Race Recap for the Pocono 400
Date: June 2, 2019
Event: Pocono 400 (Round 14 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Pocono (Pa.) Raceway (2.5-mile triangle)
Format: 160 laps, broken into three stages (50 laps/50 laps/60 laps)
Start/Finish: 2nd/1st (Running, completed 160 of 160 laps)
Point Standing: 1st with 568 points, four ahead of second
Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-50):
● Kyle Busch started second and finished 30th.
● The M&M’S Hazelnut Spread driver started on the front row, and after getting passed by JGR teammate Erik Jones, he settled into third place until the competition yellow waved on lap 20.
● Busch radioed to crew chief Adam Stevens that his car was loose in the center of the corner and tight off turn three.
● Stevens called Busch to pit road on lap 22 for fuel and tires. He restarted 10th on lap 24 and climbed to eighth by lap 30, then up to fifth by lap 45.
● Busch came to pit road three laps prior to the end of the stage, giving up the stage points for four tires and fuel and setting himself up nicely for the remainder of the race. He ended up 30th at the end of Stage 1.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 51-100):
● Busch started third and finished 14th.
● The 2015 NASCAR Cup Series champion restarted the stage third after most of the rest of the field pitted during the stage break.
● On the lap-55 restart, Busch was third exiting turn two behind Brad Keselowski and JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr., but a daring move on the inside of the Tunnel Turn gained Busch the lead by the time the field came back around to start lap 56.
● Busch continued to hold the lead during several restarts before Clint Bowyer was able to get around him shortly after a lap-72 restart. Just three laps later, Busch moved back around Bowyer on the outside in the exit of turn three.
● Busch held the lead until lap 94, just six laps before the end of the stage, as Stevens called him to pit road for tires and fuel. The stop set him up for the last few fuel runs of the day, but again he gave up the stage points, resulting in a 14th-place finish of the second stage.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 101-160):
● Busch started first and finished first.
● As the drivers ahead of him in the running order at the end of the stage hit pit road after Stage 2, Busch stayed out and regained the lead when racing got underway on lap 105.
● Busch maintained the lead for the first several laps of the final stage until he came to pit road on lap 124, taking four tires and fuel. He headed back out on the track behind Kevin Harvick, but Harvick was assessed a pit road penalty and had to come back down pit road for a drive-through.
● From there, Busch cycled back into the lead once the rest of the field pitted and took it for good on lap 140, pacing the final 21 laps to the checkered flag. He crossed the finish line 2.224 seconds ahead of runner-up Brad Keselowski.
● The victory was the 55th of Busch’s career, tying him with Rusty Wallace for ninth on the all-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list.
● It was Busch’s fourth victory of the season and the third of his career at Pocono.
● Busch leaves Pocono as the sole championship leader with a four-point advantage over second-place Joey Logano. The duo came into the Pocono 400 tied atop the championship standings.
Describe this run here today at Pocono.
“I mean, it was a great race for us. We had a really, really fast car. I mean, this M&M’S Hazelnut Spread Camry was flawless. I want to see everybody go pick up their M&M’s Hazelnut Spread. They’re in stores now. Go check that out. Overall, a huge thanks to everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. Everybody has done a phenomenal job building us some fast Toyota Camrys. Thanks to TRD (Toyota Racing Development, U.S.A.) and Interstate Batteries and Stanley, Rheem, Monster Energy of course, and all of the fans. I appreciate your support here in Pocono. It’s cool – this place was a real struggle for me early on, but here the last two years it’s been pretty good for me, so pretty pumped about that.”
What changed with Pocono and you the last couple of years?
“I started hitting on a couple things that made me a little bit better here with Dave Rogers (crew chief), and then when I got Adam (Stevens, crew chief), it just kind of clicked for us. We’ve been really good here ever since. Certainly thanks to Adam Stevens and all my guys, everybody on the A and B team here and everybody that does such a good job working on my stuff. It’s fun to be able to come down pit road and know you’re going to pick up spots and then to also have good racecars on the racetrack.”
How important was the outside line, and why did it work so well for you?
“I didn’t think anybody else was really doing it, and then I figured I might as well give it a shot. I got (Clint) Bowyer there on that restart and I’m like, ‘Oh man, here we go, we’re just going to ride here, this is what I needed.’ I came off of turn two really good with a head of steam and I kind of shallowed entry a little bit. Bowyer wanted to go low early in order to block, and I just put it to the outside and just drove it off in there to get alongside of him. I felt like once I got alongside of him, then him and I could race it out on exit. That was what got us to lead. That’s what got us the track position. That’s what got us out front to be able to control the rest of the race.”
Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the FireKeepers Casino 400 on Sunday, June 9 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.