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NASCAR Cup Series

William Byron and Chad Knaus Speak About Second-Half Success

AVONDALE, Arizona — The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is winding down, but William Byron continued to catch fire in the Valley of the Sun at ISM Raceway.  While the 21-year old would go on to finish 17th due to a late-race restart, he ran inside the top-10 for a large portion of the day, even as high as second at one point.

The Liberty University-product has been crafting a silently impressive season in the Hendrick Motorsports stable. Largely due in part to seven-time Cup Series Championship winning crew chief, Chad Knaus, making the transition to the No. 24 team after 17 season working for the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson.

“It think it comes down to a lot of experience for William,” Knaus told POPULAR SPEED. “He’s getting more familiar with the racetracks because he’s going there for the third, fourth time and that definitely helps. Obviously, William and I are getting closer together with our communication and how he describes things with the race car – that helps tremendously.”

The pair have been able to build chemistry throughout the year, but things didn’t really begin clicking until about Week 14 at Pocono Raceway. By this time, Byron was able to replicate two-consecutive weeks of finishing ninth and qualifying on the pole – in addition to a pole at the Daytona 500 and notching two more top-10’s.

It was at this point the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion solidified that he belonged in the sport’s premier series.

“It’s been really good,” Byron told POPULAR SPEED about his relationship with his new crew chief. “We’ve had our ups and down and such, but we just want to perform well – when we don’t perform well, we aren’t very happy and this was one of those weekends.”

With one race remaining in the season, Byron leads his teammates in highest average finishing position with 14.2 in 35 races. Expanded over the last 10 races, he ranks among the top-10 in average results as well, posting a 12.8. While teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman were able to find victory lane a combined four times in 2019, Byron drove his way to five top-five finishes (two runner-ups), 13 top-10s and led 233 laps.

“I think it’s us being a solid team,” Byron explained. “We definitely surpassed where we thought we were going to be. I think average finish and all of that helps – it’s just going out and doing a solid job every week.”

In the one of the more shocking stats of the year, Byron ranks second in the series in poles with five. The only driver to out qualify him is 2014 Cup Series title holder Kevin Harvick, with six. While all eyes will be on the Championship  4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, this shouldn’t take away from the fact that Byron has the chance to tie the driver of the No. 4 for most pole awards on the season.

With the offseason looming, the driver of the Axalta Chevy Camaro had some thoughts on how to improve as a team during the near-three month break.

“Things change so much,” Byron said. “I think if we can have a good offseason – specifically, making our cars better on the flat-short tracks, I think we can put ourselves in a great position to be here (ISM Raceway) next year.”

Can the driver of the No. 24 put an exclamation point on his breakout season with a successful weekend in the series finale at Miami? Find out next weekend, starting November 16 at 2:05 p.m. ET with Cup Series qualifying on NBCSN and then finally in the Ford EcoBoost 400 the following day at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

EMAIL COLE AT: colecusumano88@gmail.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management to other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered and endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Pocono Race Advance

One of the most under-reported stories of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is the remarkable level of parity in the competition so far this season.

The last nine Cup races dating back to the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend have produced nine different winners among eight different teams, with Hendrick Motorsports the only squad to win twice during that period — Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag at Dover in early June and Kasey Kahne won last weekend’s Brickyard 400.

During those last nine races, Toyota has won twice, Ford three times and Chevrolet four times. That’s about as even as you’re going to find.

All told, 13 different drivers have won in the first 20 races of the season, including Joey Logano’s encumbered win at Richmond, which doesn’t count towards playoff eligibility.

Do not be surprised if today’s Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway produces a 14th different winner of this crazy season.

In Saturday’s first practice at the 2.5-mile oval, five of the six fastest drivers clocking in were guys who haven’t won this year — Matt Kenseth (1st), Erik Jones (3rd), Kyle Busch (4th), Chris Buescher (5th) and Daniel Suarez (6th).

The second and final practice saw Busch time in at No. 1, with fellow non-winners Jamie McMurray (3rd), Chase Elliott (5th) and Clint Bowyer (8th) also in the top eight.

