gander rv 400

Drivers continue Pocono beefs on social media; Bubba eyes cage match

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You can typically expect hot tempers and maybe even some pushing and shoving — both on- and off-track — at places like Bristol or Martinsville.

But Pocono?

Yep, the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle played out like a short track, particularly late in Sunday’s Gander RV 400, prompting quite a bit of jawing between several drivers involved in incidents.

Among the cast of characters were Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., as well as Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez.

And even though the race is over, several of those involved still continued to seek to have the final word:

Busch seemed to take the higher ground after twice being run into late in the race by Stenhouse, leading Busch to spin and collect Michael McDowell as well.

After a night’s sleep to ponder the situation, the elder Busch brother took to Twitter on Monday, still lamenting what happened.

 

But Stenhouse didn’t seem to be having any of Busch’s philosophy or tongue-in-cheek observation.

Neutral but interested observers Matt DiBenedetto and Corey LaJoie also contributed their own comments.

 

And then there was the animated verbal confrontation on pit road after the race between Wallace and Suarez.

* Later Monday, Wallace had a great suggestion:

Suarez said his ire was due more about Wallace’s use of his middle finger late in the race than actual contact between them.

 

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Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr. complete Joe Gibbs Racing sweep at Pocono

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For Erik Jones, “all there’s left to do” for him in 2019 is to finally win a race.

“We’ve done everything we can but win a race here the last month,” Jones said Sunday after his second-place finish at Pocono Raceway.

Jones finished between Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr., earning his third consecutive finish in the top three. It is the second time JGR has finished 1-2-3 this year, the first coming in the Daytona 500.

What kept Jones from visiting victory lane for the first time this season?

The decision by the No. 20 team to save as much fuel as possible while Jones led, which resulted in him losing the lead to Hamlin with 17 laps to go in the scheduled distance.

“When it was still green, I was hoping they would all run out (of gas), that was my only opportunity with having to save as much as I was,” Jones said. “The caution came out (with eight laps to go), looking back on it, man, I wish we would have just ran hard. Because if we ran hard we wouldn’t have given up the lead and we would have been in the lead on the restart and probably wouldn’t have given up the lead there.”

Playing a factor in the decision to conserve fuel was Jones’ position in the points (14th entering Pocono) and how well he’s run recently.

“If we have a day where we run out of fuel because we were trying to push and get a win and we don’t make it, that’s a pretty bad day if we finish 25th coming down to get fuel and lose all these points we’ve gained here in the last month,” Jones said. “We’re in a spot now where we’re almost a race up on the cutoff line, which is a good feeling. It took a long time to get there and we don’t really want to give it up all at once.”

The runner-up result is Jones’ best finish of the year. He has eight top 10s in the last 11 races.

“Man, it’s a bummer,” Jones said. “We’re close every week.  … We’re right there.

“We’re doing great building points, but it would be great to knock a win out. We’re just so close, it stings a little bit more when you get close to it.”

Meanwhile, Truex lost his opportunity at a win thanks to a bout of indecision and lapped traffic.

The indecision came when Truex was running second to Jones with Hamlin right behind him.

“I mean, had I been able to keep him behind me, (Jones) was starting to back up and save more,” Truex told NBCSN, adding he kept asking himself “Should I pass him yet? Should I pass him yet?”

But he never got the chance.

A lapped car slowed Truex on the frontstretch, allowing Hamlin to overtake him. Truex said the lapped car was a “game changer.”

“Once the caution came out, (Hamlin) had the restart on the outside,” Truex said. “You can’t do anything about it. Inside on the front row is just sitting ducks.”

Truex’s third-place finish is his first top five since he won at Sonoma on June 23rd and follows a sixth-place finish at New Hampshire.

