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?
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.
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).
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
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||6|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
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
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||7|
|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.
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.
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.
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|
|5||Martin Truex Jr.||701||In||4||22|
|20||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||444||-88||0||0|
Results of the Gander RV 400 from Pocono Raceway
|3||19||Martin Truex Jr||163|
|21||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||163|