Clint Bowyer

Power Rankings after Pocono: Denny Hamlin a unanimous No. 1

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Denny Hamlin not only won Sunday’s Cup race at Pocono, he also knocked Ryan Blaney off the top spot for this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Hamlin was a unanimous selection of NBC Sports’ NASCAR writers for No. 1 in this week’s rankings.

Kevin Harvick, who finished 1st-2nd in the two Pocono races (while Hamlin finished 2nd-1ast), was the biggest gainer, going from unranked last week to a unanimous pick for No. 2 this week. The biggest drop was Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who went from third last week to unranked this week.

Here’s how this week’s rankings look:

1. Denny Hamlin (30 points): Keeps getting stronger. First four-time winner of the season. Could this be the year he finally wins his first Cup championship? Last week: second.

2. Kevin Harvick (27 points): Came so close to making it a weekend sweep. Has 3 wins, eight top five and 12 top-10 finishes in first 15 races. Has finished outside the top 15 only once this season. Last week: unranked.

3. Aric Almirola (23 points): Four consecutive top fives – his only top fives this season and the best streak of his career – has Almirola back on track after earlier struggles. Last week: fourth (tied).

4. Chase Elliott (15 points): Has four top 10s in the last six races. Last week: seventh.

5. Brad Keselowski (14 points): Since NASCAR returned from the COVID-19 hiatus, Keselowski has two wins and just three finishes outside the top 10 in 11 races. Last week: eighth (tied).

6. Ryan Blaney (13 points): Had an off weekend (best finish was 12th on Saturday) after his win at Talladega. His Pocono finishes snapped a streak of six top-five finishes in his previous seven starts. Last week: first.

7. Martin Truex Jr. (12 points): Has four top 10s, including a win, in the last six races. Last week: unranked.

8. Chase Briscoe (9 points): Has been strong in the Xfinity Series this season, leading the way with four wins – including Sunday at Pocono. Last week: unranked.

9. Erik Jones (8 points): Sunday’s season-best third-place finish – his second top five in the last three races – was a big turnaround from wrecking out Saturday. Last week: 10th (tied).

(tie) 10. Clint Bowyer (6 points): Earned pair of top-10 finishes at Pocono, first back-to-back top 10s this season. Can he keep the momentum going at Indianapolis, where he’s had back-to-back fifth-place finishes the last two years? Last week: unranked.

(tie) 10. Alex Bowman (6 points): Earned third top 10 in last five races. Last week: 4th (tied).

Others receiving votes: Matt DiBenedetto (1 point), Brandon Jones (1 point).

Penalty report from Pocono Raceway

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NASCAR has issued fines to five crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts during the race weekend at Pocono Raceway.

Cup

NASCAR fined four crew chiefs $10,000 each for having one unsecured lug nut on their cars following the two Cup races.

Scott Graves (Ryan Newman‘s No. 6 Ford) and John Klausmeier (Clint Bowyer‘s No. 14 Ford) were fined for unsecured lug nuts after Saturday’s race.

James Small (Martin Truex Jr.‘s No. 19 Toyota) and Rodney Childers (Kevin Harvick‘s No. 4 Ford) were fined for unsecured lug nuts after Sunday’s race.

Truck Series

Danny Stockman, crew chief on Brandon Jones‘ No. 51 Chevrolet, was fined $2,500 for an unsecured lug nut after Saturday’s race. Jones was the race winner.

Winners and losers after Sunday’s Cup race at Pocono

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WINNERS

Denny Hamlin Solid strategy by Chris Gabehart and a determined drive by Hamlin led to the team’s fourth victory of the season Sunday at Pocono.

Kevin HarvickA day after winning at Pocono, he finished second to expand his points lead.

Erik JonesHe rebounded from finishing 38th Saturday by placing third Sunday.

Stewart-Haas Racing — For the second consecutive race, SHR placed three drivers in the top 10. Kevin Harvick won. Aric Almirola was fifth. Clint Bowyer placed eighth.

Hendrick Motorsports — A day after Chevrolet had no drivers place in the top 10, HMS had three cars finish in the top 10 Sunday. Chase Elliott was fourth. William Byron placed seventh. Alex Bowman finished ninth.

