Denny Hamlin Wins at Pocono

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Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, PA — July 28, 2019

When Kyle Busch(18) won the June race at Pocono Raceway the new competition package did little to increase side-by-side racing and the ability to pass at the “Tricky Triangle.” For the race today NASCAR added traction compound to all three turns of the 2.5-mile speedway.

Qualifying speeds were up from June, Kevin Harvick’s(4) pole-winning speed of 174.058 was almost one mph faster than William Byron(24) posted in June. Traction Compound or setup?

Kevin Harvick wins the pole for the Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway. Photo Credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Image

The Gander RV 400 features stages of 50/50/60 laps. With a fuel window of approximately 33 laps, each stage will require a pit stop.

Inspection Issues

Post qualifying/pre-race inspections resulted in nine teams being penalized for infractions. Qualifying times were disallowed and cars were sent to the rear of the field for the start of the race. Austin Dillon(3) forfeited his 5th place starting position and Jimmie Johnson(48) who was set to start 6th both were penalized. Other drivers involved included Ryan Blaney(12), Ross Chastain(15), Byron, Reed Sorenson(27), Corey LaJoie(32), Michael McDowell(34), and Chris Buescher(37).

Stage 1

Harvick runs off into Turn 1 with the lead and is never seriously challenged, leading until he pits on Lap 38. Erik Jones(20) and Kyle Busch are running in the top 5 when they choose to pit early on Lap 20. Pit stop strategy is all over the board as teams seek an individual advantage.

After the Harvick pit stop, Kyle Busch cycles into the lead, followed by Joey Logano(22). Harvic works his way back to third as the 1st Stage comes to an end.

Stage 1 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
18 Kyle Busch 10
22 Joey Logano* 9
4 Kevin Harvick* 8
11 Denny Hamlin 7
19 Martin Truex Jr. 6
42 Kyle Larson 5
20 Erik Jones 4
10 Aric Almirola* 3
1 Kurt Busch* 2
14 Clint Bowyer* 1

* Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage 2

Harvick’s pit strategy puts him back in the lead as he does not pit during the Stage ending caution. Eight other drivers stay on the track including Denny Hamlin(11) in 2nd and Ryan Newman(6) in 3rd.

On Lap 69 Newman pits from the 2nd spot, Kyle Busch moves into the position. He takes the lead when Harvick pits 10 laps later. Chase Elliott(9) hits the wall hard out of Turn 3 as pits stops are continuing. The damage sends Elliott behind the wall. He was driving the team’s backup car after crashing his primary race car during practice.

With nine laps to go in Stage 2 the caution displays for rain. Fortunately, the shower just skirts the track and the race goes back to green with five laps to go in the Stage. Three-wide racing is trouble at Pocono. As drivers fight for positions and the potential for Stage points, Daniel Suarez(41) forces Blaney into the wall. Both drivers save their cars temporarily. Sensing a pending caution, some drivers are called to pit road setting up track position for the Final Stage. The caution comes out when Blaney can’t keep his car under control and spins out.

Popular Stage Winner

The scramble prior to the caution being displayed significantly changed the running order at the end of Stage 2. Much to the delight of the crowd, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson won the Stage. It is only the 2nd Stage win of Johnson’s career.

Stage 2 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
48 Jimmie Johnson 10
4 Kevin Harvick* 9
22 Joey Logano* 8
19 Martin Truex Jr. 7
11 Denny Hamlin 6
3 Austin Dillon 5
20 Erik Jones 4
2 Brad Keselowski* 3
88 Alex Bowman 2
17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* 1

* Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Harvick stays out during the Stage ending caution and resumes the lead. Hamlin also stays on the track and will restart in 2nd. The pair battle for the lead until Harvick gets loose and Hamlin moves to the front.

After a caution on Lap 114 for Ryan Preece(47) hitting the wall the restart again is a mad scramble. Joe Gibbs Racing’s cars end up as the top four on the track with Kyle Busch in 1st, Jones in 2nd, Hamlin 3rd, and Martin Truex Jr.(19) in 4th.

