LONG POND, Pa. – In an unexpected twist of events for the second day in a row, Kyle Busch was the big winner in the final leg of the packed Pocono weekend.
Just about 24 hours removed from another runner-up finish to the Hendrick Motorsports brigade, this time it was Busch who was able to steal one at the Tricky Triangle, possibly in one of the most unexpected of ways.
Suffering from an ailing gearbox, which at first wouldn’t stay in fourth gear but then couldn’t get out of it, Busch and his No. 18 team opted to top off his gas tank on the final caution, giving him one extra lap over the rest of his competitors. The final run to the checkers, a 44 lap endurance to see who could make it last to the end, was possibly the only opportunity that Busch had to win.
As the rest dropped off to take a splash of gas, including his teammate Denny Hamlin as they came to the white flag, Busch prevailed as the unexpected leader with just enough to make it around for the win. A clutch performance with a burnt clutch plate, had that race had another restart, it would have been a death sentence for the winning Toyota Camry.
“Yeah, stuck in fourth gear,” Busch said in victory lane. “About out of gas. Just saving, just riding, playing the strategy the best, we could with what was given to us.”
Busch was able to not only save enough, but hold off Kyle Larson who nearly won yesterday, another team that played the fuel strategy right. Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Bubba Wallace rounded out the Top 5.
“Sometimes you have to have a little bit of luck on your side, and today, we had some luck on our side,” Busch said. “It felt good… No clutch, no leaving pit road, extended time on pit road, to come back and be at full song by the time the field went green, that was an ordeal.”
LARSON CLOSE AGAIN, STILL NO CIGAR
On the final lap in the first Pocono Cup race this weekend, Kyle Larson looked like he was easily on his way to another victory, which would have been his fourth straight. A punctured left front tire gave that away to his teammate Alex Bowman, and resulted ultimately in a ninth place effort for the No. 5 team.
On Sunday, Larson couldn’t seem to find any breaks, having early nose damage, never having the track position, and just never really in it to win it until the very end of it.
“It seemed like every point of the race, everything that happened in the race, nothing went my way,” Larson said post-race. “Restarts, just guys messing up in front of me, me getting shuffled out of the groove, bad lane choices on my part, everything didn’t go my way.
“Cliff did a really good job keeping my head in it, coached me through saving fuel. Yeah, I mean, I had a lot of hope there at the end thinking that the 18 might run out.”
The No. 18 never did run out, but it would have been an incredible story to have a race ripped away and then to steal one 24 hours later. Unfortunately, a runner-up finish was the best the No. 5 team could make of an otherwise lousy day.
ROAD AMERICA UP NEXT ON AMERICA’S BIRTHDAY
For the first time in the NASCAR Cup Series modern era, the series will race at Road America, aligning the event with an American holiday, the Fourth of July weekend.
Road America has been on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule since 2010, with winners such as AJ Allmendinger, Michael McDowell, Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric. It’s expected that all four will be in the field next weekend with Allmendinger driving in the part-time Kaulig Racing car while Cindric pilots the part-time Team Penske ride.
Back in 1956, there was a NASCAR Grand National race that was won by Tim Flock at the venue. This will be the first time that some drivers will drive the 4.048-mile course in Elkhart Lake. The action is two-fold with the NASCAR Xfinity Series on Saturday (July 3) at 2:30 p.m. ET and then Cup at the same time on the next day (July 4), both races will be on NBC.
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com