LOSERS

Kyle BuschSlowed by lapped traffic, he was hit by Ryan Blaney and crashed, finishing 38th. Busch remains winless this season.

Tyler ReddickPower steering went out when the green flag waved to start the race. Repairs put him several laps down. That led to a 35th-place finish a day after he placed 30th at Pocono. Reddick entered the weekend holding the 16th and final playoff spot. He exited the weekend 18th in the standings, 26 points out of the final playoff spot.

Christopher Bell A day after finishing fourth at Pocono, he placed 39th after a crash Sunday at Pocono.

Michael McDowell A day after finishing eighth at Pocono, he crashed and finished last Sunday at Pocono.

 

What drivers said after Sunday’s Cup race at Pocono

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Denny Hamlin — Winner: “I was just hoping for no cautions, I knew we had the car. I was just maintaining my gap right there and didn’t want to make any mistakes like I did at Bristol and threw that win away. I just tried to work through the traffic as best I could and obviously (crew chief Chris Gabehart) is paying attention to strategy there and made the right call. … A lot of adversity early. We got some nose damage and had to fix that. Then we just worked on the car and got it better and better. It finished the race there a lot better than we finished yesterday and I thought we had a race-winning car yesterday. We knew after yesterday’s race and showing the speed that we had, just don’t mess it up and we’ve got a good shot today and that’s what we did.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 2nd: “Car was actually better today than it was yesterday. Just the way that the end worked out.  We had to run in a lot of traffic there. Denny (Hamlin) kept clicking off laps. They did what they had to do, did the opposite of what we did as far as when we pitted.  We lost time going through that traffic, just came out behind him, wound up second today. …  I think overall you can’t be dissatisfied with a first and a second. I’d feel childish if I sat her and nitpicked that apart.”

Erik Jones — Finished 3rd: “Yeah, today was a lot better than yesterday for sure. It’s great to rebound like that. Unfortunately, I think we could have – definitely could have had two top-fives, and really, I think our primary car was quite a bit better than this car. I thought we could have probably contended both days a little more towards the win if we had our primary, but the Craftsman Camry was good. We made good changes overnight. We actually changed a lot of stuff and tried to kind of rebalance with what we had with this backup car. It’s nice to get a solid finish. I mean, we came off a good run at Talladega and went right back to a DNF and to come back here with a third. We just need to be consistent from here and keep it rolling.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 4th: “It was good to have a solid run for our NAPA team after yesterday being so poor. Obviously, we would’ve liked to of been a little better, but after starting in the back, I was pleased how I was able to move forward and gain a lot of that track position back. It was a good rebound. Looking forward to getting back on track at Indy.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 5th: “Another top five. I’m so proud of (crew chief Mike Bugarewicz) and al the guys on this 10 team. That’s four top fives in a row. What a weekend we had here in Pocono, got a lot of stage points and finished third yesterday and fifth today. We’re riding a wave of momentum … We’ll go to Indy, a place that’s very similar to the tunnel turn at Pocono and felt like we were really good there this weekend.  I’m excited about Indy and another top five.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 6th: “Two races back-to-back was pretty cool. Knocked them both out in one weekend, but we got stage points in all four stages between the two races, so that’s good and I felt like we finished solid yesterday and today we had a good day. We got stage points in both and the second stage we were actually anticipating possibly giving up the stage points for our strategy to have a good finishing position, but it worked out to where we still had some solid restarts and got up there to get at least a couple points, so everything helps. That was big and today was just pretty much real smooth from start to finish, just was up there in that top 10 for most part start to finish for the day, so Greg and the team did a real solid job keeping us up there and having a real good strategy.”

