Brad Keselowski(2) tangled with Kyle Bush(18) entering the inter-loop midway through the I Love New York 355 at Watkins Glen International and handed the race win to Martin Truex Jr.(78). Damage to both cars forced Keselowski and Busch to the pits prior to the window that would allow them to finish on available fuel. The three fastest cars had far different results because of divergent pit strategies. The lack of caution periods turned the event into a fuel saving crawl to the finish.
Truex Jr. admitted to letting Keselowski pass late in the race. Because his crew told him Brad would have to pit before the finish. Driving laps three seconds slower than full throttle, Truex almost fell into the clutches of Matt Kenseth(20) on the last lap. But, he held on to take the checkered flag. Apparently, Truex saved a lot of fuel given the burnout he performed after taking the victory.
Kyle Busch won Stage One. Rookie Daniel Suarez(19) captured his first Stage win in the second segment. Truex followed both to the green and white checkers but saved his best effort for the Final Stage.
Clint Bowyer(14) got a badly needed fifth place finish. But still lost ground in the playoff points chase to Kenseth who finished second. Kurt Busch(41) took sixth and Ryan Blaney placed eighth. With pole sitter, Kyle Bush sandwiched between the two. Keselowski finished 15th after pitting for a splash of gas with two laps left. Kevin Harvick(4) placed 17th, a pit road accident taking the Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion out of contention. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17), Aric Almirola(43), and Danica Patrick(10) finished a disappointing 20th-22nd. But, still ahead of Joey Logano(22) in 24th. Dropping Logano further out of playoff point contention. Joey now sits 95 points behind the cut-off line.
Truex Jr. has all but clinched the regular season championship. Holding an 116 point lead over Kyle Busch who passed Kyle Larson for second in the standings. The playoff bubble race tightened for the three positions open to point qualifiers. Chase Elliott(24) sits in 14th, 39 points ahead of Jamie McMurray(1) in 15th. Kenseth, the guy on the bubble, holds the final qualifying spot in 16th. He is 34 points behind McMurray and 28 points ahead of Bowyer, the current odd man out.
With four races left to the start of the post-season, a non-winner pulling off a victory will really cause havoc in the back of the pack. Next week the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway. Will NASCAR’s fastest track in the beautiful Irish Hills further scramble the playoff picture? Follow all the action live as The Lasco Press brings you coverage on-site at MIS.