Any one of these non-winners could punch his ticket to NASCAR’s playoffs with a win this afternoon at the tricky triangle.

There’s also a new wrinkle to consider: For the first time in recent memory, qualifying is scheduled for race day, with time trials set for 11:30 a.m. this morning and the race slated for 3 p.m. How that affects the outcome remains to be seen, but it could factor in.

The weather today in Pocono is chamber-of-commerce perfect: Sunshine, blue skies, a zero percent chance of rain and highs in the mid-70s. You couldn’t ask for a better day.

Late this afternoon, we’ll find out whether there’s a 10th-consecutive different winner and a 14th different winner of 2017.

Don’t bet against it.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Osborne’s Gamble Pays Off at Pocono, Ends Personal Winless Streak

When NASCAR officials decided the fog and misty weather were enough to end the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway 22 laps short of the advertised distance, Front Row Motorsports driver Chris Buescher shockingly earned his first career Sprint Cup Series victory.

While it was a tremendous upset for the 2015 XFINITY Series champion to get the win with FRM, crew chief Bob Osborne stood alongside the 23-year-old rookie in Victory Lane, which he hadn’t visited as the man atop the pit box since March 2011.

Osborne, who now has 19 career Cup victories, got his first Cup win with someone other than Carl Edwards on Monday. He last celebrated in Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Victory Lane more than five years ago when Edwards was racing for Roush Fenway Racing in the No. 99 Ford.

The veteran crew chief gambled by keeping his driver on the track as the field cycled through green flag stops. Buescher inherited the lead once all the leaders stopped and on Lap 133, his gamble paid off as the yellow flag waved for fog covering the track.

After 138 laps, NASCAR instructed cars to come to pit road and after more than an hour under the red flag, the race was called.

“To be honest with you, we had a top-15 car,” Osborne said. “It’s headed in the right direction from our first race here and for where we are with our program. With fate really going our way today and with calls going our way, which we haven’t had a lot of this year, it worked to put us in a position to win it.”

Osborne’s goal coming into the weekend was to better the No. 34 Ford’s performance from the last race at Pocono in early June, when the team finished 28th.

“Coming into the weekend, we wanted to improve on the first time we were here and have a better-handling racecar relative to the competition,” Osborne said. “We did accomplish that — we had a more competitive car than what we had the first race. I was happy to see that, and we’re going to continue to do that race after race for the rest of the season.”

Osborne and his young driver still have some work to do if they’re going to compete in NASCAR’s playoffs. With five races left until the first Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway, he is six points behind BK Racing’s David Ragan for 30th.

Osborne sat out as a crew chief in 2013 and 2014 due to an unspecified health issue. In 2015, he returned to the role as Trevor Bayne’s crew chief with Roush Fenway and scored two top 10s.

While he’ll now feel the pressure of making Buescher a top-30 driver in the standings, there must feel some relief in ending an 89-race winless streak.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Strong Finish Fuels Smith’s Optimism

Regan Smith and his team put it all on the line at Pocono Raceway — and it paid off for single-car team Tommy Baldwin Racing.

Smith netted a third-place finish at Monday afternoon, capturing just the second top-five finish in the history of TBR. After starting 30th, pit strategy played a vital role in the top three result. As pit stops cycled through, Smith’s No. 7 was a few laps from pitting when heavy fog rolled over the Tricky Triangle. As a result, NASCAR was unable to restart the race and for the first time in a long time, Smith found himself in the right place at the right time.

“The cloud kind of came at just the right time for us. We were within five or six laps of having to pit, but it’s a credit to my guys for seeing the opportunity to do that strategy,” Smith said. “When you’re a small team working hard to try and go up against some of the bigger teams that we do, you’ve got to take the opportunities when they present themselves. Today and this weekend in general, just kind of had that feeling to it with the rain on and off all weekend long, and we were able to make the most out of it.”

Pocono marks the second top-10 result of 2016 for Smith, who finished eighth in the season-opening Daytona 500. Smith praised crew chief and team owner Tommy Baldwin, Jr. for the risky strategy call, knowing chances like that typically fall flat.