What Drivers Said after Pocono

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Denny Hamlin – winner: “(Crew chief Chris Gabehart said Hamlin was good on fuel) to the checkered, but not the green-white checkered, so he said we were going to have to have a different conversation if it went into overtime. But I knew with all those caution laps with about six or seven to go, it helped us out. I knew that I did everything I could to save fuel there once I got out front. If it was going to be not enough, it was going to be not enough. I’m so proud of the whole team for putting me on a great strategy there, pit stops, everything. This was a perfect team effort this weekend. We really identified our weaknesses from the first race and we went to work as a driver and a team and I think we’re better for it. … (Talk about the last restart) “It was nerve wracking. I had Kyle (Larson) pushing me. Kyle is great friend, so I put a lot of faith in him that he was going to push me there into Turn 1, but I knew he was in a backup car there wanting to win really, really bad. Luckily I was just able to clear those guys and coming off of Turn 1, they were side by side and I was able to stretch it out.”

Erik Jones – finished second: It was fun. It was hard racing there in the end. The right restarts make for exciting finishes. Today was no exception. Wish we could have gotten up there and challenged Denny (Hamlin). Martin (Truex Jr.) gave us a great push on the final restart. The bottom just doesn’t have what the top does here on restarts, so we did all we could. The Reser’s Camry overcame a lot. We were pretty far off at the start of the race. We got it way better and had a chance to win had things worked out a little differently. We are close every week. So, it’s going to turn our way one of these times. It’s always a challenge. Probably my least favorite part of racing at times is just having to save fuel. Our opportunity to win when we were going green was to make it to the end. It would have been really tight. Those guys kind of gave up saving there. We were hoping it was going to stay green. Had a couple good opportunities on the restarts. The Reser’s Camry was there all day, second half of the day, we had problems at the start. Man, it’s a bummer. We’re close every week. Third, third, second (in the last three races). We’re right there. We’re doing great building points, but it would be great to knock a win out. We’re just so close, it stings a little bit more when you get close to it. Honestly, we started the race so far off today, I wasn’t sure how we were going to run. We were able to turn it around halfway, get back in contention. There at the end I wasn’t sure how it was all going to play out. It was nice to get some good restarts. Martin (Truex Jr.) gave me a great push at the end. We were there for second, then the top got rolling. I couldn’t really do anything. Good to get another top-three run. We just got to break through. Once we get that first one, I think we can click a few off here.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished third: It was a good day overall for our Bass Pro Shops/Tracker ATVs Boats Camry. I was trying to save fuel there in that long run. We were running second to the 20 (Erik Jones), and we thought we were in better shape than him on fuel. He started saving more, and I started saving more. I thought, ‘Man, I probably ought to try to pass him here. Then we got in lap traffic and the 11 (Denny Hamlin) got around me. Then I got by the 20, and then the 11 had the control of the race after that. When the caution came out, he got to lead the restart. I was on the bottom. You can’t do anything from the front row on the bottom. We were kind of in a sucker hole there, and a little bit lucky to come back to third. … (Between restarts and strategy, how tough was it today?) It’s probably easier dealing with that kind of stuff when your crew chief is calling race strategy, has you on the right side of everything, than it is just to have to try to pass guys, maybe your car not be as good as you want. It wasn’t a tough day. Our car was pretty good. Thanks to Bass Pro, Tracker, everybody back at TRD. Thanks, guys. We’ll get after them in Michigan.”

William Byron — finished fourth: “It was a struggle. I felt like the guys did a good job with strategy, and being able to maximize on restarts. We got fortunate on a couple of things. We go on from it and move onto Watkins Glen. … It was a tough day. We didn’t really have a lot going our way. In the first stage and even the second stage, we were just kind of hanging on. We just found a way to kind of make it work. We had good strategy and just found a way to kind of settle in there in a decent spot, and save the right amount of fuel. We ran out of fuel coming across the line, so that was great. We saved the right amount of fuel and that was about it.”

