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.
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.
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
|8||19||Martin Truex Jr.|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
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.
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
|4||19||Martin Truex Jr.|
|5||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
*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.
Results of the Pocono 350 at Pocono Raceway
|10||19||Martin Truex Jr.||28.499||140|
|15||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||47.996||140|
|19||38||John Hunter Nemechek||-1||139|