Kyle Busch Survives Transmission Woes to Win at Pocono

Take a bow, Kyle Busch. It was certainly a chaotic Sunday afternoon (Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images).

Kyle Busch had a wild Explore the Pocono Mountains 350. Not only did he win Sunday’s race after pitting a lap later than his competitors in front of him, but he captured a win that appeared to be non-existent for much of the day.

That’s because Busch was stuck in fourth gear which can cause tremendous burden for anyone. Fortunately, lack of cautions and a little strategy kept Busch in the hunt when he least expected.

Come hell or high water, his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing crew never gave up. That’s why they ended up in victory lane for the second time this season.

The winning move came coming to the white flag when Busch’s teammate Denny Hamlin didn’t have enough fuel. While Busch led the most important lap, he was up front earlier before the issues transpired.

Busch’s Toyota Camry was towed when the car finally broke, but it was all good. The race was won and it’s all they could ask for on a bizarre day at Pocono Raceway.

More importantly for JGR, they were the ones who conquered Hendrick Motorsports’ streak. Before HMS went on seven-week winning tear, JGR were the last team to even win a Cup race.

Podium Reflection:
Kyle Busch

Knowing he had transmission problems, saving fuel became paramount to have a shot at winning.

“Just saving and riding. Playing the strategy the best with what was given to us,” said Busch. “Can’t say enough about the team and all the work they’re putting in. Sometimes these races aren’t always won by the fastest car, but I still felt like we had the fastest car.

“Even though we were in the back and behind. Having to come through and preserve through being stuck in fourth gear. No clutch and all that stuff. It’s all burned out. Our Camry was awesome today.”

Kyle Larson

For the seventh time in the last eight races, Larson finished in the top-two. While it wasn’t a win and had issues of his own Sunday, the result was better than nothing.

“It’s surprising finish for us,” said Larson. “Our Chevy was really loose for a majority of the race. Then we got a lot of nose damage there on one of the restarts. Was off on speed. I felt like after that.

“Cliff (Daniels, crew chief) and everybody did a really, really good job managing the race. Coached me through saving fuel there at the end. Was hoping that the 18 was going to run out. I saw the 11 running out. I was, ‘Okay, they’re teammates, they got to be close to running out.’

“The 18 did pit a lap after us under caution. That actually probably won them the race. I thought we would be outside of the top 20. A lot of points throughout the race today; we’ll take it. Happy about the effort for sure all weekend.”

Brad Keselowski

The 2012 champ led much of Stage 3 but became of the many drivers who couldn’t make it on fuel. After the race, he knew Team Penske had a lot of work to do to beat Gibbs and Hendrick.

“Didn’t have enough fuel to make it to the end like those other guys did. They beat us on power and fuel mileage. We have a lot of work to do to keep up with those guys.” said Keselowski.

“I am really proud of Jeremy Bullins and the team. They had the setup really well and it put is in position. We ran a great race today and maximized our day.”

“Nice rebound from where we have been. We have had a lot of bad breaks with things breaking and all kinds of issues across the board. My mistakes, other mistakes. This was a really good day for us.”

Stage One

The Cup Series wasted no time getting their next race going at Pocono Raceway (Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images).

Before the start of the race, there was a driver change from Spire Motorsports No. 77 team. From one Justin to another, Justin Haley inherited the ride to Justin Allgaier for Sunday’s 140-lap race.

That’s following a nasty backstretch accident during the Xfinity Series race earlier in the day. Haley was alright, but all parties decided to put Allgaier in the car. Allgaier ended up crossing the line 25th.

Once the field got the green flag, it was Chris Buescher leading the fray. The action was quickly slowed down on Lap 3 following an incident involving Anthony Alfredo. He would keep his car going, but not the kind of start Front Row Motorsports would’ve liked.

However, Alfredo’s teammate Michael McDowell uplifted FRM’s spirits as he took the race lead from Buescher when the race resumed. McDowell led for several laps until Martin Truex, Jr. got by him and immediately put a gap on the competition.

Several top runners would make green flag pit stops before the conclusion of Stage 1. Those included were Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and William Byron. Meanwhile, Truex cruised his way towards a stage victory, ahead of Aric Almirola by nearly seven seconds.

It wasn’t that easy as Truex dealt with a hungry lapped car of Byron, who desperately wanted his lap back. Byron got the job done and didn’t have to depend on a free pass entering the next stage.

Stage 1 Results: Truex Jr., Almirola, Keselowski, Blaney, Wallace, McDowell, Stenhouse, Reddick, Suarez and Logano

Stage Two

During pit stops, Kyle Larson had front nose damage which required massive attention. Certainly, adding insult to what’s been a suddenly low-ball weekend following his last lap flat tire while leading. The damage was a direct result of running into the back of Hamlin during the restart after Alfredo’s accident.

Back up front, Brad Keselowski kicked off Stage 2 with the lead with teammate Ryan Blaney behind him. Byron’s pass on Truex proved to be a difference maker because he was already in the top-five.

Byron’s day was anything but boring, especially during the first half (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images).

In front of Byron was Kyle Busch, who warned his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing crew about transmission problems. Creating tremendous setbacks for the rest of the day, especially when he must gear shift that could break his Toyota.