Kyle Larson — finished fifth: “(Did you hit the wall near the end of the race?) I didn’t hit the wall, but I got close. I knew I was going to be close to the wall, so I bailed out of the throttle to keep myself from hitting the wall and lost momentum. I felt bad, but it was better than ending up torn up like the last time I was aggressive on a restart. It was a good day. It was a lot better car than I thought I was going to have, so it just goes to show how good our team is right now and how good our cars are. Last week, I felt like we had one of the fastest cars and we didn’t get to show it. Today, I felt like we were one of the fastest cars. If I could just race a primary car, who knows what we could do. I just have to clean up a little bit of what I’m doing in practice and the races, and hopefully we can get a win. This just goes to show how good our cars are right now. Any time you have a good run in a backup car, it’s satisfying. The past two weeks in a row I feel like we’ve had good speed in our backup cars, so I’ve been really happy with that. I don’t want to race backup cars, so I just have to stop crashing.”

Kevin Harvick – finished sixth: “It was a good day. They had the right strategy and I just didn’t time those last two restarts right and our car struggled a little bit on the first lap or two to get the front to turn, but they had everything right where it needed to be. If the caution doesn’t come out, I think we were in good shape, but that’s the way it goes, especially at this place. You have to have the cautions fall your way and you have to have everything go right. We just had a few little things here and there that didn’t go our way and wound up sixth.”

Daniel Hemric — finished seventh: “Hard work pays off, and the seventh-place finish we had today at Pocono Raceway is proof of that. The No. 8 Caterpillar Chevy started off with great balance in the beginning of Stage 1, but as the laps went by, it started to tighten up a lot. Even though I had a tight Chevy, it was fast enough to gain valuable track position. The scheduled pit stop on lap 36 gave me fresh right-side tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to free me up a bit. This proved to be helpful and we finished the stage 11th. During the stage break, we took left-side tires and took a round out of the left rear. Unfortunately, this freed me up way too much and I had to battle a loose Caterpillar Chevy for a majority of Stage 2. The pit stop before the stage break solved some of those issues, and we finished the second stage 13th. In the final stage, we started 20th but quickly made up ground. Crew chief Luke Lambert dialed in our Caterpillar Chevy for the latter part of the stage and we ran a good chunk of that time in the top 10. With about 40 laps remaining, it became clear that we needed to save fuel; so that’s what we did for the remainder of the race. A caution with eight laps to go allowed us to go full-tilt until the end. I’m extremely proud of the grit and fight this No. 8 team showed today to power us to a top-10 finish. I can’t wait to take this momentum into Watkins Glen next week.

Brad Keselowski – finished eighth: “There were some really rough parts. I made a huge mistake the first two or three laps there. I was running hard behind the 41 and I slid up and tagged the wall, but I was able to get it onto pit road and get it fixed and claw our way out and get into a position at the end where I thought we were gonna win the race. Then whoever that car was just stopped on the race track and cost us a shot at the race. We weren’t gonna win it honest, but we put ourselves in position at the end, so I’m really disappointed on that. All in all, we came away with eighth and recovered from our struggles, but gave up a win because of somebody else. That’s just part of the deal. … We had a shot at winning there at the end if one of those cars five laps down didn’t decide to stop on the race track, which is really frustrating but part of it.”

Ryan Blaney — finished 10th: “It was looking real bad for awhile just from not being fast at all.  I’m kind of disappointed.  I thought in practice we were pretty good.  I had to start at the back and we just didn’t go anywhere.  We went nowhere and we weren’t really handling good.  I thought at first it was dirty air, but a couple cars drove up through there and even when we got a little bit of clean air I still wasn’t very good, so that was frustrating.  And then I thought we were gonna get some track position on equal tires on that restart and the 41 ran into us in the tunnel.  They did a good job of fixing what they could and just got a good last restart.  I think we started eighth and ran 10th, so we salvaged something there.  It was kind of a long day, a frustrating day, and we just need to be better. … (Was the incident with Suarez just racing?) Yeah, it’s just racing.  I was the top of three, he was the bottom of three and the middle guy backed out and he didn’t have any angle into the corner.  He drove off in there probably the hardest out of all of us and when you get no angle into the corner your car goes straight, so that’s what he did.  He had plenty of room.  As soon as he dove off in there you know what’s coming, but at that point there’s nothing you can do about it.  It’s just racing.”

Clint Bowyer — finished 11th: “That was a long hard day. We were up and down. It was so tough to pass, so everything boiled down to fuel and tire strategy. I’m glad we got the No. 14 Toco Warranty/Haas Automation Ford up there for an 11th-place finish at the end.”

