It was a storybook ending for one rookie, and a nightmare for others Monday at Pocono Raceway. Chris Buescher won the rain shortened Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway for the first win of his career. There was plenty of exciting racing leading up to the shortened finish. Here’s how it all went down at Pocono Monday.
After the second delay at Pocono for the season, Martin Truex Jr. led the field to the green with his first career Pocono pole almost 24 hours after the scheduled start time. The rain that had postponed the race on Sunday still threatened.
Truex had the lead on the damp track by turn 1, Carl Edwards was second followed by Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman. The field was soon single file. Kurt Busch who had to start at the raer of the field for unapproved adjustments was soon up to 28th.
The lead for Truex was nearing a second by lap 6, as some drivers reported light rain in turn 2. The lead was almost 1.5 seconds a lap later.
Because of the rain, NASCAR had called for a competition caution for around lap 15. That caution came out on lap 16. The top five were, Truex, Edwards, Hamlin, Menard, and Joey Logano. Newman had fallen back to seventh behind Tony Stewart.
Truex was out first, Menard was out second followed by Logano, Hamlin and Newman. The top 10 runners took only two tires and fuel. Brad Keselowski and Greg Biffle both elected not to pit and lead.
Jimmie Johnson was the last car off pit road after an extended stay while the crew worked on damage, possibly for debris. The team was also penalized for too many crew over the wall. Johnson restarted at the back of the field.
Green came back out on lap 20. Biffle led the way as Keselowski and Truex dueled for second; Keselowski had second exiting turn 1. Menard couldn’t shift into third and fell back on the restart. Entering turn 2 Truex lost a tire and hit the outside wall. Caution two came out. The team later found that the inner valve stem had been knocked out of the tire. Truex stayed on track, lost a lap and feel into 39th. Menard headed to the garage with clutch issues.
The restart came on lap 23: Biffle led, but Keselowski couldn’t get going and fell back several spots. Biffle had a clear lead followed by Kyle Larson, Logano, and Austin Dillon. Keselowski fell into fifth.
Logano went to second on lap 26. Soon he was right behind Biffle. Harvick had moved to fifth by lap 2, Keselowski had fallen to 8th behind, Newman and Kyle Busch.
Logano was able to bet past Biffle entering turn 1 on lap 32. Larson took second on lap 33; Harvick took fourth from Dillon just after. Biffle pitted under green on lap 35.
Harvick went to second on lap 38.
On the same pit strategy as Biffle, Keselowski came in on lap 39. Truex slowed on lap 40 after losing another tire in turn 2. He avoided the wall, but was forced to roll slowly to the pits. Dillon passed Larson for third two laps later. Truex headed to the garage.
Harvick reeled in Logano and was looking for the lead by lap 49. Green flag stops were starting deeper in the field. Gordon was penalized for speeding on pit road. Edwards pitted from eighth on lap 50.
Harvick took the lead from Logano on lap a 51. Harvick pitted on lap 52, followed by Larson. Logano reassumed the lead, but pitted a lap later.
With his different strategy, Keselowski assumed the lead by lap 56; Harvick was second, about 3 seconds back followed by Logano, Biffle and Larson. Kyle Busch was fifth by lap 58. Biffle held onto sixth.
By lap 60, Harvick with fresher tires had caught Keselowski. Harvick grabbed the lead on lap 61. Biffle pitted a lap later.
The third caution of the day came out on lap 66 when Aric Almirola in 22nd crashed on the frontstretch; Jeb Burton was also swept up. The two were exiting turn 3; Almirola slid up and into Burton sending both into the wall. The leaders pitted. Logano was out first followed by Harvick, Edwards, Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott. The top nine took only two tires and fuel.
Under the caution, the top six had stayed out: Larson, Dillon, Newman, Kenseth, Hamlin, and Biffle. Logano lined up seventh.
The green came out on lap 72. Larson held on for the lead, Dillon was second, Kenseth and Hamlin duel for third and showers and the halfway point loomed. Logano shot by Hamlin and Kenseth and grabbed second by the end of the lap.
