The Pocono Race Report
Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin led Joe Gibbs Racing with two top-ten finishes in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway. Busch and Hamlin would finish sixth and eighth respectively while a late race accident left teammate Matt Kenseth back in 25th.
Qualifying was rained out Friday leaving the field to line up for the start of today’s race based upon current owner point’s standings. Busch started his No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in the eighth position and was able to fight his way toward the top five on the opening green flag run. Like much of the field Busch battled handling conditions on his M&Ms Camry, especially while in traffic, but still managed to remain inside the top 10 and was in eighth when the race went past the 100-lap mark. With 50-laps remaining Busch would radio in that his car was good but that he would start his runs following pit stops on the tight side. He would restart sixth with 31 laps remaining following a round of pit stops while under caution. Another caution would come out a few laps later and this time the 18 would line up seventh for the restart on lap 136. Busch was sixth on a restart with 19 laps to go and was able to make a tremendous move down low on the track to slide into third. He would hold third through the next run and restarted in the same position with 10 laps to go before yet another caution came out with seven to go. Busch would get bottled up in the bottom lane on the restart and went on to finish with a solid sixth-place run.
Hamlin, who had qualified on the pole that previous two weeks, was left to take the green flag to start the day in 17th when qualifying was rained out on Friday. Despite the poor starting position Hamlin patiently navigated his No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota up through the field and was racing inside the top 10 midway through the 160-lap race. He would run seventh at the 100-lap mark following a round of green flag pit stops. An incredible stop by the FedEx crew during a stop while under caution would gain Hamlin five spots to allow him to restart third with 31 laps to go. Another caution would follow just a few laps later and this time he would be in fourth when the green flag came back out on lap 136. Hamlin was still fourth and battling a tight race car when the field restarted again on lap 141. He would lose one spot on that short run which set up him to restart fifth with 10 to go following another caution. Unfortunately his handling conditions on restarts remained and he would drop back to run seventh before yet another caution came out with just seven to go. He would restart in the same position with four to go and went on to finish with a solid eighth-place run.
Kenseth started his No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Toyota in fourth and was able to jump up into the second position on the opening lap. He would hold onto the second spot for several laps before handling forced him to drop back to fifth during the first green flag run. Kenseth would remain inside the top five and pitted under the green flag from the fourth position for four tires and fuel on lap 99. He would battle tight conditions while running fourth with 50 laps to go. Kenseth would restart fifth with 31 laps to go following a round of pit stops under caution. He would race side by side with the 42 car a few laps later and the two would both spin. Kenseth managed to avoid any major damage but would have to relinquish track position to come down pit road for four fresh tires. The Home Depot Husky Camry would remain on the lead lap but had to restart back in 28th with 24 laps to go. Kenseth would have to avoid another spinning car just a few laps later and was 26th when he they lined back up for a restart on lap 141. He would manage to finish on the lead lap despite the setbacks but had to settle for a disappointing 25th-place finish.
Jimmie Johnson won the race, followed by Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Tony Stewart, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 19 laps and 12 lead changes among four different drivers.