Ryan Blaney won his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday. The win at Pocono was far from a sure thing until the very last lap. Here’s how it all went down Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
From his second consecutive pole, and his third at Pocono, Kyle Busch led the field to the green on the outside. Martin Truex Jr., who was to roll of second started from the rear of the field after an engine change. He joined Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
That moved his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth up to the front row. Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five starters.
Busch had a clear lead by turn 1 as Kenseth fell back. Blaney took second, Keselowski third. Kurt Busch, and Jamie McMurray were fifth. Kenseth was falling and landed in eighth.
Logano reported a vibration and pitted on lap 6 for four tires.
The lead for Busch was 1.4 seconds by lap 7.
Blaney pitted from second on lap 13. Keselowski pitted a lap later. Kenseth pitted on lap 16.
Kurt Busch pitted on lap 17, brother Kyle followed.
Blaney came back in with a vibration.
Erik Jones led a contingent of drivers who stayed out and was in the lead when the cycle of green flag stops ended. By lap 28, Kyle Busch had moved to second. Stenhouse who had stayed out was third, Keselowski and Kevin Harvick who had pitted followed.
Jones pitted on lap 34 handing the lead back to Busch. Harvick was second, Keselowski third, followed by Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson.
Larson took fourth from Kurt Busch on lap 42.
Logano pitted on lap 43. Jimmie Johnson took fifth on lap 44.
Harvick had whittled the lead for Busch from 5 seconds to just over two when stage 1 ended.
Top 10 Stage 1: Kyle Busch, Harvick, Keselowski, Larson, Johnson, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Austin Dillon. The first caution came on lap 50 at the end of the stage.
The leaders pitted. Erik Jones with a two-tire stop was out first followed by Kyle Busch, Harvick, Larson and Keselowski.
Stenhouse stayed out when green came out on lap 56. He had a lead out of turn 1 but Jones has the lead by turn 2; Kyle Busch followed.
On lap 58, Earnhardt lost an engine and slowed: he suffered the same fate with his transmission as he did on Friday.
Busch retook the lead on lap 62; Larson followed. Elliott was fourth, Harvick fifth.
Kenseth and Stenhouse pitted on lap 66; Harvick pitted a lap later. Larson pitted on lap 68. Johnson pitted a lap later.
Truex pitted on lap 72.
By lap 83, 17 to go in stage 2, Busch led over Jones by 11 second, Denny Hamlin was third, Blaney fourth, Daniel Suarez was fifth as different pit strategies were playing out.
Blaney pitted from fourth on lap 87. Jones pitted from second a lap later. Busch pitted on lap 90 giving up a 20 second lead.
Hamlin took the lead but pitted on lap 92. Suarez led a lap before Larson, who had pitted passed him for the lead on lap 94. Harvick was second, Elliott third, Keselowski fourth with Kyle Busch falling into fifth after his stop.
On lap 95, Johnson running seventh crashed hard in turn 1; McMurray was also involved. McMurray rolled to a stop on fire and jumped from his car. Johnson climbed from his car but went to the wall and sat down. Replays showed that Johnson lost his breaks entering the turn and hit the wall hard.
NASCAR red flagged the race on lap 97.
The red flag lasted 23 minutes.
As the cars were rolling back, Clint Bowyer, who was given the free pass nearly collided with leader Larson as Larson was cleaning off his tires and was weaving back and forth. Bowyer was forced into the outside wall but continued. Eight cars deeper in the field, including Bowyer, pitted despite the pits being closed.
Green came out on lap 99, one lap to go to end the stage. Larson took the lead Kyle Busch had second by turn 1. Harvick was third, Truex fourth. Elliott fifth. Bu the end of the lap Truex had third.
The top 10 end of Stage 2: Larson, Kyle Busch, Truex, Harvick, Elliott, Jones, Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Kenseth. Caution four waved. Harvick lost a position reporting a transmission issue.
Most of the leaders all pitted. 11 drivers chose not to stop.
Off pit road Larson was first, Truex second followed by Elliott, Kurt Busch and Kahne. They lined up starting 12th. Up front Kyle Busch led, Jones was second with Hamlin, Blaney and Danica Patrick rounding out the top five.
Busch took the lead when the green came out on lap 105. Blaney was second, Jones third, Hamlin was fourth, Patrick held fifth. By lap 109 the lead was 1.1 seconds.
Truex was the biggest mover after the restart; he was sixth by lap 110. He took fifth from Patrick on the same lap.
Kyle Busch had a led nearing 3 seconds by lap 113. The lead was soon over 4 seconds and growing. Truex took third on lap 122.
Jones pitted on lap 123. Blaney and Harvick pitted on lap 124. Busch pitted on lap 125. Elliott, Kurt Busch and others among the leaders pitted. Truex inherited the lead. Keselowski was second, Kenseth third.
Truex pitted on lap 128.
Keselowski took the lead, still needing to pit. Ty Dillon and Stenhouse followed in the same situation.
Kyle Busch with fresher tires charged forward and took second on lap 134. Ty Dillon pitted with 25 to go. The lead for Keselowski was just over 11 seconds. Stenhouse pitted with 24 laps to go.
Truex took third with 21 laps to go.
Keselowski pitted on lap 140.
Kahne hit the wall entering turn 1 on lap 141 and caution four waved.
Kyle Busch stayed out as most of those behind pitted. Jones took two tires and was out first, followed by Blaney, Truex, Harvick and Kurt Busch.
The top ten when green waved on lap 147: Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Jones, Truex, Harvick, Stenhouse, Elliott and Hamlin.
Busch restarted on the outside, Keselowski inside. Busch rocketed to the lead, Blaney took second as Keselowski slowed; Jones took third, Harvick was fourth, Keselowski settled into fifth.
Blaney hovered close behind Busch as the laps wound down. With 10 to go, Busch slipped on the exit of turn 3; the two were soon side by side after Busch tried blocking; Harvick was close behind. Exiting turn 3 the next lap, 9 top go, Blaney had the lead. Harvick had second with 8 laps to go.
Harvick was soon looking for the lead and Busch fell to fourth.
Harvick was making up ground every lap. Busch continued to fall back.
With six to go, the lead was .30 of a second.
The lead was .14 of a second with four to go. Harvick was looking for the lead.
It was .24 with three to go.
With two to go Blaney was exiting turn 3 and blocking Harvick.
The same thing exiting turn 3 for the white flag.
Exiting turn 3 on the final lap, Blaney was able to hold Harvick off and win his first career Cup race.
Harvick was second, Jones third, Kurt Busch fourth and Keselowski fifth. Truex was sixth, Larson, Elliott, Kyle Busch and Kenseth rounded out the top 10.
NASCAR heads to Michigan International Speedway for next Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400. Live coverage will be on Fox Sports 1 at 3:00p.m. ET.
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