LONG POND, Pa. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. fended off Kevin Harvick on a restart with three laps remaining Sunday, winning the GoBowling.com 400 and completing a Sprint Cup sweep at Pocono Raceway.
With his third victory of the season and the 21st of his career, Earnhardt earned his first season sweep at a track since Talladega Superspeedway in 2002. He became the first driver since Denny Hamlin in 2006 to notch a sweep of Pocono's two annual races in NASCAR's premier series.
"Just trying to hold those guys off at the end. They were faster and I was overdriving it there. Kevin was faster in (turns) 1 and 2 but I had the better car on the long straight," a jubilant Earnhardt Jr. explained in victory lane after taking a congratulatory phone call from team owner Rick Hendrick.
Harvick finished second and rebounded from a midrace speeding penalty. Joey Logano finished third, followed by Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle.
"I needed to not have a banged up car (to catch Earnhardt)," Harvick said. "This hasn't been one of my best tracks. I made a lot of mistakes today, especially with that pit road speeding penalty, and they made up for it with a fast racecar."
Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top 10.
Gordon, coming off his fifth win in the Brickyard 400, didn't have enough at the end to catch his teammate.
"It wasn't just the restarts. Those guys had to do the exact opposite strategy as us," Gordon said. "We had the dominant car, but you had to have track position and there at the end we didn't have it. My restarts weren't terrible today, unfortunately on those last couple ones we were on the inside. Whomever got the outside and got lead on the restart — (Earnhardt) or me — was going to take this."
Earnhardt took the lead for the first time with 14 laps remaining, snatching first from Greg Biffle on a restart.
NASCAR's most popular driver benefited from sound strategy from crew chief Steve Letarte, who brought the No. 88 Chevrolet to pit road for four tires and fuel on Lap 121 during a 10-lap caution for a multicar pileup.
After a restart, Earnhardt pitted again for fuel only 10 laps later. That put him in second behind Biffle on the next restart after a caution for an A.J. Allmendinger crash with 22 laps remaining.
It's been an emotional week for Earnhardt and Letarte, who is leaving to become an analyst with NBC Sports after this season. Greg Ives was named Wednesday by Hendrick Motorsports as the No. 88 crew chief for next year.
Earnhardt Jr., who all along has said he wished Letarte wouldn't leave, was soundly behind Ives during his coronation on Wednesday. But he was quick to sing Letarte's praises after Sunday's win, which gives the 39-year-old the most wins he's had since 2004 when he notched a career-high six.
"We had a fast car all day. Steve's strategy was perfect at the end. That was awesome. It takes a really smart guy to come up with a plan like this. I can't believe we swept Pocono," Earnhardt Jr. said.
"I just feel real lucky to have an opportunity to work with him and this whole crew. I can't believe I fell into this group. I'm just the lucky guy that gets to drive this car."
A 13-car crash on a Lap 117 restart significantly altered the complexion of the race.
The wreck began when Denny Hamlin lost control of his No. 11 Toyota, causing a chain reaction that included Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Michael Annett, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard, Aric Almirola, A.J. Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier, Brian Vickers, Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards.
The wreck seemed to start when Vickers swerved to avoid Hamlin.
"I don't know if someone got me in the back of me or not," Vickers said. "We spun and got in a crash. It's tough because everyone did an awesome job today. We had a really good car. Really fast. It handled great through the corner, and I thought we had a shot at a great finish."
Said Almirola: "I was just along for the ride. I honestly didn't see it. I saw a little bit of smoke in front of me. I don't even know who it was, but instantly I knew that they were wrecking. There's nothing you can do when it gets like that, so it was just a big pileup trying to get all we can get on the restarts."
The crash followed a yellow flag for Jimmie Johnson, who hit the turn 2 wall with a tire problem on the 112th lap. That ended a stretch of 58 green-flag laps that had followed a crash by Joe Nemechek.
The yellow flew twice in the first 20 laps for crashes involving Johnson and Danica Patrick.