Only a few weeks after finishing 10th at Dover and lamenting NASCAR’s new aero package saying it “sucked”, Busch put on a clinic leading a race high 79 laps and winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pocono 400 by 2 seconds.
“I passed one guy on the outside of turn 3 and that was the only guy I needed to pass, I guess,” Busch said. “It was hard otherwise. We kind of got stuck in traffic back there a little bit earlier in the race. We were about fifth or sixth and couldn’t really do anything. But overall my guys on pit road were awesome. We got some spots there, track position. Adam Stevens and some of our race calls getting us further up towards the front, so it’s cool to get a win here, cool to get a win at Pocono again.”
No matter what his rivals tried in terms of pit strategy, two tires, no tires, Busch always emerged with the lead. His nearest rival in the race, Kyle Larson, led the second most laps, 35, won both stages but hit the wall while running fifth on a restart with 9 laps to go. He would be forced to pit and finished 26th one lap down, the third time Larson has swept the stages only to lose the race.
Kevin Harvick was another challenger who tired a two tire stop when he ands Busch pitted under green on lap 124. During the stop however, the crew was penalized for an uncontrolled tire. While serving his pass-through penalty, Harvick reported steering issues. He would be forced to stop again for repairs and the crew diagnosed a cracked steering box. Harvick finished 22nd, one lap down.
Busch’s teammate Martin Truex Jr. who came in as last week’s winner and was tied with Busch for three wins on the season, seemed a contender but during a pit stop on lap 91, the engine on Truex’s car soured; he finished in the garage in 35th place, his second DNF of 2019.
Brad Keselowski was second, Erik Jones third, Chase Elliott fourth and Clint Bowyer fifth.
The predicted four and five wide restarts never materialized at the front of the field. Overall there were 8 cautions and no major incidents.
Denny Hamlin was sixth, Joey Logano seventh, with Daniel Suarez eighth. Polesitter William Byron led 26 laps and finished 9th, Aric Almirola rounded out the top 10.
Busch now leads all active drivers with 4 wins on the season. The win was his third at Pocono and the 55th of his Cup career tying Rusty Wallace for ninth on the all-time win list.
“We’ve had an amazing roll this year here so far,” Busch said. “We’ve been really doing well, and we feel like we’ve kind of given away a couple of wins that we thought we had a shot for, but overall, it’s awesome to be able to get back to Victory Lane here. Pocono has been a struggle, but it’s a lot better now.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for next Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400.