Race Report: Pocono
Denny Hamlin started on the pole and led Joe Gibbs Racing with a fourth-place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway. Meanwhile an eventful day for his teammates left Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth to finish 12th and 26th respectively.
Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota on the pole after winning Friday’s knockout qualifying session. Unfortunately he wouldn’t have the opportunity to hold the early lead when the 2 car bumped him from behind and sent him up the track. Hamlin would recover however and remain in the top five through the early going. He would eventually take his first lead of the day on lap 59 and was able to battle in the top five much of the afternoon. Hamlin would restart fifth with 13 laps remaining and was able to gain an additional spot to finish fourth and give the FedEx team consecutive top-five finishes.
Busch qualified his No. 18 M&Ms Peanut Butter Toyota in the sixth position and would drop back a couple positions during the course of the opening green flag run as the car’s handling became tight later in the run. The handling issues would continue and Busch would battle to hold a spot inside the top 20. Pit strategy would help him get back in the top 15 late and his Camry’s handling was improving, but he would slide up the track following a restart with 19 laps remaining resulting in contact with the 5 car. Busch would bring his M&Ms Camry down pit road repairs and fresh tires. He would restart 29th with 13 to go but with the advantage of having fresher tires the rest of the field. Busch would put together an impressive drive to the front over the final green flag run to take the checkered flag in 12th.
Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota 26th and was able to pick up a couple positions over the course of the opening green flag run. Kenseth would move into the top 20 on a lap 35 restart, but contact with the 1 car would cause damage to the nose of his Camry. The hole in the nose of his Camry resulted in major aerodynamic issues and he would drop back in the field hoping for a caution. Kenseth would ultimately drop a lap down to the field, but eventually got back to the lead lap and worked his way slowly back inside the top 30. Pit strategies would allow Kenseth to gain track position, but once the field shuffled through pit stops he would find himself back outside the top 25. He would go on to finish the afternoon in 26th.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the race followed by Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five. There were seven cautions for a total of 26 laps and 21 lead changes among 10 different drivers.