There is big news coming out of Pocono Raceway before the start of the Gander Outdoors 400. A total of 13 cars failed post-qualifying inspection and will have to start at the rear of the field. Including the pole sitter Kevin Harvick(4). Other big names caught in with similar infractions are Harvick teammates Aric Almirola(10), and Clint Bowyer(14). Kyle Busch(18), Ryan Blaney, Paul Menard(21), Joey Logano(22), and Jimmy Johnson(48) were also tagged with the penalty.
Daniel Suarez(19) and Denny Hamlin(11) inherit the front row. Erik Jones(20) and Brad Keselowski(2) start on the 2nd row. Stage lengths of 50/50/60 laps give drivers plenty of opportunities to move through the field. Stay tuned for some wild action as a third of the field looks to regain track position.
At the start, Harvick, Blaney, and Johnson advanced 11 positions on the first lap of the race. By Lap 9 Harvick moved into the top 10. He trailed the leader Suarez by 8 seconds.
The 50 lap Stage converts to 125 miles. Requiring a pit stop during the course of the Stage. With teams on several different pit stop strategies Chase Elliott(9) was the surprise winner of Stage 1. Harvick finished 2nd.
Stage 1 Results
* Ford Fusion Drivers
Jones and Martin Truex Jr.(78) stayed on the track during Stage ending pit stops.
The pit strategy worked perfectly for Byron, Michigan native Erik Jones. On the restart, he jumped to the lead. Elliott and Harvick moved past Truex Jr. But, Jones continued to lead. Elliott’s car bobbled slightly and Harvick passed him for 2nd. On lap 65 Harvick passed Jones for the lead. After starting in 29th place he returned to the front of the field after 162 miles of the 400 scheduled to be run.
On Lap 82 Corey LaJoie(72) spun in turn 3 to bring out the first accident related caution of the day. Again, because of the varied pit stop strategies, some drivers chose to stay on the track during the yellow flag laps. On the restart, it was Harvick again at the front. Elliott restarted 2nd, Kyle Busch 3rd, and Jones 4th.
Harvick vs Busch
After last weeks finish at New Hampshire where Harvick bumped Kyle Busch out of the lead, Busch said: “how you race is how you get raced.” The end of Stage 2 saw Harvick in 1st and Busch passing Elliott to move into second.
Ultimately Harvick pulled away to eliminate any “end of Stage drama.” Then Kyle Busch pitted from 2nd place prior to the end of the Stage as teams continued to make interesting strategic moves.
Harvick won the Stage along with the Playoff Point that comes with a Stage win.
Stage 2 Results
* Ford Fusion Drivers
With a field jumbled by teams trying a number of different pit sequences, the Final Stage started with a number of cars in contention for the win. At the 50 laps to go mark Kyle Busch led and Harvick was working his way through traffic moving towards the front of the field.
With 40 laps to go Keselowski lost a right rear tire and spun out in turn 2. After backing the car into the wall the team ultimately retired the #2 Ford to the garage. Almost the entire field pitted for tires and fuel for the sprint to the finish. Harvick and teammate Almirola made slight contact on pit road. The incident caused Harvick to return to the pits for minor body repairs. It did relegate Harvick to the rear of the field.
The Race to the Finish
Kyle Busch will take the restart green flag from the 1st position. Suarez, Elliott, Kasey Kahne(95), and Hamlin round out the top 5. Back to racing with 28 laps to go. Kyle Busch easily takes the lead and begins to drive away from the pack. Not wanting to allow anyone near his bumper for a repeat of last week, Bush stretches the lead to over 2 seconds. Baring a late caution the race is all but decided.
Bubba Wallace Tries to Knock Down the Wall in Turn 1
With 7 laps to go Bubba Wallace(43) suffers a catastrophic brake failure. A caliper in the front of the car explodes and he loses all front braking going into turn 1. Wallace drives through the grass to scrub off speed. Still, he impacts the turn 1 wall with the passenger side at tremendous speed. The crash brings out the red flag and stops the race as they attend to Bubba and clean up the mess.
Fortunately, Wallace escapes with only bumps and bruises. Unfortunately for Kyle Busch, the wreck brings all of his competitors back to his rear bumper.
When the race restarts Kyle Busch again pulls away to a significant lead. Almirola brings out the yellow with a spin 2 laps from the finish. The race goes into overtime and Kyle Busch faces another restart.
This time Jones pushes Suarez as the green flag waves. It appears Suarez pulls even with Busch as they drive towards turn 1. Jones dips low and goes 3 wide with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates. His attempt to pass Suarez kills both cars momentum. Busch pulls away for the win. Suarez recovers to finish 2nd. Alex Bowman(88) takes 3rd. With Harvick coming back for a 4th place finish, Jones ends up in 5th.
The win tied Busch with Tony Stewart on the Cup Series all-time win list with 49 victories each.
Bowman’s 3rd place finish strengthed his hold on the 16th and final playoff position. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) and Paul Menard(21) are tied for 17th, 56 points behind Bowman. There are 5 races left before the playoffs and next week is the road course at Watkins Glen.
The Glen offers the opportunity for a driver currently out of the playoffs to possibly sneak in. Following Watkins Glen, the series returns to Michigan. The Lasco Press will be on-hand live to bring you all the action from our home track in the beautiful Irish Hills.
Results of the Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono Raceway
|15||78||Martin Truex Jr.||5.517||164|
|22||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||7.009||164|
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||762||4|
|Playoff Cut Line|
|17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||440||0|