William Byron — Finished 7th: “We ended up with a top-10 finish today which was good. It was definitely an improvement from yesterday – seven spots better to be exact – which is good. We still struggled a good portion of the race but I think we made the right calls and adjustments at the end. We had a lot of speed actually the last couple runs. I think the track kind of came to us and ultimately that’s what we needed. So we’ll go on to Indy and hopefully have a better run there.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 8th: “That was a tough race. We were just so loose today. By ourselves we were good and could turn in a good lap, but in traffic we struggled.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 9th: “It was an up-and-down day. So many people are on different pit strategies throughout the day here in Pocono. We had a top-10 car all day, just didn’t have the running positions to show for it. Greg (Ives) and the guys made great adjustments on pit road and really improved the car throughout the race. A top-10 finish today is good momentum for us going to Indy next weekend.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 13th: “The team made a lot of changes to the car from the race yesterday, but we still really struggled with the handling in traffic. The difference between dirty and clean air is crazy. The Monster Energy Chevy was good early on when we had track position (clean air) and we were able to lead all the laps and get the Stage 1 win, but just a tough ending for the No.1 team, a little Pocono Deja vu for us today!”

Austin Dillon — Finished 14th: “Everyone on the Symbicort Chevrolet team did a great job hanging in there today and working together to pull off a top-15 finish. We made a few adjustments to our car and strategy based on what we learned yesterday. There was a lot more grip on the track then what I figured there would be for a 4 p.m. race start. We just battled a tight-handling condition for most of the day today, especially at the beginning of the race. We had to free up a bunch. We missed stage points at the conclusion of Stage 1 by just one position, but then earned a few key Stage points at the end of Stage 2. During Stage 3, we worked our way into the top five before pitting for fuel with 13 laps remaining. All-in-all, can’t complain about a 14th-place finish.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 15th: “Overall, I think it was a solid weekend. We definitely learned some things on Saturday that we were able to adapt to for Sunday, but the track raced very differently on Sunday than it did on Saturday. We were really loose most of the race, but Brian (Pattie) made some great strategy calls to keep us running up front and ultimately get a top-15 finish at the end. We’re on a solid momentum streak and I’m looking forward to carrying that over to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend.”

Cole Custer — Finished 17th: “Thank you so much, guys. We got the car a lot better today. We definitely made gains and got the car better during the race. Well go get them next week.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 19th: “Wasn’t quite the day we were hoping for at Pocono Raceway, but we finished better than we did in yesterday’s race, and that’s an accomplishment for us. Our No. 38 Death Wish Coffee Ford Mustang was decent in clean air, but we just couldn’t make it work in traffic. I was too tight whenever I got behind another car and we couldn’t quite get the handling right in order to really make the kind of gains we wanted to on track. I’m proud of my team and thankful for their effort.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 22nd: “Our Richard Petty Motorsports team made the right adjustments for what we fought yesterday, but it still was not the right adjustments; that is kind of the frustrating part. We did not have enough raw speed and couldn’t quite get the handling we needed. All-in-all, we came-out with a top-20 finish and it’s an improvement from yesterday. Good to get out of Pocono, and give us time to refocus before we come back.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 26th: “The balance of our CommScope Toyota was OK in Turns 1 and 3, but unfortunately we were still struggling in Turn 2, especially in the first 10 or 15 laps of the run. Obviously, we’re lacking overall speed, but we’ll just keep on digging. It was a good job by the guys all weekend. We just need to keep digging and we’ll get there.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 35th: “This weekend did not go at all how we wanted it to, but I’m proud of the No. 8 Caterpillar team for never giving up at any point. Unfortunately, when I came across the line to take the green flag today I lost all power steering and had to drop back to protect the car. Right as I was going to hit pit road to see what we could do to fix the handling, the caution came out for rain, which almost ended up helping us. I was able to pit and give my team the entire yellow to work on the car. We figured out we would be able to replace the alternator belt right as the red flag came out. Once the yellow flag came back out, my team worked as fast as they could to make the repairs but we still ended up a handful of laps down by the time we could rejoin the field. From that point on it was just a matter of capitalizing on everything that came our way to gain as many spots as we possibly could. Every point matters in the fight to make the Playoffs, and we weren’t going to go down without a fight. We got trapped a little bit with how the race played out, but we gave it our all today to get everything we could. I wouldn’t want to be racing with any other group than the one I have right now and am looking forward to getting back after it at Indy next weekend.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 38th: “I don’t know. The guys did an amazing job from yesterday to today. I guess it proves that if you get a little practice time in and we are going to be a force to be reckoned with so hopefully life gets back to normal eventually but we are in 2020, so it doesn’t surprise me getting crashed out of the lead. The M&M’s Camry was pretty fast today. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys did a great job. It’s just very frustrating and unfortunate. I know what happened but it doesn’t make any sense to talk about it. It will just come across in a bad way.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 39th: “I was kind of rolling out there by myself, and I had a good gap between the guy in front of me and behind me, and it just stepped out getting into Turn 2 there. It’s disappointing, but I’m really happy with the speed that we’ve had these last couple weeks. Obviously, yesterday here we were really fast and we had another great car today, so these guys keep bringing really fast Rheem Camrys to the racetrack and we will have good shows.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 40th: “Today was a real shame. The first few laps of today’s race felt really good and I thought that we were going to have the opportunity for another strong run. I’m still proud of the race that we had yesterday and the speed that we’ve been showing all year. Unfortunately, it’s all part of the ups and downs of racing. I’m really proud of the effort by everyone at Front Row Motorsports for bringing us a competitive car and I’m ready to head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend and hopefully rebound after today’s unfortunate events.”

