Pocono Proves Problematic
The forecasted rains never arrived at Pocono Raceway and when all 200 laps were complete it was Kyle Busch leading Joe Gibbs Racing with a third-place effort in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 5-Hour Energy 500, while teammates Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin finished 11th and 19th respectively.
Kyle Busch had to start toward the back of the field today following Saturday’s qualifying lap, but that didn’t deter the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota team as they methodically worked their way through the field over the first half of the race. Busch needed just seven laps to move into the top 25 and had climbed into the top 10 for the first time by lap 60. As the race reached the half way mark, Busch was running in the eighth position and looking to continue his climb as the M&Ms team made the No. 18 Camry better with each stop. Busch would eventually move into the top five and complete his climb to the top during a round of green flag pit stops on lap 142. A final caution with 45 laps remaining would give Busch the third position on the restart which is where he would go on to finish the race.
Joey Logano started the No. The 20 Home Depot Toyota in the 19th position and battled handling conditions through the early going, but adjustments by the team would make the car turn better and Logano would begin to move back up through the field. As the race reached the half way mark Logano was running in the 18th position and The Home Depot crew was making improvements on his No. 20 Camry each trip down pit road. Logano would move into the top 15 with about 50 laps remaining and battled his way toward the top 10 over the closing laps. He would bring The Home Depot Camry across the finish line with a strong 11th – place finish.
It is no secret that Denny Hamlin is a favorite each time NASCAR comes to Pocono and he wasted no time in establishing that his No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota was still going to be the car to beat again this afternoon. Hamlin, who has won four times on the tricky 2.5-mile triangular track, quickly ascended from his fourth-place starting position into the top spot after just one lap of racing. He would dominate much of the first half of the race leading a race-high four different times for a total of 76 laps. Hamlin was running third when a caution flag came out with just 45 laps remaining in the race and he brought his FedEx Camry down pit road for fresh tires. Unfortunately as he made his way back on to the track it was discovered that his left rear tire had gone flat and he was forced to come back down pit road for a new tire. The bad left rear would completely blow as he made his way around the track to get back down pit road and the result would also cause damage to his rear brakes. Hamlin would restart the race with 41 laps remaining in the 21st position and amazingly despite all the challenges was able to manage a 19th-place effort.
Jeff Gordon captured the victory, while Kurt Busch finished second, Busch third, Jimmie Johnson was fourth and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five. There were four cautions for a total of 14 laps and 18 lead changes among 10 different drivers over the course of the 200-lap race.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, MI next weekend. Live Coverage on TNT will start at Noon ET (race starts at 1 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius Radio NASCAR channel 90.