Hamlin Wins Round 2 at Pocono, Harvick Comes Up Just Short of a Repeat

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Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, PA — June 28th, 2020

Race 2 of the Pocono doubleheader gives NASCAR fans a glimpse of what to expect from future schedules of the Cup Series. It has been rumored that some tracks with two annual race dates will see those events run back-to-back over a weekend or with a mid-week race as we saw earlier this year at Darlington.

Yesterday’s race was delayed an hour by the weather but was run in its entirety. The starting lineup for today’s Pocono 350 was determined by Saturday’s finishing positions with the top 20 inverted.

Lineup Changes

One of the unique aspects of the doubleheader weekend was NASCAR’s requirement that teams must use the same car for both races. Due to incidents Saturday, five teams were approved to go to backup cars and will start at the rear of the field. Quin Houff, Tyler Reddick, Erik Jones, Joey Logano, and Alex Bowman will go to new cars for today.

Four more drivers will also move to the rear for equipment changes. Chase Elliott and B.J. McLeod’s teams changed transmissions. By virtue of his 20th place finish, Ryan Preece was to start on the pole. He will forfeit that position as his team felt an engine change necessary. William Byron, who was to start 7th, also changed engines and will join Preece at the tail end of the field.

Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch will start on the front row for the 350 miles, 140 lap race. Stages are 30/55/55 laps. Denny Hamlin, who finished 2nd on Saturday, is the defending champion. He will start in 18th today. As a result of racing yesterday, there will be no competition caution in today’s race.

Stage 1

As the cars hit the track for warm-up laps storm clouds threatened. A lightning strike in the area brought the field back to pit road where they were parked and made to wait until the potential danger passed.

After about a 45-minute delay cars returned to the track, no rain fell on the racing surface. Kurt Busch got a big push from Cole Custer to drive off into Turn 1 with the lead. The yellow flag came out on Lap 3 with raindrops falling on the track. The red flag was displayed on Lap 6.

After a 51 minute delay, cars were back on the track. It will take 70 laps today for the race to be official, darkness may be the biggest threat to completing all 140 laps. The race restarted with 12 laps in the books with Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney fighting for the lead. Busch stayed in the top spot.

Michael McDowell spun and crashed into the wall bringing out the caution on Lap 15, his car was destroyed and was taken to the garage. Fortunately, the remainder of the field missed getting caught up in the incident.

On the restart, Busch again held off Blaney and he drove to the Stage win. Kevin Harvick, yesterday’s winner worked his way into the top 5 by the end of the Stage.

Stage 1 Results

Position Car Driver
1 1 Kurt Busch
2 12 Ryan Blaney*
3 95 Christopher Bell
4 4 Kevin Harvick*
5 21 Matt DiBenedetto*
6 2 Brad Keselowski*
7 17 Chris Buescher*
8 19 Martin Truex Jr.
9 18 Kyle Busch
10 41 Cole Custer*

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage 2

The top 6 did not pit under the stage ending caution. This time on the restart, Blaney grabbed the lead. On Lap 38 Christopher Bell spun and backed into the wall bringing out the caution. This allowed drivers who had not pitted previously to come in for service.

Back under green for only a lap, Chris Buescher spun coming out of Turn 3 onto the front stretch and backed his car into the wall. Just as Saturday’s race developed, many different pit strategies are being employed with teams looking for any advantage they can find.

Blaney, Truex, and Kyle Busch have yet to visit pit road as the race goes back to green 51 laps in. Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace round out the top 5. Blaney pitted on Lap 58, Truex followed on the next lap, and Kyle Busch came in on Lap 60.

The new top 5 was Hamlin, Harvick, Matt DiBenedetto, Chase Elliott, and Brad Keselowski. Passing the halfway point the race became official, darkness still threatens the ability to run all 140 laps.

With 10 laps to go in the Stage Kyle Busch wrecked while racing Blaney for a position, they touched fenders and Busch went around.

Kyle Busch(18) and Ryan Blaney(12) get together passing a lapped car. / NASCAR Photo

The caution gave the field an opportunity to come to pit road for tires and fuel.

