LONG POND, Pa. — Kyle Busch evened the season score with Kevin Harvick on Sunday at Pocono Raceway, one week after the No. 4 had taken the advantage in New Hampshire.
Busch collected his sixth victory of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Season, tying Harvick for the most on the season. It’s Busch’s 49th career victory in the series, tying Tony Stewart on the all-time wins list.
“It’s phenomenal to have those guys, and this M&M’s Caramel Camry was awesome today,” Busch said. “We had some good speed and we raced really well and had great pit stops all day and we were able to keep it up front when we needed it there.”
Busch started back in the 28th position after he and 12 other drivers failed post-qualifying inspection. Once he took the lead on lap 112, Busch was able to lead until the finish, holding off his teammate Daniel Suarez for the victory in the Gander Outdoors 400.
” I just can’t say enough about my teammate,” Busch said. “What an awesome race. He was probably the third-best car – (Kevin) Harvick was the best car and we were the second-best car and then Suárez was the third-best car. He gave us a run for our money there on those last couple restarts.”
Suarez led the field to the green flag, and pulled away from teammate Denny Hamlin to lead the first 21 laps. They both pitted together, but after a few laps, Hamlin was able to pass Suarez to cycle back to the lead.
Chase Elliott found speed late in the stage, as he was able to pass both Suarez and Hamlin to take over the lead.
Kevin Harvick, who started behind Busch in 29th, worked his way up to second before the end of the stage. Busch wound up working his way to fourth.
Elliott won the stage, which was his second of the 2018 season, and the fifth of his career.
Erik Jones and Martin Truex, Jr. led the field to the green in Stage Two, as they opted to pit before the stage break and the closing of pit road.
Elliott and Harvick worked their way around Truex, Jr., but eventually, it was Harvick out front.
The second caution of the day, and the first not for a stage break, occurred on lap 84 when Corey Lajoie spun up into the wall.
Harvick resumed leading on the restart with Busch in tow.
Coming to three laps to go in the stage, all of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers (Busch, Hamlin, Suarez, and Jones) plus Aric Almirola and Truex, Jr., decided to pit.
Harvick went on to win the stage, but the choice to not pit before the stage end would ultimately contribute toward costing him in the final stage.
William Byron took the lead after the stage break, and led the Joe Gibbs Racing brigade to the restart. On lap 112, Busch took the lead for the first time.
The fourth caution of the day came out at lap 122 when Brad Keselowski lost a right rear tire and hit the outside wall.
Under the caution period, Harvick made contact with his teammate Almirola, and that forced both to pit from Top 10 positions.
On the ensuing restart, the fifth caution flag flew almost instantly as Landon Cassill’s No. 00 Camaro had leaked oil around the track just moments before the restart.
A scary incident involving Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr. brought out the sixth caution of the day with only six laps to go. Wallace, Jr. lost his brakes entering Turn 1, which led the No. 43 to dart across the grass and hard into the SAFER barrier.
The worst-possible place to have something go wrong. @BubbaWallace had one of the worst crashes of the year, and we’re glad he was able to climb out of his car.#NASCAR #GanderOutdoors400 pic.twitter.com/Nx3wwaWwws
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 29, 2018
The final caution of the day, the seventh caution, flew when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. spun around and collected Almirola.
The final restart saw the Joe Gibbs Racing teammates of Busch, Suarez, and Jones go three-wide into Turn 1, but Busch ultimately held them off and completed the weekend sweep after also winning Saturday in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
THROUGH THE FIELD:
Suarez started on the pole and finished second. It was his first career pole position and best career finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion also led three times for 29 laps.
Alex Bowman and his teammate Byron both also collected their career best finishes on Sunday, finishing third and sixth respectively. Their teammate Elliott, who won Stage One, wound up finishing seventh.
Harvick, who led twice for 30 laps, fought back to finish fourth after his contact with his teammate Almirola, who was not as lucky and finished 25th.
Stenhouse, Jr. was not able to recover well from his incident at lap 159 is now 56 points behind the cutoff for the 2018 Playoffs behind Bowman.
Next week, the series heads to Watkins Glen International for the “Go Bowling at The Glen” 90 lap race. Truex, Jr. is the defending champion of the event.
NASCAR on NBC
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