Loose, But Fast Blog – Pocono Recap

Pocono

Nascar Xfinity Series

Pocono Green 250 Recycled by J.P. Mascaro & Sons

2018 marked the third annual running of the Pocono Green 250, the Xfinity Series lone trip to the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. In each of the first two runnings of the event, a Cup Series regular has dropped down and won the race (Kyle Larson ’16, Brad Keselowski ’17). Despite using an aero package similar to the one run during the Monster Energy All-Star Race, the result was the same: a Cup regular taking home the checkered. Kyle Busch overcame a pit road speeding penalty during the Stage 1 break to lead 64 of the 100 laps run in route to his 92nd career Xfinity Series victory. The win is Busch’s 189th across NASCAR’s top three touring series.

Stage 1

Kyle Busch absolutely dominated. Busch passed pole sitter Cole Custer on lap 2 and never looked back. The modified aero package was designed to produce closer racing; however, the field could not hang with Kyle Busch once he got into clean air. The stage went caution free and Busch led the remaining 23 laps rather comfortably. Christopher Bell, Austin Cindric, Elliott Sadler, and Brandon Jones rounded out the top 5.

Stage 2

During the stage break, Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell were caught speeding on pit road and both were sent to the back of the lead lap. As a result of pit strategy, Cole Custer inherited the lead at the start of Stage 2. With Kyle Busch trapped back in traffic, Stage 2 provided the best racing of the day. Custer led most of the stage, but could not pull away as Kyle Busch had done in Stage 1.

With 1 lap to go, the battle for stage points created the most exciting part of the race. The top four cars lined up in tandems. Cole Custer had Justin Allgaier pushing him and Paul Menard had Team Penske teammate Austin Cindric pushing him. For two-thirds of the final lap, Custer and Menard ran door to door, but out of turn 3, Menard had enough momentum to clear Custer and take the stage victory. Custer, Allgaier, Cindric, and John Hunter Nemechek were the rest of the top 5. Kyle Busch rallied back to finish 6th in the stage.

Stage 3

Pit strategy was again a major player during the stage break. John Hunter Nemechek took the green flag in the lead but was quickly shuffled back. Kyle Busch started the stage in 12th and promptly moved forward on fresh tires. Two laps into the stage, Michael Annett got loose in the middle of turn 2 and slid up into Chase Briscoe and then the wall to bring out the caution. Both drivers’ days were over. With fuel mileage being close, most of the leaders decided to stay out.

The race restarted with 39 laps to go, but the field didn’t make it back to turn 2 without another caution coming out. Out of turn 1, four-wide racing, a bump from Elliott Sadler led to Justin Allgaier getting turned into the outside wall across the nose of Dylan Lupton. Allgaier then came down across the track and collected Christopher Bell. Both drivers had strong cars but were done for the day.

At the time of caution, Kyle Busch, who had restarted fourth, was ahead of teammate Brandon Jones for the lead. Little did we know that would be the winning moment. With 35 laps to go, Kyle Busch took the green flag on the restart. From that point, Kyle Busch was gone. Just like stage 1, Busch got into the clean air and couldn’t be caught. The race went green the rest of the way and Busch won by a margin of 2.852 seconds.

Top 10

  1. Kyle Busch (64 laps led)
  2. Chase Elliott
  3. Daniel Hemric
  4. Austin Cindric (1)
  5. Cole Custer (23)
  6. Elliott Sadler
  7. John Hunter Nemechek (4)
  8. Paul Menard (3)
  9. Tyler Reddick
  10. Ryan Truex

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Pocono 400

In 81 races at Pocono Raceway, only 22 drivers had earned multiple wins at NASCAR’s tricky triangle. Martin Truex Jr. added the 23rd name Sunday. After battling all day long with fellow championship favorites Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, it was Truex Jr. who prevailed earning his 2nd win of 2018. The win also serves as the 17th of his career and 15th since joining Furniture Row Racing in 2014.

Stage 1

From the pole, Ryan Blaney edged Kevin Harvick around Turn 1 to take the early lead. Young Blaney held off Harvick, Busch, and Truex Jr. for several laps, but eventually was overtaken by Harvick on lap 11. Those were the only laps defending race winner, Blaney led all day. At lap 17, many teams began utilizing pit strategy to try and steal track position. However, Stage 1 went green the whole way and a clean stop by the number 4 Stewart-Hass Racing Busch Beer pit crew cycled the 5-time race winner in 2018 back into the lead. Once he regained the lead, Harvick set the pace for the next nine circuits around the triangle. However, Martin Truex Jr. reeled him in and assumed the lead with 6 to go in the stage. Truex Jr. would go on to win the stage and earn his 3rd stage victory of the season. 

Stage 2

A two-tire stop for Brad Keselowski resulted in the Team Penske Ford leading the field to green to begin Stage 2. Keselowski’s lead didn’t last long though, Kevin Harvick retook the lead going into to Turn 1 on the restart. The Busch Beer #4 Ford led the next 22 laps until pit strategy called for another cycle of green-flag pit stops. During the series of stops, Bubba Wallace led for four laps. After Wallace and tailer-Austin Dillon, made their pit stops, Harvick seized his position at the head of the field. Without contest, Harvick took the Stage 2 victory, his 7th stage win of the season.

