Kurt Busch Saves Fuel At Pocono Raceway And Earns His First Win Of The Seasonby Camille Jones June 6, 2016 0 comments
POCONO, Pa. – Kurt Busch was forced to wait an extra day to capture his first win of the season. Busch was able to save fuel to win the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 at Pocono Raceway, after rain postponed the start of the race to Monday afternoon.
The driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet claimed the victory with team engineer, Johnny Klausmeier, as his crew chief. Busch’s crew chief, Tony Gibson, was serving a one-week suspension after a penalty for loose lugnuts following the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. With the win, Busch has now tied NASCAR Hall of Famer Rex White for 25th on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series all-time wins list.
“I was like, whoa, how many laps shy are we.” Busch said. “They said two. These are really long straightaways at Pocono and you have to manage saving fuel as well as maintaining lap time. So many thoughts can go through your head, but I just stuck with the checklist. I just stuck with saving fuel and watching the No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) behind us. Thanks to Gene Haas, Tony Stewart, everybody at Haas Automation, Monster Energy it’s our first win in the Cup Series for Monster, it’s awesome to be able to have the team week-in and week-out to be competitive and then to put it altogether today.”
In a thrilling race to the finish with fuel mileage coming into play, Busch was able to hold off a hard-charging Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the victory. Earnhardt, Jr. knew that Busch was close on fuel and with Brad Keselowski closing in on the driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet; Busch was able to save enough fuel to make it to the finish. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was hoping for the leader to run out of fuel, seeking to secure his first win of the season. Unfortunately, for Earnhardt Jr. and his team, they will be forced to wait another weekend to attempt to capture their first win after crossing the finish line in second.
“Yeah, it was a good run for us,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I should have been able to hold that No. 41 (Kurt Busch) off on that final restart. Me and the No. 24 (Chase Elliott) was racing pretty hard and it gave the No. 41 the opportunity to get a run on us. I should have been able to defend that a little bit better. If I could have got in front of him I don’t think he would have got by us. The car wasn’t all we hoped it would be, but it was good. They worked on it and improved it. We were real tight starting the day and we just kept freeing it up. We got it pretty decent at the end, but still not where we want to be. We will work on it and come back and try to do a little better job the next race here.”
Brad Keselowski, driver of the Team Penske No. 2 Miller Lite Ford, claimed a third place finish. Keselowski received a pass thru penalty on lap 24 under green flag conditions for an unapproved body modification, but he was able to save enough fuel to fight for a top-three finish in the final laps. Keselowski pressured Earnhardt Jr. hard for second but he just wasn’t able to make the pass.
“It was a long day, but overall a decent weekend for the Miller Lite Ford,” Keselowski said. “It wasn’t really two pit penalties, it was two NASCAR penalties and I’m not sure I really know what happened there. The team guys can probably give you a better answer, but we fought back really well. At the end I think we were capable of winning the race with a really fast car, even with the right side door torn up. I guess we had a little contact there when the 48 was spinning, so it shows how fast we were today. We had great pit stops, but just didn’t bring home the win. But we’re really close and been really strong and consistent lately, which is something we’re proud of.”
Chase Elliott was the highest-finishing rookie with a 4th-place finish in Monday’s race after leading 51 laps in the 160-lap race. Joey Logano finished fifth. Rounding out the top-10 was Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney.
Kevin Harvick currently leads his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Kurt Busch by 25 points in the championship standings. Both drivers have one victory each this season. Brad Keselowski is third, only 48 points back from point leader, Harvick.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to competition on Sunday, June 12 for the Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Coverage for the race will broadcast live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 1 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images