The race restarted with 6 laps remaining in Stage 2, Keselowski and Aric Almirola led the field back to the green flag. A lap later, Ryan Preece spun off Turn 1 bringing out the 8th caution of the day.

With just 2 laps to go the cars sprinted to the finish of the Stage. Keselowski won the dash with Almirola coming in 2nd and Ryan Newman 3rd.

Stage 2 Results

Position Car Driver
1 2 Brad Keselowski*
2 10 Aric Almirola*
3 6 Ryan Newman*
4 19 Martin Truex Jr.
5 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
6 4 Kevin Harvick*
7 3 Austin Dillon
8 21 Matt DiBenedetto*
9 1 Kurt Busch
10 11 Denny Hamlin

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Keselowski and Newman stayed out during the Stage ending caution to lead the field back to the restart. As drivers scrambled for positions, Keselowski pulled away to a slight advantage.

Keselowski pitted with 46 laps to go, turning the lead over to Harvick. Hamlin, Elliott, Kurt Busch, and Erik Jones filled out the rest of the top 5. With 40 laps to go the fuel window opened so that a fill-up would allow cars to finish the race and green flag stops began through the field.

Hamlin opted to stay out and stretch his fuel mileage as much as possible, hoping to pit for a splash of fuel near the end. A quick pit stop might allow him to retain the lead. Harvick who is good to go on fuel runs in the 6th spot 33 seconds behind Hamlin.

Hamlin pitted with 21 laps to go, Truex inherited the lead, Hamlin with his quick stop held onto 2nd with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 3rd, Harvick 4th, and Austin Dillon in 5th place. Truex pitted with 15 to go leaving the Hamlin and Harvick to sort things out for the win, Hamlin led by 2.4 seconds.

With 10 laps to go, Hamlin had stretched the lead to over 3 seconds. With 5 to go Harvick had cut the lead a full second, but laps were running out. Hamlin had to deal with some lapped traffic during the closing laps but was able to stay out of trouble and lock up the win, his 6th at the “Tricky Triangle.” Harvick finished 2nd and Erik Jones drove a solid race to take 3rd place at the checkered flag.

Hamlin wins at Pocono / NASCAR Photo

Results of the Pocono 350 at Pocono Raceway

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 11 Denny Hamlin 140
2 4 Kevin Harvick 3.068 140
3 20 Erik Jones 16.756 140
4 9 Chase Elliott 23.298 140
5 10 Aric Almirola 25.305 140
6 21 Matt DiBenedetto 25.656 140
7 24 William Byron 27.621 140
8 14 Clint Bowyer 28.385 140
9 88 Alex Bowman 28.388 140
10 19 Martin Truex Jr. 28.499 140
11 2 Brad Keselowski 29.551 140
12 42 Matt Kenseth 32.658 140
13 1 Kurt Busch 34.658 140
14 3 Austin Dillon 45.599 140
15 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 47.996 140
16 48 Jimmie Johnson 50.622 140
17 41 Cole Custer 53.460 140
18 6 Ryan Newman -1 139
19 38 John Hunter Nemechek -1 139
20 43 Bubba Wallace -1 139
21 32 Corey LaJoie -1 139
22 12 Ryan Blaney -1 139
23 13 Ty Dillon -1 139
24 22 Joey Logano -1 139
25 37 Ryan Preece -1 139
26 96 Daniel Suarez -1 139
27 15 Brennan Poole -2 138
28 27 JJ Yeley -2 138
29 66 Timmy Hill -3 137
30 77 James Davison -4 136
31 0 Quin Houff -4 136
32 53 Garrett Smithley -4 136
33 51 Joey Gase -4 136
34 7 Josh Bilicki -4 136
35 8 Tyler Reddick -5 135
36 17 Chris Buescher -5 135
37 78 BJ McLeod -7 133
38 18 Kyle Busch -66 74
39 95 Christopher Bell -101 39
40 34 Michael McDowell -125 15