Larson wins rain-shortened NASCAR XFINITY debut race at Pocono

Kyle Larson and his family celebrates after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Pocono Green 250 at Pocono Raceway on June 4, 2016 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.
Kyle Larson and his family celebrates after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Pocono Green 250 at Pocono Raceway on June 4, 2016 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.
Kyle Larson and his family celebrates after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Pocono Green 250 at Pocono Raceway on June 4, 2016 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.

LONG POND, Pa. – The maiden voyage of the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Pocono Raceway was shorter than planned, but race winner Kyle Larson wasn’t complaining.

NASCAR awarded the checkered flag in the Pocono Green 250 to Larson when the race was red-flagged after 53 of 100 scheduled laps and then called because of persistent rain.

The victory was Larson’s first of the season and fourth in the series, but it was a source of frustration to runner-up Erik Jones, who arguably had the fastest car and was closing rapidly on Larson when a rain shower blew in from the west and stopped the action.

Ty Dillon finished third, followed by Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Ninth-place finisher Daniel Suarez maintained an 11-point lead in the series standings over Elliott Sadler, who ran sixth.

The caution flag flew for the fifth time on Lap 52, when a stormed cell drenched Turn 3 and began to move over the entire track. Another shower followed and then a steady rain, forcing NASCAR to shorten the race.

Larson likely was the only driver in the field who welcomed the downpour.

“I’m happy with it,” Larson said. “Now that the race is over and we got the win, it can clear out so we can race (on Sunday) for the (NASCAR Sprint) Cup race … I had kept a gap on him (Jones) for about four laps when he was in second.

“The rain was coming, and it was starting to sprinkle on his windshield. We weren’t quite to halfway yet (when a race becomes official), so I wasn’t really saying much on the radio, but once we did get to halfway, it started coming down a lot harder. We were going to be racing a lot harder in the next lap or half a lap maybe, so I’m happy that it started downpouring when it did.”

Before the race was stopped, Jones had moved from fourth on a Lap 44 restart to second place and was pressuring Larson for the lead when rain began to fall in earnest.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” said Jones, who has two wins, three runner-up finishes and a pair of thirds in 12 races this season. “You look at this whole year, and it’s kind of been a season of just missing it by that much.

“We’ve missed a few races with penalties and circumstance and the way things worked out, and today was another one of those days where I thought we had a good shot at the win, and the way it played out, it just didn’t work out for us.”

Larson had surged into the top spot on Lap 35 and stayed on the track under the fourth caution of the race, brought about by a violent collision between the Ford of Ryan Reed and the Chevrolet of Jeremy Clements.

After the restart on Lap 44, Larson pulled away to a lead of nearly two seconds before Jones starting gaining ground on the No. 42 Chevrolet. Jones was roughly one car-length behind when NASCAR threw the caution flag for rain.

A lap later, the sanctioning body red-flagged the race. During the stoppage, however, an ongoing feud between Reed and Sieg boiled over into a shoving match in the garage. Contact between their two cars had preceded Reed’s accident with Clements.

“You can’t race around the kid,” Sieg said of Reed, a Roush Fenway Racing driver. “He’s got a lot of money, and he’s got a Roush car, but he can’t drive it. … Money can’t buy skill, obviously, with him. We had a really good car, but it just sucks that it’s torn up here in the garage, and we’ve got nothing to show for it.”

Reed was more restrained in his comments, appropriately so because of the circumstances. It was Reed’s car that good loose in side-by-side racing and initiated the first contact with Sieg. Subsequently, a cut tire on Reed’s Ford led to his brush with the wall and the collision Clements’ Chevy, which was collected when Reed spun down from the outside wall to the center of the track.

“Emotions run high, obviously,” Reed said. “It’s racing. I look forward to talking about it in a calm, cool, collected manner and working it out. Obviously, we race every week, and it’s not going to do us any good to go out there and get into a battle royal.”

The brouhaha in the garage marked the end of the excitement, however, as the rain persisted, and NASCAR called the race just before 4 p.m., after a stoppage of one hour, 35 minutes.

NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – Pocono Green 250

Pocono Raceway

Long Pond, Pennsylvania

Saturday, June 04, 2016

1. (4) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 53.

2. (1) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 53.

3. (8) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 53.

4. (2) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 53.

5. (5) Joey Logano(i), Ford, 53.

6. (6) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 53.

7. (7) Paul Menard(i), Chevrolet, 53.

8. (14) Brandon Jones #, Chevrolet, 53.

9. (3) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 53.

10. (10) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 53.

11. (16) Aric Almirola(i), Ford, 53.

12. (13) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 53.

13. (11) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 53.

14. (17) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 53.

15. (12) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 53.

16. (40) Darrell Wallace Jr, Ford, 53.

17. (19) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 53.

18. (22) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 53.

19. (29) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 53.

20. (30) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, 53.

21. (26) Ray Black Jr #, Chevrolet, 53.

22. (25) BJ McLeod #, Ford, 53.

23. (34) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 53.

24. (35) Alex Guenette, Chevrolet, 53.

25. (36) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 53.

26. (27) Brandon Gdovic, Chevrolet, 52.

27. (24) Garrett Smithley #, Chevrolet, 52.

28. (38) Todd Peck, Ford, 52.

29. (15) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 51.

30. (39) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 50.

31. (18) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, Accident, 39.

32. (32) TJ Bell, Dodge, 39.

33. (23) Ryan Reed, Ford, Accident, 38.

34. (31) Jeff Green, Toyota, Header, 30.

35. (28) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Vibration, 29.

36. (20) Josh Wise(i), Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 23.

37. (37) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 22.

38. (33) Carl Long, Toyota, Brakes, 21.

39. (9) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, Accident, 20.

40. (21) Matt DiBenedetto(i), Toyota, Transmission, 6.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  118.421 mph.

Time of Race:  01 Hrs, 07 Mins, 08 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Caution.

Caution Flags:  5 for 14 laps.

Lead Changes:  6 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders:    0; K. Busch(i) 1-16; J. Logano(i) 17-23; K. Larson(i) 24-31; R. Black Jr # 32; A. Almirola(i) 33-34; K. Larson(i) 35-53.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  K. Larson(i) 2 times for 27 laps; K. Busch(i) 1 time for 16 laps; J. Logano(i) 1 time for 7 laps; A. Almirola(i) 1 time for 2 laps; R. Black Jr # 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 10 in Points: D. Suarez – 408; E. Sadler – 397; T. Dillon – 390; B. Gaughan – 363; E. Jones # – 359; B. Jones # – 357; J. Allgaier – 355; B. Poole # – 343; D. Wallace Jr – 308; R. Reed – 274.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.