What drivers said after Saturday Cup race at Pocono

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Kevin Harvick — Winner:  “We weren’t where we needed to be to start the race and lost a bunch of track position but we came back and made some great strategy calls to get in clean air and get out front and make some good laps. It is great to finally check Pocono off the list. Everybody at Stewart-Haas racing has done such a great job with all our cars over the last several years. … I knew when we came out of the pits and they told me how big of a lead we had. I saw the 11 come out of the pits and he was in second. I knew that the tire gap was going to be a little less. He caught us a little in traffic but I knew I could be pretty patient with the gap we had. As I started to see everything cycle out and see with the track position we had with the fresher tires you could kind of start to put it together in your mind as we started to run through the last stage and cars started to have to pit. Just a great call by Rodney Childers and aldl the guys up on the pit box for having the right strategy and getting us to victory lane.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 2nd: “I don’t know if more time would have helped, but I had a bad vibration there the last 15 (laps) and that kind of hampered our efforts coming to the front there. Not sure what it was, but it was really, really bad and we just did all we could to run him (Kevin Harvick) down and that’s all we had.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 3rd: “(Crew chief Mike Bugwarewicz) and I talked about it coming here. This was a great opportunity to score a lot of points with a doubleheader. If you unload and you have a good car in the first race, you have an opportunity to score a lot of point in two days. Our Smithfield Ford Mustang was really, really fast. We opted to score a lot of points and that probably hurt us on strategy a little but I am proud of Bugga and these guys. They have been bringing some awesome race cars. I felt like we were tit for tat with (winner Kevin Harvick) when we were on older tires there and in clean air. Three top five’s in a row. I am really proud of my race team.”

Christopher Bell —Finished 4th: “Whenever I started working with Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) two years ago in the Xfinity Series, well even before that, I started following him and I knew he was really aggressive on strategy to get his driver up front. Seems like the majority of the race tracks that we’ve been to the last couple weeks have just been, put four tires on and go, but Pocono is definitely a place where you can mix up strategy, pit early, pit before the stages and so forth. Obviously, Jason did a great job and got us up front and we had the car speed to stay up there.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 5th: “We had some speed and there were laps that I could run with (Denny Hamlin), but (Hamlin) could just do it lap after lap after lap where I was pushing everything I had to keep up with him there. I just couldn’t do it. I would make the tires mad and would start to fall back. We were just a little tight all day. We really fought tight early on, but we made some really good adjustments and got it a lot closer and got it a lot better. Our strategy there worked out to get us in the top-five – that was about all we could ask for out of today. We got some really good ideas for tomorrow hopefully that will help us out and hopefully get us some speed so we can keep up with those front guys.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 6th: “We started in a decent spot and lost some spots early. I thought we had a pretty decent SiriusXM Toyota early on and kind of had to do a little different strategy there. Stage one didn’t look too good, but I felt like we were pretty close with the car. We made some adjustments and got some track position through stage two, so we were able to get some decent stage points there. We were in a decent spot again towards the end and got a really bad vibration, so I was a little concerned that we were going to have a tire issue or something. Luckily, it held on and it wasn’t a great finish by any means, but a solid finish for sure and something we can work on for tomorrow.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 7th: “We were really loose and in traffic we were terrible. But I think we found our direction in the last part of the race. We had a vibration late or I think we could have gotten more spots. What a swing! Johnny Klausmeier and my guys did a good job calling the race.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 8th:

Brad Keselowski — Finished 9th: “We didn’t start where we wanted to but we adjusted really well. I thought by the end we were one of the best cars. It was incredibly difficult to pass. I caught cars that I was a second faster than and then I just couldn’t pass. It was a big track position day. I think you saw that with the guys that started up front all finished up front. We tried to make some moves to make some passes and probably caught ourselves some spots. If we rode around all day we would have maybe got two or three more spots out of it. I appreciate the fact that my team has a lot of effort and was shooting for the stars.”

William Byron — Finished 14th: “We struggled today. We had a hard time making speed and tried to salvage what we could there at the end. We started gaining more speed as the car tightened up by the end of the race. We’ll make some changes for tomorrow and see what we can do then.”

Cole Custer — Finished 16th: “Solid day for us today. We ended up 16th and at the end, I felt we were fast enough to run up front. It’s just trying to get track position and I think I can get my restarts better for tomorrow. It was a solid day, which is what we needed. We can improve on it tomorrow. I think we have a good car and I cannot thank my guys enough. Looking forward to improving on it all tomorrow.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 18th: “I’m not really sure what went wrong with the handling on our Monster Energy Camaro. The track changed dramatically for us. We were pretty good the first half of the race, before the car started handling really tight on the exit of the corners. The second half was not so good for us with the handling and track position. We’ll turn it around and work for a better result tomorrow”.

Austin Dillon — Finished 19th: “Not what we wanted. Lost our track position in the middle of Stage 2 when the caution fell. It stunk. We were running eighth, and hoping it would go green and cycle out, but it didn’t. Nineteenth is what we had.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 22nd: “Well, that was a whole bunch of nothing. We didn’t really hit on much all day. On the tight side; just could never get the front end to work. The guys did good trying to figure out something on our No. 43 Victory Junction Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, it just wasn’t enough. We tried to pull some strategy there at the end, and just didn’t have enough raw speed to dial ourselves out. So, all-in-all, I’m proud of the effort. We just kind of swung for the fences but didn’t really hit anything good. We know what not to do for tomorrow. We’ll come back way better with a totally different package. I had a good debrief with the guys, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings for us starting in the 22nd-place. We missed that invert spot by two; stayed on the lead lap almost by a lap. But all-in-all it’s good to come out of there with a clean car. A lot of people had a bad day, so we capitalized. On to tomorrow.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 24th: “We made some adjustments to try and free it up and made some progress, but I just got loose under the 27 at one point, and slid up into him a little. We still struggled toward the end of the race and needed to be freer on our runs, but we made some good notes for tomorrow.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 26th: “Our GEICO Camaro ZL1 1LE was fast and handled well through the corners, but something was wrong under the hood. Our car just didn’t have the speed on the straightaway and it hurt our momentum. We started the race really tight, but Matt (Borland) made a big adjustment on the first stop which helped the balance. My Germain Racing guys will try to figure out what was wrong tonight, so it doesn’t hinder us tomorrow.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 27th: “That is not the way we wanted to end the race. We had a good run going and were going to end up top 10. (Brad Keselowski) got into us there at the end and we cut a tire. Definitely don’t have the finish to show how our day was going, but we will be back tomorrow with a new car.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 28th: “We brought our Camry home in one piece and I think we’ll be better Sunday. We were hoping to do the third stage without stopping and we came up just short with no yellows. We’ll work hard to make the changes we need to tonight and tomorrow morning. I’m confident we’ll be much better than a 28th-place car.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 30th: “We had good speed at the start of the race but we were involved in a wreck at the end of Stage 2 that put us two laps down and changed the course of our race. From then on out, it was all about finishing and earning maximum points. I have to thank my guys for their hard work and making repairs so I could finish the last stage. We kept after it as a team and finished all the laps, trying to maximize on as many points as we could. We will regroup and be ready for round two tomorrow.” 

Joey Logano — Finished 36th: