LONG POND, Pa. – Well, the Monster Cup NASCAR Energy Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway certainly kept fans in the stands, crew chiefs, viewers and drivers on the edge of their seats Sunday.
After an overtime Green/White/Checkered finish, Denny Hamlin took advantage of re-starting first to finish first collecting his third win of the year and fifth at Pocono.
“I didn’t think we were going to have enough there after our pit stop earlier that got us out of sequence,” Hamlin said in Victory Lane. “I was in fuel strategy mode when I was trying to get past the No. 20 (Erik Jones) and 19 (Martin Truex, Jr.) Once I got by them, I knew we were good.
“You want to contend for wins, not just be a race winner each week. We had a strong car. I’d like to thank Pocono for putting down the PJ1 (traction compound) because it gave us a second lane to race.”
It was a Joe Gibbs Racing podium finish with Hamlin first, Jones second and Truex in third. Rounding out the top-five were William Byron and Kyle Larson. Early race leaders Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch finished sixth and ninth, respectively.
With four to go, Denny Hamlin led the field to green for a restart after the No. 53 of Josh Bilicki lost his drive shaft and came to rest on the inside of the backstretch wall. On the ensuing restart, Kurt Busch hit the outside wall after getting turned by the No. 17 of Ricky Stenhouse. As he spun, he caught the No. 34 and turned him, as well.
BEFORE all that took place, the crew chiefs were crunching their calculators to see if their respective drivers could make it to the checkers on Lap 160 on fuel. But the fuel strategy game went out the window with four to go.
Some could make it to the scheduled 160th lap. Others weren’t sure when the race ended up going to overtime.
From the start, it was Kevin Harvick dominating in his No. 4 Ford after starting on the pole. He would be the early-race leader, then had to give it up to Kyle Busch – seeking his record-tying third-consecutive finish – who then went on to lead until just before the end of Stage 2 when he had to pit for fuel.
As he headed for pit road, the caution came out and Jimmie Johnson ended up taking that one. When the checkers waved, he ended up with a 15th-place finish.
The Playoffs are fast approaching and Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman are tied for 15th just 12 points ahead of Johnson in 17th.
Next weekend, the MENCS heads to the twists and turns of Watkins Glen International in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.
New Xfinity Winner in Iowa
Give credit to Chase Briscoe and the No. 98 team for breaking up the Big Three monopoly of Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick. He made a late-race pass on Bell to earn his first win of 2019 and second of career.
This locks him into the Playoffs as the series heads to Watkins Glen, as well.
Watermelon Man Wins in Pocono
Ross Chastain has been enjoying his best NASCAR season ever. Winning in both the Xfinity and Gander Outdoor Series in 2019.
Earlier in the year, he switched his championship points from Xfinity to Trucks to go for that championship. And, so far, it’s paid off as he won again beating the rest to take the checkers at Pocono on Saturday.
And, as has become his trademark, he smashed a watermelon in Victory Lane. This week, the Trucks get dirty when the race at Eldora Speedway on Thursday night. This is a must-see-event for all types of fans.
Feature Image Credit Jonathan Ferrey Getty Images