Larson and Dillon broke away from the field and were nose to tail. Logano was a distant third. Larson and Dillon were fighting for position on lap 78. The two were side-by-side crossing the line on lap 78. Larson held him off and kept the top spot. The fight allowed Logano to catch up.
On lap 81 Dillon and Larson got together in turn 3 and slowed; Logano shot by for the lead as Dillon fell into second. Soon Harvick had gotten past Hamlin and was looking for third from Larson.
Caution 4 came out on lap 85, five laps past halfway, for rain.
Dillon, Larson and others deeper in the field pitted for fuel.
After the rain passed, the green came out on lap 92. Logano led, Harvick and Kenseth dueled for second; Kenseth got the spot by turn 2. Hamlin was fourth, Biffle fifth.
Kenseth pitted on lap 95; Hamlin followed.
Logano led, Harvick was second, Kahne third followed by Biffle and Ryan Blaney.
The fifth caution came out on lap 100 when Truex Jr. lost another right front tire in turn 1. It was another long slow roll back to the pits, then the garage for Truex.
Logano led the field down pit road. Casey Mears was the only car to take two tires and was first off pit road. He was followed by Logano, Harvick, Biffle and Kahne.
The top 14 cars leading however had stayed out. Mears lined up 15th with Logano beside him in 16th.
Larson led; Keselowski was second followed by Kyle Busch, Edwards and Newman.
Green came out on lap 104. Larson leapt to the lead, Kyle Busch dove to the bottom and took second, Keselowski settled into third.
On lap 105, Elliott and Logano got together entering turn 2 after Elliott got loose. Both were sent into the wall ; Elliott went to the garage, Logano to pit road. Caution six waved. Logano was eventually forced to head to the garage. Elliott came back on the track just before the green.
None of the leaders pitted and green came back out on lap 108. Larson led, Kyle Busch was second, followed by Keselowski, Edwards and Dillon.
Kyle Busch shot ahead on the restart but Larson held him off and kept the lead. Gordon slowed as he reported that his seatbelt came loose.
Up front by lap 112, Larson led, Kyle Busch was second, Keselowski was third followed by Dillon who got fourth from Edwards a lap after the restart. Newman, Hamlin, AJ Allmendinger, Harvick and Kahne rounded out the top 10.
Dillon got third from Keselowski on lap 114. By lap 117, Dillon was looking for second. He got second on lap 117. Dillon was soon right behind leader Larson.
Jimmie Johnson started a round of green flag stops on lap 121. Keselowski pitted on lap 123 . Edwards, Harvick were among those who pitted on lap 124.
Dillon slipped up the track in turn 2 on lap 125 but held off Kyle Busch. Larson was able to stretch out his lead slightly. Larson pitted on the same lap. Kyle Busch followed. Dillon stayed out and inherited the lead. He pitted a lap later.
When the cycle completed, Keselowski had the lead. Chris Buescher led his first laps in the Cup series as he stayed out and fog was reportedly threatening to roll over the track. Indeed, by lap 131 fog was thickening over turn 2. Buescher had a 12 second lead over Keselowski as caution came out for thick fog over turn 2 on lap 132. From the spotters stand turn 1 and 2 could not be seen.
The field continued under caution until lap 139 when the field was led down pit road, stopped and the red flag was displayed.
After nearly an hour and with fog still hanging over the track and storms threatening, NASCAR called the race and declared Chris Buescher the winner. . Keselowski was second, Regan Smith who had also stayed out with Buescher finished third followed by Harvick in fourth, and Stewart fifth in his last Pocono race.
Larson was sixth, Hamlin seventh followed by Edwards, and Kurt and Kyle Busch rounding out the top 10. The full results can be found here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to the road course at Watkins Glen International next Sunday for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. Live coverage will be on the USA network starting at 2:00 p.m. with the green flag coming just at 2:30 p.m. ET.
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