Pocono 400

Denny Hamlin ‘back on the train’ with clean run in Pocono

Leave a comment

Something good happened to Denny Hamlin on Sunday at Pocono Raceway – nothing happened.

Hamlin had an uneventful time in the Pocono 400 and ended the day in sixth place.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is perfectly content with an uneventful, yet successful day at the track after he failed to finish inside the top 15 the previous four races.

“It was a good run. We didn’t hit the wall, that’s about the first (time) in about a month, didn’t blow a tire, that’s about the first in a month,” Hamlin told FS1 after the race. “The positives are we got a decent finish out of it there.”

Hamlin entered Pocono with a best finish of 16th (Kansas) in the last four races. He crashed out at Talladega. At Kansas he cut a tire and then had to pit multiple times to fix a damaged crush panel. He was marred by contact with the wall twice in last week’s Coke 600 before he crashed on the backstretch on the final lap while running 10th.

Hamlin and the No. 11 team got themselves “back on the train” with a clean day at Pocono, a track he’s won at four times.

With Erik Jones finishing third, JGR had three cars in the top six.

“Had a pretty good car in clean air,” Hamlin said. “(Race winner Kyle Busch) was definitely substantially better, (Kevin Harvick) was pretty good as well. But I thought we could hold our own there. We were running third, got four tires there at the end and track position was really such a huge deal. Didn’t see many cars out there passing and we were one of them that couldn’t. You got stuck behind guys, didn’t matter how old their tires were in front of you, just got stuck behind them … Had an inside lane restart at the end that cost us a spot or two. Overall, a decent day. At least back on the train of a good run and not tearing our car up.

“So we’ll build from there and go to Michigan next week.”

Kyle Busch wins Pocono 400

1 Comment

Kyle Busch won Sunday’s Pocono 400 to claim his fourth Cup win of the year and his third Pocono win in the last four races at the track.

Busch outran Brad Keselowski in a nine-lap shootout and beat him by two seconds. The top five was completed by Erik Jones, Chase Elliott and Clint Bowyer.

Though he didn’t win either of the first two stages of the race, Busch dominated by leading 79 of the race’s 160 laps.

“I passed one guy on the outside in Turn 3 (Bowyer in Stage 2) and that was the only guy I needed to pass I guess,” Busch told FS1. “It was hard otherwise. We kind of got stuck in traffic back there a little bit earlier in the race, we were about fifth or sixth and couldn’t really do anything. But overall my guys on pit road were awesome. Got some spots there.”

Busch broke a tie with Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. for most wins this year.

The final nine-lap shootout was set up by a caution for a Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wreck.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Larson

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Larson

More: race results and points

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Erik Jones earned his fourth top-10 finish at Pocono. It’s tied with Kansas for his most on a single track … Brad Keselowski has a top five in seven of his last eight races at Pocono … Chase Elliott earned his fifth straight top five, the longest stretch of his career … Pole-sitter William Byron led 26 laps and finished ninth. It’s his fourth top 10, matching his total from 2018 .. Denny Hamlin finished sixth for his first top 15 in the last five races.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Austin Dillon wrecked out on Lap 29 when he was tagged from behind by Paul Menard and backed into the Turn 3 wall … Corey LaJoie finished 36th after he cut a tire and hit the wall on Lap 18 of Stage 2 …. Martin Truex Jr.’s day ended near the end of Stage 2 when his engine expired … After winning both stages, Kyle Larson slapped the wall on the final restart and had to pit. He finished a lap down in 26th.

NOTABLE: Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have combined to win 13 of the 14 points races this year and had five of the top seven finishers Sunday, including the top three … Hendrick Motorsports has had at least one car finish in the top five in the last five races, the longest active streak

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “It was a good run, we didn’t hit the wall, that’s the first (time) in about a month. Didn’t blow a tire, that’s about the first in a month.” – Denny Hamlin to FS1 after finishing sixth.

WHAT’S NEXT: FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway at 2 p.m. ET on June 9 on FS1

Engine problems end Martin Truex Jr.’s day at Pocono

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Martin Truex Jr., winner of three of the last five Cup races, exited Sunday’s Pocono 400 with engine problems with less than 10 laps left in the second stage.

“Coming off the tunnel turn (Turn 2) it kind of sputtered a little bit and I thought for a minute maybe it was running out of gas,” Truex told FS1. “I could see the smoke trail. … It self-destructed pretty quick. As it went down pit road, I pretty much knew our day was done.”

