon Igdalsky announced that the race will be shortened from 500 miles to 400 miles. Jeff Gordon, from the Hendrick Motorsports racing team, won his first race of the season while Kasey Kahne finished second. Martin Truex, Jr. clinched the third position. The race later ended after 98 laps due to thunderstorms in the area. The win gave Gordon his first of the 2012 season, as well as his sixth at the track, the most at Pocono, breaking a tie with Bill Elliott.
Pocono Raceway is one of six superspeedways to hold NASCAR races, the others being Daytona International Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. The standard track at Pocono Raceway is a three-turn superspeedway that is 2.5 miles (4.0 km) long. The track's turns are banked differently; the first is banked at 14°, the second turn at 8° and the final turn with 6°. However, each of the three straightaways are banked at 2°. Brad Keselowski was the defending race winner.
Before the race, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. led the Drivers' Championship with 731 points, and Matt Kenseth stood in second with 717. Greg Biffle was third in the Drivers' Championship with 709 points, five ahead of Jimmie Johnson and 42 ahead of Denny Hamlin in fourth and fifth. Kevin Harvick with 653 was even with Martin Truex, Jr., as Tony Stewart with 652 points, was three ahead of Brad Keselowski, and nine in front of Clint Bowyer. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Chevrolet was leading with144 points, 28 ahead of Toyota. Ford, with 97 points, was fourteen points ahead of Dodge in the battle for third.
Practice and qualifying
Two practice sessions were held before the race on August 3, 2012. The first and second session were each 90 minutes long. Johnson was quickest with a time of 51.638 seconds in the first session, 0.088 faster than Kyle Busch. Carl Edwards was third quickest, followed by Kenseth, Biffle, and Kasey Kahne. Joey Logano was seventh, still within a three-tenths of a second of Johnson's time. Shortly before the first session concluded, Paul Menard sustained major damages to his car after crashing, causing the team to use their replacement car. In the second and final practice session, Earnhardt, Jr. was quickest with a time of 50.721 seconds. Kenseth with a time of 50.855, was second quickest, ahead of Biffle, Kyle Busch, and Edwards. Jamie McMurray, Truex, Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, and Johnson completed the first ten positions.
Forty-four cars were entered for qualifying, but only forty-three could qualify for the race because of NASCAR's qualifying procedure. Juan Pablo Montoya clinched his eighth pole position of his career, with a time of 51.124 seconds. He was joined on the front row of the grid by Hamlin. Menard qualified third, Kahne took fourth, and Marcos Ambrose started fifth. Kurt Busch, Kenseth, Earnhardt, Jr., Ryan Newman and Johnson rounded out the top ten. The driver that failed to qualify for the race was Stephen Leicht.
Once the qualifying session had concluded, Montoya stated, "I know (Sunday) is going to be a reality check that we've still got to work on it a lot. But the race hasn't even started, and we haven't seen how the car works in clean air. We know there's a lot of really strong cars, but you make the right strategy and if you get track position, we've shown we've got the speed. I'm really open-minded. I told people, 'Let's enjoy today.' "
The race started 90 minutes late due to a rain delay. The first ten laps of the race featured two lead changes and four others as Denny Hamlin and pole-sitter Juan Pablo Montoya repassed each other four times in two laps. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was also in contention for the lead before his transmission broke, and Jimmie Johnson led the most laps, but would crash on a restart with Matt Kenseth and Hamlin in Turn 1 on Lap 91. Jeff Gordon, who was running fifth on the restart avoided the crash, and would become the new leader. Seven laps later under caution, the thunderstorm hit the track and after 98 of the scheduled 160 laps, giving Gordon his 86th career Sprint Cup win. Kasey Kahne came in second, and his contentions in the race were dashed in pit road during the final caution, when he ran over an air hose and had a flat right-rear tire.
Standings after the race
After the race, a spectator was killed by a lightning strike, while nine others (one critical) were injured. The nine injured spectators were taken to area hospitals, and five of them were later taken to local hospitals for examination. The track had tweeted for fans to "seek shelter as severe lightning and heavy winds are in our area", and the fans were instructed by public address systems at the track to take cover. However, fans posted on the track's Facebook page that they could not hear the warnings, and a fan tweeted to the Associated Press that the noise levels at races are so loud that little could hear the public address system. The race wasn't called until 42 minutes after the warning, leading to questions over whether or not NASCAR should have ended the race earlier. Race winner Jeff Gordon stated that he had heard a crack while he was on pit road.
"You could tell it was very close. I mean, that's the thing that's going to take away from the victory, is the fact that somebody was affected by that."
The victim, 41-year-old Brian Zimmerman from Moosic, Pennsylvania, was standing next to his car at the track's parking lot behind the Turn 3 grandstand. Bystanders had attempted to perform CPR on him until paramedics arrived. Zimmerman was later taken to the track's medical facility, and was pronounced dead at a local hospital at 6:11 pm. The victim that was in critical condition after getting struck was later in stable condition on August 6.
The American flag at the track was flown at half-mast the morning after the race. Pocono Raceway later established the "Pennsylvania 400 Memorial Fund" to help benefit the victims of the strikes.
On August 5, 2014, Zimmerman's wife sued NASCAR, seeking damages for negligence and wrongful death.
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