Austin Dillon — finished 19th: “I’m so proud of this team. We had a major setback today after having to start at the rear of the field.  However, these guys didn’t let that dampen our spirits or prevent us from working on a plan to get the No. 3 Freightliner Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 up front. For a little while, it looked like fuel mileage was going to work in our favor, until the caution came out and leveled the playing field. There were a couple of restarts at the end of the race that simply shuffled us out of the top 10. The outside line was definitely preferred, but we just couldn’t catch a break to be positioned up there for those last restarts. This is still a huge improvement over some of the misfortune we’ve had the last several weeks. We have a few opportunities to earn a win and punch our ticket to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, and we’re going to do all we can to get us to that point.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — finished 21st: “I think if it would have stayed green there, we would have gotten lucky and probably got a top-10 finish due to having more fuel than the leaders,” Stenhouse said. “It was disappointing to get caught up in an accident with less than five laps but everyone is racing really hard trying to get all they can get.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 24th: “We worked on the Haas Automation Ford Mustang all day and ended up in a really good position in the top-10 for the last restart. We were told we had a penalty and had to restart in the back, which really hurt us because it was just so hard to pass today. It was disappointing to not get a good finish, but we’re usually pretty good at Watkins Glen, so we’ll try to make up for it there.”

Ty Dillon — finished 29th: “Today was not the day that we had hoped for in Pocono. We were excited to get here and put all of our notes from June to good use, but I just couldn’t get comfortable with the handling of our GEICO Military Camaro ZL1. We took some big swings at it on pit road with adding bar load on a couple of stops, and that made it a little better. But, sometimes weekends just don’t go your way in racing, and this was one of those times.”

David Ragan — finished 36th: “The 21 just slipped up and spun me out in my left-rear quarter panel.  I’m sure Paul just slipped out of the groove and lost control for a second and we happened to be there.  That’s very unfortunate.  I felt like we had a top 20 car today.  We raced around the top 20 most of the day.  Mike Kelley and our new group of guys called a good race and we had a pretty good weekend.  When you’re racing hard like that sometimes things happen and things have seemed to happen to us a lot lately.  We’ve been in a slump and had some bad luck and it takes a couple of races and we’ll get out of it, but it certainly is a tough ending to what could have been a good day.”

Ryan Preece — finished 37th: “I blew a tire going into Turn 1. It was a pretty hard hit, but I’m good.”

Chase Elliott — finished 38th: “(Did you run over anything?) I don’t think so. It just popped, so I guess it wasn’t happy with something. It’s just unfortunate. It’s been a rough month, little over a month now. It’s just an unfortunate rough patch. Hopefully we can get past it. The good news is that we are still in the summer months, so the stuff that really matters is still ahead. I just hate to come to these places and not be able to learn something from it. I felt like our day was finally turning around for our NAPA team. We were finally moving forward. I think we were running in the top-10 there when we crashed. I feel like we were finally getting our car going. Obviously, we crashed yesterday so this car was taking some time to get adjusted. I thought we were doing a good job of it. I don’t really know what to do about that, but just move on.”

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Denny Hamlin wins for fifth time in his Cup career at Pocono

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Familiarity is supposed to breed contempt, but for Denny Hamlin, familiarity breeds success when it comes to Pocono Raceway.

Hamlin needed three laps of overtime but held on to capture his fifth career win at the Tricky Triangle in Sunday’s Gander RV 400. It was a 1-2-3 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing, as Hamlin took the checkered flag followed by teammates Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr.

MORE: Click here for race results

MORE: Click here for points report

The Virginia native becomes the eighth different winner in the last eight Cup races.

“I was really worried (about low fuel),” Hamlin told NBCSN. “Once we lost the track position to (Truex) an (Jones), I thought it’s over. We weren’t able to pass them.”

But Hamlin did pass them and never looked back.

“I was in fuel-save mode and still trying to get around those guys,” Hamlin said. “Once I got around them, then I really went into conservation mode instead of stretching the lead out there.”

