LONG POND, Pa. — Kyle Busch was victorious in the NASCAR Xfinity Series on Saturday afternoon in the Pocono Green 250.
Busch conquered the Tricky Triangle, the different aero package, and a trip through the field after a penalty to claim his 92nd career victory in the series, and his first of the 2018 season.
“This car was on rails this week and last week, too,” Busch said. “We were able to overcome our speeding issue we had this weekend to get back to the front.”
Busch started in fourth, but took the lead early. Busch led 64 laps on the day, only missing out on the laps fighting back from his speeding penalty.
“You’re always worried about something crazy or unpredictable situations taking place,” Busch said. “We had to bide our time and be patient a little bit and make moves.
“There were moments there where we had to throw this corner away and let’s race down the next straightaway to get the next one. We knew we had speed in our race car. It was really fast out front.”
Chase Elliott worked his way up to finish in second, while Daniel Hemric finished in third.
The Xfinity Series decided upon running a different aero package on Saturday afternoon, and what what meant to keep the field close together seemed to amplify the speed deficiencies between teams instead.
The package was meant to mimic what was seen in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star race. The same package was run at the Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis in 2017, and it was hoped that it would result in the same type of racing at Pocono.
It was the Kyle Busch show for the majority of the day, but in Stage One, he laid down and absolute whooping on the field.
Cole Custer led the field to the green, but it didn’t take long for Busch to get to the front. Busch pulled away from the field, leading by over seven seconds before the first 25 laps were complete.
Custer tried to mix up the strategy, as he pitted from the Top 5 before the end of Stage One, and took back the lead as the field pitted under the stage break.
Busch and his teammate Christopher Bell both were penalized under the stage pits for speeding on pit road. They started in the rear of the field to begin the next stage.
Custer again lead the field to the restart, but almost immediately, they found their way back under caution. Michael Annett got loose in Turn 1 and drifted his way to the back of the line.
On the ensuing restart, it was still Custer leading with help from Justin Allgaier, who moved into second.
Custer, Allgaier, Paul Menard, and Austin Cindric pulled away from the field. At the end of the stage, the Penske teammates of Menard and Cindric teamed up to get around Custer and Allgaier, and for the first time up front, the aero package provided the racing that was intended.
The four drivers, almost in a two-by-two tandem pack, worked side-by-side on the final lap of the stage, and out of Turn 3, Menard prevailed and won the stage, while Custer finished the stage in second.
Busch worked his way back up to finish sixth after dealing with his penalty, while Bell, Brandon Jones, and Daniel Hemric played the pit strategy game to start up front for the final stage.
John Hunter Nemechek stayed out and led the field back to the green flag, but Jones quickly took the lead. In a different-than-normal strategy call, Allgaier pitted on the restart to top off on gas, giving up almost a lap in the process.
The caution soon flew, again for Annett, who slid up and took himself, along with Chase Briscoe, out of contention.
“The 5 got loose,” Briscoe said. “That was the second time it happened. We didn’t have track position all day long and we were finally going to be good I thought. We were up to seventh or eighth on that restart. He just ended up getting loose and we had nowhere to go.”
Many cars pitted under the caution, for what they were hoping would be their final stop of the day. Jones was not one of the drivers to pit, and he led Menard, Custer, Busch, and Ryan Truex to the green flag on lap 61.
The green did not last long, as contact between Allgaier and Dylan Lupton sent the No. 7 into Bell’s No. 20, bringing out the caution quickly once again.
“There was nothing I could have done there with Justin (Allgaier) for that matter,” Bell said. “We were just victims of Pocono restarts. It just got really hairy. It was exciting. That’s why sometimes we love it and sometimes we hate it.”
Meanwhile, Busch reclaimed the lead and would lead the field back to the green flag.
The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry pulled away, once again, and even though fuel was a concern for some, it didn’t make a difference in the outcome.
Next week is the XFINITY 250 at Michigan Int’l Speedway.
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