LONG POND, Pa. — Kyle Busch lit Pocono on fire on Saturday afternoon.
No, really, his celebratory burnout left the track blazing after taking the victory in the Gander Outdoors 150 at Pocono Raceway.
It wasn’t without challenge from his substitute teammate, Erik Jones, but at the end of the day, Busch ultimately dominated the event.
“Erik was able to run me down and get there and I did everything I could to hold him off,” Busch said. “I knew if I could pinch him for a few laps after he had that time to cool his tires getting to me that I could heat his tires back up and then I might be able to equal out to him and that’s kind of seemed to be the way we fell even with each other there…”
“…A little bit of strategy play there and just experience I guess being a little bit out front and being able to get through traffic there on that restart to get ourselves an advantage.”
Busch celebrated his 51st victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, leading 43 of the 60 laps in the race. The victory ties Ron Hornaday Jr.’s win total record.
“Rowdy Manufacturing guys did an awesome job building me an awesome piece here,” Busch said. “Toyota, TRD (Toyota Racing Development), thank those guys for everything they help us with and of course just being able to get to victory lane once again, get win number 51 in the 51.”
Busch started on pole, but didn’t have the best start to the race. Teammate Todd Gilliland, who started alongside, was able to lead the first lap.
Busch then reclaimed the lead the next time by, and went on to lead up until three laps to go in the Stage when he pitted for scheduled service. Gilliland reclaimed the lead and went on to win the stage.
The short pit at the end of Stage One allowed Busch to stay out during the stage break, shuffling the No. 51 Toyota Tundra back to the lead on the restart.
Meanwhile, Jones, who started at the back of the field after substituting in for Noah Gragson, was on his way to challenge Busch (Gragson was not medically cleared to race on Saturday after becoming ill earlier in the race weekend).
Jones took over the lead with three laps to go in Stage Two, but strategically pitted the next time by with Busch so that they could stay out again on the final stage break. Stewart Friesen stayed out and collected the Stage Two victory.
Dalton Sargeant and Joe Nemechek led the field on the final restart, but Busch and Jones were right behind them. Busch, who started behind Sargeant, was able to clear Nemechek pretty easily, but Jones did not have the same luck.
By the time Busch had reclaimed the lead, Jones was working hard to get around Sargeant for the second position.
Jones finally did catch Busch with 9 laps to go, but Busch fought back on the outside and held off his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate. After that, Busch maintained the gap and went on to take the victory.
THROUGH THE FIELD:
NASCAR granted a playoff waiver to Gragson due to the illness and he will still remain eligible to race for the championship. Gragson did not start the race, so he did not receive any points.
Brett Moffitt, Friesen, and Jones all started at the tail of the field for all different reasons, and had all worked their way towards breaking into the Top 10 just before Lap 5.
Moffitt experienced truck issues just before the end of the first stage and went behind the wall for a number of laps. Moffitt has won three times in 2018, so as long as his team is able to secure sponsorship and make it to the track every week, he will also remain eligible to race for the championship.
Friesen is currently in the playoff field via points, along with Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton. Friesen brought it home in fourth and collected 13 stage points. Enfinger wound up sixth, while Crafton finished ninth.
Two races remain in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular season, as the series heads to Michigan Int’l Speedway on August 11th and Bristol Motor Speedway on August 16th.
Five drivers have clinched a spot in the 2018 playoffs, so at least one driver will make it in via points if there are two new winners in the final two races.
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com