Together again – Close combatants in recent races, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano foiled by fuel

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LONG POND, Pa. – Wherever Kyle Busch has been, Joey Logano has been nearby the last few weeks.

Sunday was no different. This time Logano – who finished second to Busch in two of the last three races before Sunday’s event at Pocono Raceway – led until he ran out of fuel with three laps to go.

That put Busch in position to score his fourth consecutive win. Then he ran out of fuel on the last lap.

Their similar fates resulted in similar frustrations and a similar finish with Logano placing 20th and Busch 21st.

“I really don’t know what to say,’’ said Logano after leading a race-high 97 of 160 laps. “It’s frustrating. Really frustrating over the last few weeks getting so close to these wins.’’

Busch was just as confused as to why he ran out of fuel.

“I don’t know where we were on our strategy and all that stuff,’’ Busch said, adding he needed to talk to crew chief Adam Stevens. “If we were one lap short of making it, then I probably needed to save or do a better job of running those last 30 laps or so. He kept telling me to save, save my stuff, save my stuff, just in case we had a yellow and we had to race. I didn’t know we were going to be short on fuel.’’

The issue was how this bizarre race played. There were seven cautions within the first 75 laps and then one the remaining 85 laps. The race ran without a caution the final 63 laps. That’s counter to recent history where it was common to have a couple of cautions after teams made their final scheduled pit stop. That’s something crew chiefs look at in determining race strategy.

Without a caution to give teams a cushion, some teams fell short. Crew chiefs also said that the pace picked up the final portion of the race, meaning drivers were using more fuel. That also impacted some teams.

“We were good to the end by our numbers,’’ Stevens said of the fuel for Busch. “What we didn’t factor in there was the pace picking up so much on that last run and it used a lot more fuel.’’

Stevens admits he was more concerned about saving fuel for a possible green-white-checkered finish than to reach the final scheduled lap.

“We were so close (to Logano), we kept running so hard to try to get in front of him,’’ Steven said. “We ran (Logano) out of gas and we came up about a half lap, two-thirds of a lap short. We just used it all because the pace didn’t fall off like it had every other run.’’