Smith said, “For every 10 times you try something like this, it works once or twice, and it’s even more rare that it works to the level it did today. Usually, you pick up a spot here or there. I’ll be honest; I’m kind of surprised more guys didn’t stay out that long and stretch it just a little while like we did.”

Making the most out of the situation is crucial to a small organization. Despite a partnership with Richard Childress Racing, TBR has just 24 employees on staff and is unable to afford many of the perks enjoyed by the competition. The weekly battle for a top 20 is a struggle, which makes the third-place result vital to the team’s motivation.

“Just for the shop alone to be able to say, ‘Hey, we had a good day’ [is important]. I know everybody is going to say it was fuel mileage, it was rain, it was this, it was that,” Smith said, adding, “We had a good day, we stayed on the lead lap, did what we had to do.”

The No. 7 crew played the pit strategy game, and it was worth it; a top three is equivalent to a victory for the small organization of Tommy Baldwin Racing. Their driver is optimistic for his team despite the circumstances surrounding the finish. To Smith, runs like this signify progress, even if fuel mileage and rain played a factor.

“We were way more competitive today than we were two months ago, and that’s a gain.”

EMAIL KRISTEN AT kristen.schneider@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

Triangle Somewhat Tricky for Abreu

LONG POND, Pa. — ThorSport Racing driver Rico Abreu faced a new challenge in his rookie season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Saturday — a 60-lap dash at the unique, high-speed Pocono Raceway.

Abreu, a two-time Chili Bowl Nationals winner, made a name for himself as a successful USAC Midget Car racer. He grew up racing on oval tracks shorter than a half-mile but proved he can be fast on one of NASCAR’s largest and toughest tracks.

The two-and-a-half-mile circuit — often difficult even for Sprint Cup Series veterans — was feasible for Abreu in the Pocono Mountains 150. The accomplished open-wheel dirt racer, running his first full season in one of NASCAR’s national series, finished sixth at the Tricky Triangle and scored his second consecutive top 10.

Abreu started the race 17th and had it not been for two late-race cautions, the ThorSport driver likely would have finished in the top five. He was running third with less than 20 laps remaining but got shuffled back on the ensuing restarts.

“[Our race] was really good, we only had one pit stop, and I told the guys to leave it alone because it felt good but we got tight at the end of the race,” Abreu told POPULAR SPEED. “We had speed — I just needed some of the restarts to go my way. I wish I could have been in the outside lane on that final restart.”

Abreu has adjusted well to racing on paved tracks as the season reaches the halfway mark. Last month at Texas Motor Speedway, he had a late-race battle with Kyle Busch Motorsports rookie William Byron, but contact with the outside wall dropped him to a ninth-place result.

At Eldora, he rallied for a third-place finish after early struggles, a career best for the 24-year-old. But entering Pocono, he knew that the three distinct turns would be a challenge as corner entries at the track are different than what he is accustomed to on dirt.

“You have to back your corners up a lot here,” Abreu said. “You can’t overcharge the corners, which I tended to do.”

Abreu is 13th in the standings behind ThorSport teammate Ben Rhodes and 33 points outside the eighth-place Chase cutoff, currently occupied in a tie between GMS Racing’s Ben Kennedy and ThorSport’s Cameron Hayley, with four races left until the playoffs begin. He feels confident going into the next few races and has shown improvement on the paved surfaces by not driving as hard into the turns as he did earlier in the season.

“We’re just working together as a team,” Abreu said. “We’ve been building some fast trucks and we have some new trucks for the upcoming races before the Chase.”

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

Rhodes Salvages 11th at Pocono After Wreck

LONG POND, Pa. — The No. 41 Toyota of Ben Rhodes looked like the fastest ThorSport Racing truck at the start of Saturday’s Pocono Mountains 150 but had to settle for an 11th-place finish after an on-track incident with Jordan Anderson.

