Kyle Busch delivers ‘clutch’ performance to win second Cup race at Pocono

A six-race win streak for Hendrick Motorsports came to an end Sunday. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch saved just enough fuel to make it to the end and won the second race of NASCAR’s double header weekend at Pocono Raceway.

And he did it with a broken clutch.

“Yeah, stuck in fourth gear,” Busch said. “About out of gas (laughter). Just saving, just riding, playing the strategy the best we could with what was given to us.”

Fuel mileage races are the norm at the 2.5-mile triangle, and Sunday’s race was no different.

The final run was set up after Stage 2 won by William Byron. While most of the leaders pitted, several stayed out with everyone needing one more stop and setting up fuel mileage strategies which became the order of the day in the final laps.

Erik Jones hit the wall on lap 92 and the caution waved bringing about a mix of stops with most opting for fuel only. Among those leading the final laps were Saturday’s winner Alex Bowman, and Brad Keselowski. Bowman pitted first giving the lead to Keselowski on lap 115. Keselowski would hold the top spot until lap 132 when he pitted handing the lead to Byron.

Byron and the rest of the leaders worked a fuel saving strategy with Byron losing fuel pressure with 4 to go and diving onto pit road.

Denny Hamlin inherited the lead, but he too ran short of fuel and pitted as Kyle Busch took the white flag. Busch had enough fuel and was able to score his second win of the season and his fifth at Pocono.

The win was made even more remarkable considering that his Toyota was stuck in 4th gear for much of the 140 laps.

Busch, who finished second on Saturday, reported to his crew just prior to the end of Stage 1 that the shifter was popping out of gear and he was forced to hold it in place.

During the pit stops at the end of the stage, Busch reported the car was stuck in 4th gear. The crew had to push the car to get it going. The crew tried to effect repairs during a pit stop at the end of stage 2, in which Busch finished seventh, but failed. He had already shown himself to be a contender leading the second most laps of the race, 30, up to that point, but with the issues it looked as though his hopes for winning were over.

Busch was forced to spend the race of the race with his car stuck in 4th gear and in the final laps Busch reported his clutch was gone. But in the end it didn’t matter. He had the car and enough fuel to make the final 46 laps for the win.

“The biggest thing was trying to time the restart right,” Busch said. “Leave pit road, come back around, be at full speed by the time the field takes the start/finish line. We were a little bit off on that. We were from here to pit road off on that. That’s about all we could do. That’s all you could think about doing in that situation, just thinking through any opportunity and obstacle that’s on you. That’s just what we did.”

Kyle Larson was second a day after he lost to Bowman on the final turn of the final lap. His second-place finish came despite damage to his Chevy early in the race.

“It’s a surprising finish for us.” Larson said. “Our Chevy was really loose for a majority of the race, then we got a lot of nose damage there on one of the restarts. Was off on speed. I felt like after that.”

“(I) was hoping that the 18 was going to run out. I saw the 11 running out. I was, okay, they’re teammates, they got to be close to running out. The 18 did pit a lap after us under caution. That actually probably won them the race.”

After pitting for fuel with less than 10 laps to go, Keselowski rallied back to finish third after leading the most laps of the race, 31. Kevin Harvick was fourth and Bubba Wallace took his new team to their best finish in their inaugural season, fifth.

Rayn Blaney, Bowman, Ryan Preece, Tyler Reddick and Joey Logano rounded out the top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. won Stage 1 and finished 11th.

Chris Buescher, who was awarded the pole after finishing 20th on Saturday finished 19th; Hamlin was 14th.

Xfinity Series regular Justin Allgaier was a late substitute in the Spire Motorsports No. 77 Chevrolet for Justin Haley, who was shaken up after heavy contact in Sunday’s Xfinity event earlier in the day. Allgaier finished 25th in his first Cup Series start since last July.

The Cup series heads to Wisconsin and Road America debuting on the 4.048-mile road course next Sunday.


NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Explore the Pocono Mountains 350

Pocono Raceway

Long Pond, Pennsylvania

Sunday, June 27, 2021

  1. (19)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 140.
  2. (12)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 140.
  3. (11)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 140.
  4. (13)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 140.
  5. (7)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 140.
  6. (16)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 140.
  7. (20)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 140.
  8. (23)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 140.
  9. (10)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 140.
  10. (14)  Joey Logano, Ford, 140.
  11. (3)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 140.
  12. (18)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 140.
  13. (21)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 140.
  14. (17)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 140.
  15. (8)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 140.
  16. (5)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 140.
  17. (2)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 140.
  18. (32)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 140.
  19. (1)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 140.
  20. (15)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 140.
  21. (24)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 140.
  22. (37)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 140.
  23. (36)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 139.
  24. (38)  Cole Custer, Ford, 139.
  25. (27)  Justin Allgaier(i), Chevrolet, 139.
  26. (33)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 139.
  27. (9)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 139.
  28. (25)  Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 139.
  29. (30)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 138.
  30. (28)  James Davison, Chevrolet, 137.
  31. (22)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 136.
  32. (4)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 135.
  33. (31)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 135.
  34. (26)  Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 134.
  35. (34)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, 132.
  36. (29)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 122.
  37. (35)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Handling, 113.
  38. (6)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Engine, 111.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  143.036 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 26 Mins, 49 Secs. Margin of Victory:  8.654 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  4 for 15 laps.

Lead Changes:  12 among 10 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   C. Buescher 1-6;M. McDowell 7-13;M. Truex Jr. 14-32;B. Keselowski 33-45;K. Busch 46-73;B. Wallace 74-76;W. Byron 77-93;C. Bell 94-96;A. Bowman 97-114;B. Keselowski 115-132;W. Byron 133-137;D. Hamlin 138;K. Busch 139-140.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Brad Keselowski 2 times for 31 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 30 laps; William Byron 2 times for 22 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 1 time for 19 laps; Alex Bowman 1 time for 18 laps; Michael McDowell 1 time for 7 laps; Chris Buescher 1 time for 6 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 3 laps; Bubba Wallace 1 time for 3 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,10,2,12,23,34,47,8,99,22

Stage #2 Top Ten: 24,11,2,20,9,19,18,5,10,42


Greg Engle