Keselowski’s green flag stop was tempered by Larson pitting, but both carried onto their afternoons. Each dealing with different ordeals as Keselowski was on the positive while Larson was negative. Fortunately, Larson was able to crack the top-10 at stage end.

Kyle Busch flew like an eagle because he was leading at that point of the stage over Byron. Good enough for some karaoke over the radio. He made his green flag stop with 12 laps left, putting Byron ahead as Busch’s gear was stuck. Ending his aspirations of musical excellence.

Make things a bit frustrating was Saturday’s winner Alex Bowman pitting after the Busch’s pit service was done. Time was loss and Busch’s day was concerning going forward. Can’t say the same about Byron who went on to win the stage.

Stage 2 Results: Byron, Hamlin, Keselowski, Bell, Elliott, Truex Jr., Larson, Ky. Busch, Almirola and Dillon

Consequential Outcomes in Stage Three

Busch’s issues were further evaluated on pit road, hoping the gearing woes are reduced. If settled, the grand mystery remained – Would he even be in the race winning conversation?

Totally not. Busch’s crew struggled making the adjustments, so they had to hope it can finish the remaining 50 laps.

Byron got a push from Hamlin to start the final stage, keeping him in first.

Further back, Erik Jones’ right front tire went down, bringing out a caution. It was direct result of contact with Cole Custer and then Corey LaJoie on the backstretch.

Several takers made pit stops, but Elliott wasn’t one of them who tricked the competition. Byron pitted for four tires, but Larson went for fuel which reshuffled the field.

Christopher Bell took the lead when it was meant to be Elliott because of him not maintaining speed. Bell’s lead wouldn’t last as Bowman took the lead for the first time all afternoon with 44 to go.

Bowman holding off the competition (Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images).

Bell endured hell from Ross Chastain, making contact on the front stretch. Giving Kevin Harvick free real estate to get by them.

Chastain’s day went South following the contact and knocked him out of contention for a top result. A lap later, Bell plowed the Turn 3 wall after Elliott clipped him and pitted for repair.

Elliott’s day really regressed with a flat right front, pitting with 39 to go. Five laps later, Elliott pitted again to repair more damage. In a span of several laps, three drivers’ days were ruined due to ill-timed decisions.

Fuel Economy

As the race came down to the wire, making it on fuel became a concern for the competition. Especially, if the race were to go green the rest of the way. For now, the battle for the lead was between Bowman and Harvick, who were separated by a few tenths.

Knowing Harvick was nine laps short of making it, he pitted one last time with 28 to go. Three laps later, Bowman gave up his lead to pit, putting Keselowski in first for the time being.

At that point, Byron was the only one who certainly had enough making it on fuel. Both Kurt and Kyle were close of being joining Byron, but they were really cutting it close.

With 10 to go, Kyle Busch got the okay to drop the hammer and fight for the win. He was in the clear on fuel. As was Busch’s teammate Hamlin, who passed Kurt a lap later.

Keselowski on the other hand, his moment in the sun set down with 8 to go. Fuel cost him from getting his second win of the year.

Byron inherited the lead, but suddenly now had to save more fuel as his lead to Hamlin was dwindling. Spotter Tab Boyd urged Byron to pick it up, but not too much where his fuel tank hits E.

The Finish

Coming to five to go, Byron’s lead over Hamlin was over a second. Thus, the pressure was on for Byron to extend Hendrick’s win streak to seven in a row.

Byron’s fuel pressure was low and was told to pit but didn’t got the message in time. Heartbreak city happened three laps later, Byron had to pit and thus Hendrick’s winning ways were over.

Hamlin took the lead with Kyle Busch hot on his tail, but could they make it. Definite no for Hamlin, who had to pit with just a lap to go and finished 15th.

“We pitted on the last lap for three weeks in a row. That’s tough. I hate seeing the white and coming to pit road. It’s so frustrating,” said Hamlin. “Fuel mileage got us the last two weeks and lug nuts the week before. We’re running fast and getting a little better. But we can’t see the checkered right now.”

Busch went on to score his 59th career victory (Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images).

Kyle Busch was now required to save fuel and not let Larson eat the gap. Max saving was the code and after all the hurdles he dealt with, he won the 140-lap contest.

Behind the two Kyles were Keselowski, Harvick and Bubba Wallace. The latter bringing 23XI Racing’s maiden top-five after finishing no better than 11th all season. If there’s one thing Hamlin can at least smile about, it’s his car getting a solid result.

Now with the Pocono doubleheader completed, it’s off to Road America on Independence Day. It’ll be the first time the Cup Series competing in Elkhart Lake since 1956. Coverage begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

Top 10 Results: Ky. Busch, Larson, Keselowski, Harvick, Wallace, Blaney, Bowman, Preece, Reddick and Logano'
Luis Torres

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR, INDYCAR and ARCA (occasionally F1 and IMSA stuff as well). Whether it's the Daytona 500 or an ARCA Menards Series West race at Evergreen Speedway, content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going.

I've dealt with several challenges in my life, such as autism and making most out of trips despite relying on transportation. Even my quest of finding acceptance in my profession which has been my biggest challenge since graduating from college in 2016. Despite those hurdles with Motorsports Tribune and now The Podium Finish, I promise that you'll see excellence with my content.

Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to The Aces. Not only that, expect my social media filled with GIFs about my Seattle Seahawks because they make things a roller coaster experience.

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