Originally Published: June 9, 2014

Sprint Cup: Dale Jr. Prevails At Pocono

Sprint Cup: BK's trash is Earnhardt's treasure

By Ed Hinton | ESPN.com

It wasn't as simple as the hot dog wrapper. Trash happens.

And Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win wasn't nearly the gift it might appear at first glance.

"You gotta be there, and we were," Earnhardt told TV reporters in Victory Lane at Pocono on Sunday. "Somebody had an issue, and we capitalized."

For this win to fall into his lap, he had to be sitting right there, very close by.

And besides, Brad Keselowski might have freed his grille of the wrapper that cost him the race. His move just didn't work out.

Many a hot dog wrapper has stifled many an engine in NASCAR, down through the decades, so you really can't call this a heartbreaker for Keselowski after he'd led 95 of the 160 laps and Earnhardt had led only 11, including the last four.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jeff Curry/Getty ImagesDale Earnhardt Jr. won more than one Cup race in the same season for the first time since 2004.

Feeling and hearing his engine in a death rattle due to overheating, "I tried to make a move to get behind the 10 [the lapped car of Danica Patrick] and use the air to pull the debris off," Keselowski said on TV. "And when she went into the corner, she got loose and I just chased her up there and lost too much momentum."

Before that, "I couldn't get to him," Earnhardt said.

Regardless, a movie title nails the closing laps of the race: "It's Complicated."

In his postrace interview with reporters at the track, Keselowski wouldn't even buy the bromide that the best car doesn't always win the race.

"I thought we were pretty equal," he said of his Ford and Earnhardt's Chevrolet. "I thought there were five or six cars that were really equal, the 4, the 14 [Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart, who fell back with issues], the 41 [Kurt Busch, who finished third behind Keselowski], the 88 [Earnhardt] and us.

"I thought it was kind of a lottery draw as to whoever had the clean air was going to win it," Keselowski said. "And Dale, once he got up front, he was a little better than I was in the clean air."

For a moment for Keselowski, the clean air had gotten dirty with the hot dog wrapper. Earnhardt picked up some sort of debris on his grille, too, but it was smaller than what had stifled Keselowski's engine.

What's more, even if Keselowski hadn't broken his momentum, "I think I was going to get passed [by Earnhardt] because I was really down on power down the straightaway."

So Earnhardt didn't steal it. He was just there to catch it when it slipped from Keselowski's fingertips.

"I've lost some in some strange ways," Earnhardt said. "So it feels good to win one like that."

Keselowski has a rap with his detractors for blaming other drivers in wrecks, but say this for him: When he loses races, he blames himself.

His team had "good execution today on probably all ends but mine," he said. "I feel like this one is kind of on me and the circumstances."

Nah. Nothing on him. Trash happens. And it's complicated.


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