Kyle Busch was a bit disappointed in his third-place finish in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pocono 400. The four-time winner in the Cup series this season led only 13 laps but was in contention all race long.
Busch won at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway last July with a bump and run on then leader Kevin Harvick. Sunday all eyes were on he and Harvick. After all the duo have combined to win 10 of the first 15 races.
Martin Truex Jr. however had something to say about that Sunday.
Truex led 31 laps Sunday and was leading late in the going when a late race caution for debris put strategy into play with 21 laps to go while Busch was leading. Harvick’s crew elected to keep their driver out, while Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens had his driver pit for four fresh tires.
Busch would restart eighth, and by the end of the first lap after the restart, he was fourth.
A late race crash by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate would set up a 10 laps shootout; that was thwarted however when anther JGR driver Erik Jones crashed on the restart. That led to a seven-lap shootout that saw Truex in victory lane and Busch third.
“Just real unfortunate there that once we all thought we had that caution that brought us all down pit road for what we thought was the final stop of the day,” Busch said. “We got tires, we beat everybody off pit road and was in control of the restart and then in control of the race when we were leading there.”
“All of a sudden about 10, 11 laps into that run, there was a caution in Turn 1 for what looked to me to be a shoe booty. Somebody took their booty off, I guess, and chucked it out their window. That was kind of weird that we saw a caution for that, but safety comes first, so that just kind of derailed our strategy, if you will, and we lost this race last year on not pitting in that situation and getting beat by tires, and so we pitted this year for tires and got beat by those that didn’t pit.”
The issue on the final restart was Busch’s position. At first it was thought that Busch would line up fourth putting him in the inside lane. After checking their scoring loops however, NASCAR put Busch in third restarting on the outside lane, which had been the fastest lane all day and gave him a shot to catch the leader.
“You know, when you’re on the outside, the leader typically chooses the outside for the launch and to get going, and so he can control the guy on his inside and not get in a bad aero spot so that just makes that lane accelerate just that instant sooner, and that momentum just kind of rolls.”
“But I thought Larson and I had a pretty good run there on that final restart where I pushed him back up to the back of the 78, and he didn’t hit him enough in order to get him up the track a little farther so I could squeak on under there and have a three‑wide battle and probably a whole bunch of fire and flames and parts on the outside of the racetrack in Turn 2, but maybe next time.”