EditorsNote: version with quotes and details added
Three times during the 2018 season, Kyle Busch went six races between victories. On Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Busch avoided going six races between victories for the first time in 2019 by winning the Pocono 400 in Long Pond, Pa.
It was the fourth win of the season for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver and his third at the 2.5-mile triangular Pocono track. The victory was also Busch’s second in a row at Pocono as he won there last July.
“We’ve had an amazing roll this year here,” Busch said. “So far we’ve been doing really well. We feel like we’ve given away a couple of wins that we thought we had a shot for but overall, it’s awesome to get back to victory lane here.”
Busch used to call Pocono one of his least favorite tracks. Now with three wins and a third-place finish in his last four starts at “The Tricky Triangle”, he’s changed his mind about that.
“Pocono has been a struggle but it’s a lot better now,” Busch said.
Busch led a race-high 79 of the 160 laps. The win was his 55th in a Cup car.
Finishing second was Brad Keselowski of Team Penske. The margin of victory was 2.2 seconds.
“Good day,” Keselowski said. “We had decent speed. We didn’t have speed enough to go up and pass guys but we could run with them. I feel like if we could have to go to the front ...It was one of those races the way the cars are, if you’re the lead, you could be a 20th-place car and nobody was going to pass you.”
Third place went to Busch’s JGR teammate, Erik Jones.
“I think if Kyle and I, if we were both on four tires it would have been pretty even,” Jones said. “But he had an advantage there on tires at the end. But good day overall. We had a good car.”
Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports finished fourth while Clint Bowyer of Stewart-Haas Racing was fifth.
“It’s frustrating,” Bowyer, still looking for his first win of the year and first stage win, said. “Had a top-five car all day. About the last month and a half we’ve had good finishes but we haven’t got any stage points. Definitely got to figure that out.”
A third JGR driver, Denny Hamlin, was sixth.
Busch appeared to be cruising to the victory as he had a 3-plus second lead with 15 laps to go. But on the next lap, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slammed into the wall to bring out the eighth caution of the day.
Busch and 10 others on the lead lap stayed out while the rest pitted for tires.
The race restarted with nine laps to go with Busch and Jones on the front row. Busch, as usual, got a good restart and spent the final laps holding off Keselowski.
JGR’s Martin Truex Jr. arrived at Pocono having won at The Triangle a year ago and also a week ago in Charlotte, but left the race late in the second stage with a blown engine. He finished 35th.
—Field Level Media