Kyle Busch Overcomes Transmission Issues And Saves Enough Fuel To Win At Poconoby Hunter Thomas June 27, 2021 0 comments
LONG POND, Pa. – Kyle Busch overcame transmission issues and saved just enough fuel on Sunday to win the Explore the Pocono Mountains 350 at Pocono Raceway.
Just prior to the conclusion of Stage 2, Kyle Busch began to experience transmission issues in his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 M&M’s Mini’s Toyota. When he attempted to drive away from his pit stall, Busch found out that his car only had fourth gear. At the conclusion of the stage, crew members attempted to fix the issue to no avail. Busch, who was singing in the car earlier while leading was doing no such thing at this point, and it appeared that the team was going to have to salvage the best finish possible.
“But when we left pit road, that was it, like the clutch was gone,” Busch said. “There was no more. I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to make it down pit road again and be able to leave with just my guys behind me pushing me. Even when I left the last time, it was smoking. I don’t know what was smoking, but probably the clutch because the clutch was fried, was smoking. Fortunately we were just able to get back around, get the restart timed right, then just kind of start picking ’em off.”
As the laps ticked away, it was evident that the race was going to come down to strategy and fuel mileage if a caution didn’t come out. In the closing laps, William Byron was forced to pit from the lead, and Denny Hamlin and Busch moved into the top two positions. Hamlin was also unable to make it to the finish on fuel, and coming to take the white flag, Busch inherited the lead. With plenty of room behind him, Busch saved the last drop of fuel and went on to win his second race of the season and his fourth at Pocono Raceway.
“It was a little bit of I guess vindication that we came back from that one to be able to win this one,” Busch said. “Just kept fighting through it. I mean, when you’re in all those different positions and situations, have you no clue what’s going on around you. The crew chief can kind of tell the story, and the spotter can tell the story. They were. I was asking them to tell me the story because at first they were like, It’s just you and the 23 (Bubba Wallace) that’s going to be able to make it. All of a sudden, Now the 11 (Denny Hamlin) is going to try to make it. Now the 5 (Kyle Larson) is going to try to make it. Now the 1 (Kurt Busch) is going to try to make it. Guys, c’mon, give me the facts, the story. Now the 24 (William Byron) is going to try to make it.
“A lot of guys were stretching it, trying to see if they could make it. This place is so big around. With this aero package being so draggy, you can’t really lift early getting into the corners and save fuel. It’s very, very hard to do. We were fortunate enough to be in that right position, being in the fourth spot of that draft.”
Kyle Larson finished second in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet. Larson nearly won Saturday’s race, but he blew a tire on the final lap. On Sunday, Larson didn’t run upfront, but he was there at the end to capture his 11th top-five of the season.
“The 18 did pit a lap after us under caution,” Larson said. “That actually probably won them the race. But, yeah, second-place finish, I thought we would be outside of the top-20. A lot of points throughout the race today; we’ll take it. Happy about the effort for sure all weekend.”
Brad Keselowski finished third. He also led a race high of 31 laps. Kevin Harvick finished fourth, and Bubba Wallace finished fifth, capture 23XI Racing’s first-ever top-10 and top-five effort.
“It’s big,” Wallace said about the fifth-place finish. “A lot of confidence for myself which is huge. It came down to fuel strategy there, but I appreciate Wheels (Mike Wheeler, crew chief), J.R. (Houston, engineer), Freddie (Kraft, spotter), telling me what to do – 80% there, 60% here, the whole time. It got so annoying, but it worked out. That’s what it takes. It takes a team effort to pull off this. Great day for us.”
Ryan Blaney finished sixth, followed by Saturday’s winner Alex Bowman, Ryan Preece, Tyler Reddick and Joey Logano.
Martin Truex Jr. won Stage 1, and Byron won Stage 2.
There was only one accident throughout the 140-lap race, and it occurred on Lap 3, when Anthony Alfredo blew a right front tire in Turn 2.
The NASCAR Cup Series will make its first appearance at Road America on Sunday, July 4. Live coverage of the Jockey Made in America 250 Presented by Kwik Trip will broadcast on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images