Anderson, in the No. 66 Chevrolet and Rhodes got tangled up on Lap 39 in the middle of Turn 1. Rhodes had the bottom line, and Anderson was trying to close the gap on him. The two spun, bringing out the seventh caution of the race. Both drivers were flirting with the top 10 before the wreck, with Rhodes running as high as second on the day.

“We had really good speed in the truck, and I think we had something to contend for the win today,” Rhodes told POPULAR SPEED. “We ran second behind William [Byron] in the beginning for a good part of the race, and we were gapping the guys behind us.”

During the fourth caution, Rhodes was penalized on pit road for too many men over the wall. He restarted from the tail of the field and wasn’t able to climb into the top five after. While racing mid-pack, he and Anderson got too close, and neither could save their trucks from getting sideways.

“We came down pit road and had a penalty,” Rhodes said. “Then when we got back out, we got collected with the 66 — he pinched us down too much, and he took the air away. We still salvaged the day with an 11th-place finish, but we’re not points racing — we’re trying to get wins.”

While Rhodes wasn’t happy with the outcome of the race, he knew the skirmish with Anderson wasn’t intentional. But he made a point of what knowledge a driver can learn from running around fellow competitors throughout the season

“I know it was a racing deal, and he didn’t mean to do it, but I’m still really disappointed with the situation,” Rhodes said. “We had a second-place truck, and he knew we had a really good truck, and he chopped us down to the bottom. We definitely had the spot, and he just held me too close to my right side. You don’t have to touch people at such fast tracks to wreck him, just get near him.

“You have to know who you can race around in this series. People have opinions of me, and I have opinions of other people. You just collect facts and take notes and learn who you can race around and what their driving styles are.”

Rhodes sits 12 in the standings, 18 points behind the eighth-place Chase cutoff — currently tied between Cameron Hayley and Ben Kennedy. Anderson, who ran as high as eighth at the Tricky Triangle, finished 14th and is 22nd in points.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

FDNY Racing Runs In Remembrance of Fallen 9/11 Responders

LONG POND, Pa. — All of NASCAR’s top-tier organizations have one goal in mind when they go to the track each weekend; win. But for the low-budget and undermanned teams, simply being part of a race can mean a whole lot more.

That’s the case for Jim Rosenblum’s FDNY Racing, which runs in the Camping World Truck Series. The No. 28 Chevrolet 26-year-old Ryan Ellis will pilot in the Pocono Mountains 150 has a crew entirely made of firefighters and police officers from New York’s FDNY and NYPD.

The race team’s mission isn’t to win the race or win a championship because it doesn’t have the adequate resources to do that. Instead, its purpose is to honor the personnel of both departments that died in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, as well as those who still serve or are retired.

“We’re Jim Rosenblum Racing, but we go under FDNY Racing,” Rosenblum told POPULAR SPEED. “We put NYPD and FDNY [on the truck] because we give money to the Widows’ and Children’s Fund, and we want to honor the memory of the first responders that lost their life on 9/11 and since then.”

The team has virtually no funding. The hood of Ellis’ truck says ‘Blue Lives Matter,’ and each side panel has an FDNY and NYPD logo. The crew members are all volunteers, and they don’t make money during the weekend. All the team’s earnings are donated to help the families that are part of the Fund.

Rosenblum’s machine has raced with FDNY logos on a part-time basis since 2002 and estimates that the team has raised $1 million since then. Although the truck doesn’t have the speed to contend with series powerhouses such as ThorSport Racing or Kyle Busch Motorsports, they will run the whole race; Rosenblum said the team wouldn’t start-and-park.

“We honor the police officers who protect us every day and to remember the tragedy of all the officers who are getting slain,” Rosenblum said. “It’s for all the first responders who are currently on the job or who have lost their lives helping protect us.”

Before the race, Rosenblum tells his driver the same as what he would tell all Americans:

“Go out, be safe, and enjoy yourself.”

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

NASCAR Pleased with Pocono’s Inaugural XFINITY Race

LONG POND, PA. — Despite Mother Nature’s intrusion on the NASCAR XFINITY Series’ inaugural event at Pocono Raceway, series director Wayne Auton was pleased with the race.