Stage 3

Kevin Harvick led the whole field down pit road during the stage break and his team delivered by getting him back out in first. Harvick led the first 26 laps of the stage, but those would be the last of his race-high 89 laps led. However, on lap 126, Kyle Larson made contact with the lap-down machine of Derrike Cope to bring out the first non-stage ending caution of the day. The whole field decided to stop for tires during the caution and Kyle Busch’s #18 Joe Gibbs Racing team, as they had all day, produced the best stop and got their guy out first.

Martin Truex took the restart in 4th but used his position to move into the 2nd position with leader Kyle Busch in his sights. Busch led the next nine laps, then the caution came out for debris. While Kyle Busch and most of the field elected to pit during the caution, Truex, Harvick and Kyle Larson did not. The field took the next restart with 17 to go with Truex as the leader. Three laps later Alex Bowman and four-time Pocono winner, Denny Hamlin, tangled coming out of Turn 1 to bring out another caution. None of the leaders pitted. The field took the green flag with 10 to go, but Erik Jones was turned coming across the line to immediately bring out another caution. Again, none of the leaders chose to pit. 

The field took the final restart of the day with 7 laps remaining. By this point, the race was clearly between Busch, Harvick, Truex, and Larson who were the best four all day. Larson fought best he could to get in front of Truex, but the #78 was too good getting down into Turn 1. Truex took advantage of the clean air and was able to cruise to victory. Larson took home second, followed by Kyle Busch, Harvick, and Keselowski to round out the top 5. 

Top 10

  1. Martin Truex Jr. (31 laps led)
  2. Kyle Larson 
  3. Kyle Busch (13)
  4. Kevin Harvick (89)
  5. Brad Keselowski (10)
  6. Ryan Blaney (11)
  7. Aric Almirola 
  8. Jimmie Johnson (2)
  9. Joey Logano 
  10. Chase Elliott 

Loose, But Fast Blog: Post Coke 600 Power Rankings

NASCAR Cup Series Championship: Homestead Preview

NASCAR Cup Series Championship: Homestead Preview

In a sport loaded with young talent, four grizzled veterans will battle for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship on Sunday at Homestead. A grueling eight-month schedule comes down to 400.5 miles or 267 circuits around the mile and a half oval just outside of Miami. Left standing: three former Cup champions Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski. Fourth, the driver who has dominated this season with seven wins and 18 top fives, Martin Truex Jr. With the highest-finisher-take-all scenario, all bets are off. Regardless, we’ll take a look at each team’s outlook on a title come Sunday.

Kyle Busch

#18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

2015 Cup Champion Kyle Busch will look to add to his extensive trophy case Sunday. His lone win at Homestead came in the 2015 championship race. In 12 career starts at Homestead, Busch has five top fives but also has an average finish of 19.8. In recent years, Busch has experienced success on the mile and a half raceway finishing seventh or better in four of the past five races at Homestead. Over the past five seasons, Busch has excelled at intermediate speedways finishing over two thirds in the top ten over that span. The Joe Gibbs #18 team will need to build upon that success this weekend if Busch hopes to lift his second Cup title.

Here’s how Busch earned his trip to Miami:


Kevin Harvick

#4 Stewart-Hass Racing Ford

What a tale that would be. In Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final race, the man who presumed his father’s ride wins the title almost eighteen years later. Out of the Championship Four, Harvick easily has had the most success at Homestead. In 16 races at the mile and a half, Harvick has finished in the top ten fourteen times including winning the race and championship in 2014. Since joining Stewart-Hass Racing, Harvick has never finished worse than third at Homestead. At intermediate speedways this season, Harvick has only finished outside of the top ten three time out of 17 races. Based on previous Homestead results, they have to be the favorites heading into the weekend.

Harvick sums it up after punching his ticket to Championship Weekend:


Brad Keselowski

#2 Penske Racing Ford

Keselowski took home the Cup in 2012; however, that was before the current playoff format was put into place. Since 2013, Keselowski has finished sixth, third, third, and thirty-fifth at Homestead, respectively. At intermediate raceways this season the #2 Penske Ford finished in the top five six times and notched a victory at Atlanta. In a mix full of wild-cards, Keselowski is as capable as any at taking home the title come Sunday. Trust me. Just like the other three fighting for the title, Keselowski will not hesitate to use his bumper when he needs it. 

If he wins, let’s hope he re-creates this moment:


Martin Truex Jr.

#78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota

Martin Truex Jr. may not have a championship like the other three drivers, but if anyone deserves the 2017 crown it is Martin Truex Jr. He’s put together the best season out of any driver, let alone the Championship Four, all season long. The #78 Toyota has won seven races and finished in the top five 18 times. However, out of the four remaining teams, Truex’s Furniture Row team has struggled the most at Homestead over the past three seasons. That includes 2015 where Truex made the Championship Four but wound up finishing 12th and had to watch Kyle Busch lift the trophy. On the other hand, at intermediate speedways this season Truex has finished in the top five thirteen out of seventeen races and has a top ten in all but one. His team has been the best at these types of race tracks all season long. 

Truex has come a long way since 2013:


Without a doubt, Sunday’s finale at Homestead is going to be thrilling.

 

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