Hamlin was so excited that after his interview on the frontstretch with NBCSN, he yelled out “five” and held his five fingers up, prompting cheers from the crowd. His five wins at Pocono now equal his other most successful track (five wins at Martinsville)

“Man, we’re on a roll,” Hamlin said. “We’re running our best right now, there’s no doubt about it. We’ll just keep plugging along and doing the best we can.”

Hamlin took the lead from Jones, who was also was low on fuel 17 laps from the scheduled end. Hamlin then held on during two late restarts and sailed to his fifth win and 11th top-five finish in 28 career starts at the 2.5-mile track.

William Byron finished fourth followed by Kyle Larson. Both started at the rear after Byron’s car failed inspection and Larson went to a backup this weekend. Kevin Harvick, Daniel Hemric, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney completed the top 10.

Stage 1 winner: Kyle Busch (8th stage win of season)

Stage 2 winner: Jimmie Johnson under caution (second career stage win)

Who had a good race: Kyle Larson bounced back from a Saturday wreck in practice and challenged momentarily in the final three laps before finishing fifth. … William Byron also rallied late for a strong fourth-place finish. … Daniel Hemric finished seventh, the second-best finish of his Cup career.

Who had a bad race: Chase Elliott suffered a hard wreck exiting Turn 3 during Stage 2 when a tire blew out on him. Elliott was driving a backup car after wrecking during practice Saturday morning. Elliott finished last in the 38-car field, marking his fifth finish in the last seven races outside the top 20. “It just popped,” Elliott told NBCSN. “It’s been really rough over a month. Just a rough patch. Hopefully, we can get past it. The good news is we’re still in the summer months so the stuff that really matters is still ahead. … We just move on.”

Notable: This is the second 1-2-3 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing this season. The other was in the season-opening Daytona 500, which Hamlin won, followed by Kyle Busch and Erik Jones.

What’s next: Sunday, August 4, GoBowling at The Glen, Watkins Glen International (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

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‘Gnarly’ performance puts Kevin Harvick on Pocono pole

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Kevin Harvick has the word “gnarly” on the left rear quarter panel of his Ford Mustang – and it lived up to its nickname with a gnarly pole-winning performance for Sunday’s Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway.

One week after earning his first win of the season (last Sunday at New Hampshire), Harvick was not to be kept from taking the top spot during Saturday afternoon’s qualifying.

Harvick was the only driver over 174 mph, clocking a top speed of 174.058 mph.

We turned it into a gnarly situation,” Harvick told NBCSN. “We didn’t do a qualifying run because we were just scrambling a bit in race trim and trying to get our car right in race trim.

“Our teammates did some qualifying runs and we tried to match what they did and adapt and adjust from there. In the end, sometimes it’s just better to wing it. It was a good day today and hopefully we can keep it rolling tomorrow.”

This is Harvick’s fourth pole of the season and the 29th of his career in 667 NASCAR Cup starts.

In addition, this is Harvick’s 38th career Cup start at Pocono but his first pole there. He’s also never won at the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle.

“It’s been a fun week getting the win off our back and hopefully a pole today,” Harvick said. All Cup cars were immediately impounded after the qualifying session and will go through post-qualifying inspection Sunday morning before the afternoon’s race.

Joey Logano briefly held the pole, but after Harvick’s run, had to settle for second-fastest (173.377 mph), followed by Aric Almirola (173.164 mph), Erik Jones (173.110) and Austin Dillon (172.659).

Sixth through 10th were Jimmie Johnson (172.586), Kyle Busch (172.427), William Byron (172.371), Kurt Busch (172.015) and Daniel Suarez (171.933) made it three of four Stewart-Haas drivers that qualified in the top-10.

Among those who struggled during qualifying was Kyle Larson, who wrecked his primary car in practice earlier in the day, forcing him to go to his backup ride. Larson qualified 29th at 168.634 mph.

There were nine cars that had their speeds disallowed Sunday morning by inspection failures.

Click here for the updated starting lineup by row after prerace inspection.

Click here for updated qualifying results after inspection.

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