The Pocono Green 250 was declared official after 53 of the 100 scheduled laps were completed, and Kyle Larson won after officials decided that track-drying efforts would prove to be impossible.

“It was exciting to be here. I just wish the weather would have stayed away so we could get the whole race in,” Auton told POPULAR SPEED. “There were a lot of fans here to watch our first race and the drivers loved it.”

Auton thought the quality of the competition was as good as it has been all season. There were six lead changes among five drivers, which isn’t bad, considering Pocono is a track with few racing grooves, and that the race ended three laps past halfway.

“We had a lot of passing happening,” Auton said. “The gears were high enough so [drivers] didn’t have to shift, which is something that the Cup cars will have to do tomorrow.”

Auton appreciated the support of Brandon Igdalsky, President of Pocono Raceway, who supported bringing the series to the track. Before 2013, when Auton was the director of the Camping World Truck Series, he remembers his attempts to persuade Igdalsky to bring XFINITY races to the track.

“I kept aggravating him and asking when he will get us there,” Auton said. “Last winter, he called me and said that we’re coming to Pocono. I was excited because I just love it up here, and the fans are great. It’s an awesome facility.”

Auton said his goal was to delight fans and drivers with a new venue in the schedule. He feels he accomplished the achievement with the help of Igdalsky and it would have been better had it not been for the rain.

“I have heard nothing but praise for what Brandon Igdalsky has done for Pocono,” Auton said. “The fans were great, and the track was great.”

Categories
Commentary

Honoring Veterans a Year-Round Job for Pocono’s Bob Pallo

As America honors those in the military past and present this Veteran’s Day, @poconoraceway has made the commitment to pay tribute to those in uniform year-round by hiring Bob Pallo to serve as Vice President of Military Affairs.

Pallo has worked at Pocono since 1978, having served as the track photographer as well as working in sales. In his sales role, Pallo created a large military presence by securing the first military flyover in 1984 and ensuring that all in uniform are honored at every major Pocono event.

“With the blessings of Dr. Mattioli many years ago, he had me working with various military groups, inviting soldiers and families to be his guests at the race track as a way of saying ‘thank you’ and appreciating their volunteering to serve our country,” Pallo told POPULAR SPEED.

“It’s continually evolved, and a month and a half ago, the President and CEO and the COO asked if I would be interested in a new position at the track in Military Affairs. It took me about three seconds of debating before I said yes!”

In addition to involving the military in the pre-race activities, from the bands to the color guards, Pallo hopes to focus now on bigger and better ways of supporting the military and their families. The program he hopes to immediately expand is the Volunteer Staff Program.

“A few years ago, I was named Honorary Commander of the 314 Recruiting Squadron, and in speaking with them, one of their problems was on their fundraising side being able to come up with programs that were legal in the military’s eyes that could raise money for the year end awards banquet,” Pallo explained.

“As a test pilot program with them and through their booster club, the Volunteer Staff Program was developed and has turned into one of the finest programs. The quality of the military persons who volunteer as staff on race day has been exceptional, and the race fans really appreciate it. And then what we do is to make a donation per military volunteer per day to their foundation or charitable group to help them. It’s a win-win for Pocono and the military group.”

Pallo believes that his new position is critical as NASCAR, as well as NASCAR’s sponsors, are the most patriotic of any groups in any sports.

“I see the patriotism at every event. The best example is our driver introductions at Pocono Raceway,” he said. “We use Humvees to transport the drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is introduced, and he is applauded as he takes his lap around the track. Jeff Gordon does the same.

“But the final lap down the front straightaway are all fourteen Humvees packed full of the participating soldiers and it is a roaring standing ovation for the military from the fans as they go down the front straightaway. And that just demonstrates how proud, patriotic and supportive the NASCAR fans are of those men and women who serve our country.”

For Pallo, every day is special when it comes to honoring the military and their families. But Veteran’s Day is especially important as the entire nation pauses to honor those in uniform, past and present.

“Starting as early as this past Saturday, I’ve been out every day with our Pocono military pace truck, a Tahoe that has all branches of service decaled on it,” Pallo said. “I’ve been participating in every parade and every military event and function that I can possibly attend just to show Pocono’s support for our veterans, as well as those currently serving and the family members that line the street who appreciate the thoughts and prayers.

“I’m currently tossing a coin as I’ve been invited to participate in the Philadelphia Veteran’s Day parade as well as an event in Reading, PA. And I can’t be in both, so I have the most difficult decision to make in my new capacity. But God willing, I’ll make the right decision, and I’ll be at one of them.”

Pallo is especially passionate about honoring not only those in service but also the wives, husbands, fathers, mothers and children who support them. And for Pallo, the support of military families is most personal.

“I believe that the soldier may raise his right hand, and volunteer to serve but the wife and the children did not,” Pallo said. “So, the people that I really appreciate are the families, and I hope the race fans realize the sacrifice that the families make. I know it first hand as I have my two boys who are both serving in the Army right now.

“My youngest is in South Korea, serving as a military police. He is soon to come home in 34 days right now. My oldest is in Fort Bliss, Texas working on tanks. So, I’m a very proud military father.”

While Pallo will be busy on Veteran’s Day this year, he is also preparing for the two Pocono races scheduled in the 2016 NASCAR season.

“For June 2016, I have a verbal commitment as of now for the Wall of Remembrance to be displayed at the track,” Pallo said. “And we are working on every aspect that we can to show our appreciation for all who serve. I tried to sign up during the draft years, and I ended up being military exempt due to a medical issue.

“So, I made up my mind way back the that if I couldn’t serve directly in uniform, I would serve as a civilian any way I could to support our service members and our troops. And that is exactly what I will do in my new role at Pocono Raceway.”

EMAIL MARY JO AT mj.buchanan@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Matt Kenseth Wins at Pocono as Kyle Busch Runs Out of Fuel

By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service) LONG POND, Pa. – Matt Kenseth, the unexpected winner of Sunday’s Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway, had to do a double take.

So did second and third-place finishers Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon.

Kenseth got a gift on the final lap of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race when Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch ran out of fuel halfway through the final lap at the 2.5-mile triangular track.

Seeking his fourth straight victory in the series, Busch didn’t save quite enough fuel on the last green-flag run to complete the 160-lap event, but he still gained 10 points toward his goal of reaching the top 30 in the series standings.

Busch, who finished 21st after getting a push toward the finish line from Reed Sorenson, is now 13 points behind 30th-place David Gilliland. Busch has five races to crack the top 30 to become eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Because Busch was pushed by another car, he did not get credit for completing the final lap, but that did not affect his finishing position.

Collectively, the top three finishers led seven laps. Joey Logano, who handed the lead to Busch when the No. 22 Team Penske Ford ran out of fuel with fewer than three laps left, led 97.

But Kenseth wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially after the driver of the No. 20 JGR Toyota did what others failed to do—save enough gas to get to the finish. Kenseth’s second victory of the season locked him into the Chase.

“There’s nothing like wins,” said Kenseth, who collected his first victory at Pocono and the 33rd of his career. “We had a lot of wins in 2013 and were pretty spoiled and last year we had a big dry spell, and this year we were able to win Bristol.

“We’ve been up front a lot, so just really, really thankful to be with these guys and to get the win. I never thought I’d ever win at Pocono, and I never ever thought I’d win a fuel mileage race, so we did both today.”

Despite coming tantalizingly close to a fourth straight win, Busch was philosophical about the near miss.

“Man, that’s a bummer,” said Busch, who ran out of fuel on the Long Pond straightaway approaching the Tunnel Turn, less than a mile-and-a-half from the finish line. “I wish I would’ve saved a little more there that last run.

“I wish I would’ve known that the 22 (Logano) was that far away from making it. He was way far away from making it. Man, that was just a shame that we weren’t able to get it done there.”

Busch took a moment to reflect on what might have been. The empty fuel tank also cost him entry into the top 30.

“We would be celebrating a win and a Chase berth,” he said ruefully. “We got greedy. I don’t know how greedy, but that’s the position we’re in.

“If it came down to other things that we haven’t had the success that we’ve had here lately, we would’ve had to have pitted and just made the opportunity of it and made the best finish that we could. But, we went for broke today and come up a little bit short, so can’t fault the team.”

Keselowski, who ran out of fuel as he approached the finish line, recovered from an early penalty for sliding through his pit, knocking his jack man off his feet and knocking a tire out of his front carrier’s hands.

The No. 2 Ford lost a lap, regained it and came home second, 9.012 seconds behind Kenseth, as lack of fuel took its toll on the frontrunners. The outcome left Keselowski with mixed feelings.

“Unfortunately, just another race where I kind of feel like it didn’t all come together for us, and this one certainly on my end with having problems on pit road and kind of sliding through the box,” said the 2012 series champion. “That dug a hole, got us a lap down with the penalty and so forth.

“I think the last restart with, had to be somewhere around 60 or 70 to go (actually 63), we restarted 12th and we were able to drive up to sixth and looked like we were going to be able to get to fifth, and then the fuel play came in there at the end. We were able to take care of it to bring home second, which is a very respectable day. Certainly probably not where we were going to finish without the fuel, but I guess that’s sometimes how it works.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran fourth and Greg Biffle fifth, as none of the top five finishers were threats to finish that high before the varying fuel strategies scrambled the final order.

“There at the end we were one of the last ones to pit which allowed us to run hard all the way to the finish not having to conserve or save fuel,” said Gordon, smiling at the stroke of good fortune. “I thought we were trying to get maybe 10th or 12th and all of a sudden they said you’re third, and I think I was probably the most shocked person out there on the race track when I found that out.

“I knew cars were peeling off, but I just didn’t realize that many were either running out or coming to pit road.”

Note: Both Martin Truex Jr. and Logano, who along with Busch had the strongest cars all afternoon, were cited for speeding on pit road after running out of fuel and were dropped to 19th and 20th, respectively, in the finishing order, the last two cars on the lead lap.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Windows 10 400

 

  1. (7) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 160, $233601.
  2. (9) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 160, $205166.
  3. (10) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 160, $181686.
  4. (15) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 160, $134375.
  5. (25) Greg Biffle, Ford, 160, $139908.
  6. (12) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 160, $144851.
  7. (22) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 160, $125323.
  8. (19) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 160, $124073.
  9. (5) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 160, $116279.
  10. (8) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 160, $87915.
  11. (18) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 160, $94440.
  12. (27) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 160, $112908.
  13. (4) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 160, $120611.
  14. (29) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 160, $82250.
  15. (17) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 160, $111541.
  16. (20) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 160, $89125.
  17. (24) David Ragan, Toyota, 160, $107539.
  18. (21) Aric Almirola, Ford, 160, $116956.
  19. (13) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 160, $106015.
  20. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 160, $128853.
  21. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 159, $140811.
  22. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 159, $93645.
  23. (14) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 159, $110670.
  24. (31) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 159, $102528.
  25. (28) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 159, $92203.
  26. (39) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 159, $77895.
  27. (33) Cole Whitt, Ford, 159, $88853.
  28. (26) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 159, $92092.
  29. (36) Matt DiBenedetto #, Toyota, 159, $75895.
  30. (35) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 159, $75745.
  31. (32) Brett Moffitt #, Ford, 158, $74095.
  32. (40) Travis Kvapil(i), Ford, 158, $73920.
  33. (37) David Gilliland, Ford, 158, $81720.
  34. (41) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 157, $73520.
  35. (38) Jeb Burton #, Toyota, 157, $73370.
  36. (43) Timmy Hill(i), Ford, 156, $73120.
  37. (6) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 150, $90931.
  38. (42) Alex Kennedy #, Chevrolet, 126, $68102.
  39. (30) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 123, $90375.
  40. (23) Trevor Bayne, Ford, Overheating, 91, $104605.
  41. (34) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, Accident, 27, $64030.
  42. (2) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, Engine, 20, $104855.
  43. (16) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, Accident, 3, $66530.