It is the first DNF for Truex this year since he crashed in the Daytona 500. He is the defending winner of the Pocono 400. Truex finished ninth in Stage 1.

Pocono will be a ‘different world now’ with Cup rules package

2 Comments

Why does William Byron think Pocono Raceway will be “even trickier” for Cup drivers this weekend?

They’ll drive cars at the “Tricky Triangle” with 550 horsepower and aero ducts, leading to increased “downforce and straightaway speeds being a little slower,” Byron said in a media release.

Sunday’s event will be the first Cup race since Dover on May 6 to use brake ducts instead of aero ducts.

“I think it’s going to make it a little more similar to the Truck Series race there and that was one of my best races,” Byron said.

In the Hendrick Motorsports driver’s one Truck Series start at Pocono in 2016, Byron started from the pole, led 44 of 60 laps and won.

The package’s first use at Pocono has led to questions of how it will impact the racing.

“It’s a different world now,” said August 2016 Pocono winner Chris Buescher in a media release. “We won’t be shifting and we won’t know what to expect with the corner speed. I would imagine that the Tunnel Turn (Turn 2) should be pretty easily wide open now, but (Turns) 1 and 3 still have some big unknowns to them.”

Wood Brothers Racing’s Paul Menard predicts “big drafts on the straightaways and not as much braking as before.”

“And with the new transmission rules, you’ll be wanting to shift but with the third gear (and how) we’re now required to use it would probably just blow the engine,” Menard said in a media release.

Kurt Busch, a three-time Pocono winner, says the rules package “definitely changes the game” when it comes to the 2.5-mile triangle. That includes in qualifying and whether or not drivers will lift off the throttle entering Turn 1.

“It is one of the toughest turns,” Busch said Thursday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “With the draft, you’re definitely going to have to lift because of the extra speed that you’ll gain. But maybe in qualifying, it’s going to be that moment of ‘Do I hold it wide-open and see if it sticks or do I crack the throttle and make sure I still survive the other couple corners?'”

Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon says getting off Turn 3 to get a good run on the front stretch is “pretty key.”

“Just think of it like running a mile and losing a shoe,” Dillon said in a media release. “It’s not fun when your car is not turning off that corner and you are tight and you can’t get back to the gas.”

Martin Truex Jr. looks at the track a little differently. The two-time Pocono winner thinks all three corners are “all important.”

“Years ago, you would go there and you’d hear guys say they were focused on Turn 3 as the most important and today if you go there and you don’t have all of them really, really good, you’re going to get your butt kicked,” Truex said in a media release. “That’s honestly the way it works.”

NASCAR’s weekend schedule for Pocono Raceway

3 Comments

This weekend marks the first of two race weekends this season at Pocono Raceway. 

The Cup and Xfinity Series will be in action this weekend at the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle. The Gander Outdoors Truck Series is off until June 7 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Friday’s forecast, per wunderground.com, calls for partly cloudy skies with a high temperature of 70 degrees. There is 10% chance of rain.

Saturday’s forecast – afternoon thunderstorms expected with a high of 76 degrees. There is a 20% chance of rain at race time. Sunday’s forecast calls for afternoon storms expected with a high of 68 degrees at race time. There is a 60% chance of rain at race time.

Here’s the weekend’s full schedule with TV and radio info.

(All times are Eastern)

Friday, May 31

10 a.m. – 9 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

11 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. – First Xfinity practice (NASCAR.com, Motor Racing Network)

2:05 – 2:55 p.m. – First Cup practice (NASCAR.com, MRN)

3:05 – 3:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS2)

4:05 – 4:55 p.m. – Final Cup practice (FS2, MRN)

Saturday, June 1

7 a.m. – 12: 30 p.m. – Cup garage open

8:30 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

10:05 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying impound (single vehicle/one-lap all positions) (FS1)

11:15 a.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

11:35 a.m. – Cup qualifying impound (single vehicle/one-lap all positions) (FS1, MRN)

12:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

1 p.m. – Pocono Green 250 Xfinity race (Stages 25/50/100 = 100 laps/250 miles) (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, June 2

9 a.m. – Cup garage opens

Noon – Cup driver/crew chief meeting

1:20 p.m. – Cup driver introductions

2 p.m. – Pocono 400 Cup race (Stages 50/100/160 = 160 laps/400 miles) (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)