Mileage master: Kurt Busch saves enough fuel to win at Pocono

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Kurt Busch held off both a virtually empty gas tank and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win Monday’s weather-delayed Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Busch, initially told by his team he was two laps short on fuel, repeatedly toggled his engine to conserve fuel in the final 10 laps.

Still, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver aptly worked his way to the checkered flag and had enough fuel to do a celebratory burnout. Busch led the final 32 laps en route to his 28th career Sprint Cup victory and third at Pocono’s 2.5-mile triangle (his last win there was in 2007).

Team engineer John Klausmeier served as Busch’s interim crew chief and earned his first career win in that role. Klausmeier replaced Tony Gibson, who was on NASCAR suspension after a lug nut violation last weekend.

It was Busch’s first win since Michigan last June (34 starts). It was also a big breakthrough victory for the driver of the No. 41 Chevrolet: Busch leads all drivers in 2016 with 12 top-10 finishes in 14 races.

Earnhardt finished second, followed by Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney.

MORE: Pocono Sprint Cup results — Kurt Busch captures first win of 2016

MORE: Sprint Cup point standings after Pocono; Tony Stewart falls further behind 30th place

HOW BUSCH WON: This wasn’t Busch’s first rodeo when it comes to fuel mileage. He’s one of the best when it comes to saving fuel when he needs to most. He apparently wound up saving more than 5 miles worth of fuel to reach the finish line and then victory lane.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Dale Earnhardt Jr. rallied late for his fourth second place of the season (Atlanta, Texas, Bristol, Pocono). … Chase Elliott led a race-high 51 laps – including at the halfway point of the 160-lap event – and finished fourth. “I feel like we had a car that could do it today,” Elliott told Fox Sports 1. “We had a super fast car that could lead all day.” … Brad Keselowski rallied from two NASCAR penalties to finish third.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kyle Busch wrecked with Ryan Newman with 50 laps to go. While Newman was able to continue and finished 12th, Busch was forced to take his car to the garage for repairs. Busch finished 31st. … Tony Stewart had his best starting spot of the season but wrecked with teammate Danica Patrick (32nd) and finished 34th. … Others having rough days included Jimmie Johnson (35th), Austin Dillon (37th), Michael Annett (38th), Brian Scott (39th) and Matt DiBenedetto (40th) – particularly DiBenedetto, who was involved in three incidents before his day came to an end.

NOTABLE: This marked the first race of the season – and the first time since this race a year ago (a 35-race stretch) – where at least one Toyota failed to finish in the top five. Matt Kenseth was the top Toyota driver (seventh), followed by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards (eighth).

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I was like, ‘Whoa, how many laps shy are we?’ 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.” – Kurt Busch in a postrace interview on Fox Sports 1.

WHAT’S NEXT: Sunday, June 12, 1 p.m. ET, Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

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