Ryan Preece’s demolished race car sits in the garage at Pocono Raceway. / Photo Credit: Torey Fox / NASCAR Digital Media

The race turns into a fuel mileage contest as teams try and stretch the final 36 laps out of their last fill-up during the caution.

Late Race Drama

Kyle Busch has to pit for fuel, Jones inherits the lead. But, he gives it up to Hamlin as he begins to ease off trying to conserve enough to make it to the end. With eight laps to go Josh Bilicki slows and he car stops on the track with a mechanical issue. The caution comes out setting up the potential for a wild finish.

Will the caution laps be enough to allow those close on fuel enough to save what they need to avoid running out? The race restarts with four laps to go. Before the field can complete a lap, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) and Kurt Busch(1) tangle and the race goes back under caution.

Overtime

With the race going to overtime, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will have the fuel for a green-white-checker finish. Hamlin pulls away on the restart and amazingly no one wrecks as the final two laps play out. Hamlin wins, Michigan native Erik Jones takes 2nd and Truex finished in 3rd. Despite their early dominance Harvick finishes 6th and Kyle Busch 9th.

Playoff Implications

Only six races remain in the regular season and the last few playoff spots have turned into a tight race to qualify. The Monster Energy Cup standings show several drivers fighting to earn one of the 16 playoff positions.

Clint Bowyer(14) and Ryan Newman sit tied on the cut line with 532 points. Kyle Larson(42) is 25 points clear, and Jones with his 2nd place finish sits in 13th, 27 points up. Jimmie Johnson is 17th, only 12 points out. Suarez, Menard, and Stenhouse are 31, 68, and 88 points behind respectively.

Rank Driver Points Behind Cut Line Wins Playoff Points
1 Joey Logano 824 In 2 17
2 Kyle Busch 818 In 4 28
3 Kevin Harvick 739 In 1 9
4 Denny Hamlin 722 In 3 18
5 Martin Truex Jr. 701 In 4 22
6 Brad Keselowski 695 In 3 19
7 Kurt Busch 650 In 1 6
8 Chase Elliott 616 In 1 7
11 Alex Bowman 596 In 1 5
9 Aric Almirola 614 +82 0 1
10 Ryan Blaney 599 +67 0 2
12 William Byron 582 +50 0 1
13 Erik Jones 559 +27 0 0
14 Kyle Larson 557 +25 0 3
15 Clint Bowyer 532 0 0
16 Ryan Newman 532 0 0
17 Jimmie Johnson 520 -12 0 1
18 Daniel Suarez 501 -31 0 0
19 Paul Menard 464 -68 0 0
20 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 444 -88 0 0

 

Next week the series travels to Watkins Glen on the road course, with Michigan International Speedway the following week.

 

 

Results of the Gander RV 400 from Pocono Raceway

Position Car Driver Laps
1 11 Denny Hamlin 163
2 20 Erik Jones 163
3 19 Martin Truex Jr 163
4 24 William Byron 163
5 42 Kyle Larson 163
6 4 Kevin Harvick 163
7 8 Daniel Hemric 163
8 2 Brad Keselowski 163
9 18 Kyle Busch 163
10 12 Ryan Blaney 163
11 14 Clint Bowyer 163
12 10 Aric Almirola 163
13 22 Joey Logano 163
14 6 Ryan Newman 163
15 48 Jimmie Johnson 163
16 37 Chris Buescher 163
17 95 Matt DiBenedetto 163
18 21 Paul Menard 163
19 3 Austin Dillon 163
20 88 Alex Bowman 163
21 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr 163
22 43 Bubba Wallace 163
23 36 Matt Tifft 163
24 41 Daniel Suarez 163
25 34 Michael McDowell 163
26 32 Corey LaJoie 162
27 1 Kurt Busch 162
28 0 Landon Cassill 159
29 13 Ty Dillon 159
30 15 Ross Chastain 159
31 77 Quin Houff 158
32 27 Reed Sorenson 158
33 51 BJ McLeod 158
34 52 Austin Theriault 157
35 53 Josh Bilicki 146
36 38 David Ragan 123
37 47 Ryan Preece 114
38 9 Chase Elliott 83