Kyle Busch wins fuel mileage derby at Pocono
Long Pond, Pa. - Kyle Busch and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team were no fools on fuel.
Overcoming transmission problems that forced team car chief Nate Bellows to enter Busch’s Toyota at one point and attempt to pry loose a stuck shifter, Busch stretched his final fuel tank 46 laps to the finish and claimed his second win of the Cup season Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
Fuel mileage became a factor as the laps wound down. With nine laps to go, Brad Keselowski was forced to pit for a splash, giving the lead to William Byron.
Byron held onto the point until two laps to go, when he had to go to pit road. That left Denny Hamlin and Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, in first and second.
Finally, Hamlin blinked, coming down to pit road as Busch continued on to the white flag - and then, the checkered flag.
At one point, such a result felt far off. The shifter on Busch’s car was popping out of gear early on and then became stuck in fourth gear.
That made getting out of pit road tough for Busch. But it also made him pit a lap later than others who ran out of fuel ahead of him.
“Sometimes, you have to have a little bit of luck on your side, and today, we had some luck on our side,” Busch said. “It felt good. I think the biggest thing this week – everything was (finishing) second, and if that was all we had for today, we will take it.
“It’s pretty cool to win up here at Pocono. It’s such a tough racetrack and all of the guys and everyone in this package, it’s so hard to pass sometimes. We had to fuel save that whole last run to be able to get everything we could out of that gas tank.
“No clutch, no leaving pit road, extended time on pit road – to come back and be at full song by the time the field went green, that was an ordeal.”
Kyle Larson recovered from front-end damage sustained earlier in the race to finish second, bouncing back after losing the win Saturday to a blown tire.
Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Bubba Wallace rounded out the top five finishers.
Wallace’s fifth-place finish is a season-best for him. It was also the first top five and top 10 for the new 23XI Racing team, co-owned by Hamlin and Michael Jordan.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.
STAGE 2 WINNER: William Byron
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Alex Bowman followed up his victory Saturday with a seventh-place finish ... Ryan Preece’s eighth-place finish was his third top 10 of the season, matching his most in a Cup season (2019).
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: After starting from the rear in a backup car, rookie Anthony Alfredo blew a tire and hit the wall on Lap 2. He limped on to a 34th-place finish.
NOTABLE: Joe Gibbs Racing ends a six-race win streak for Hendrick Motorsports. The Hendrick stable finished second (Larson), seventh (Bowman), 12th (Byron), and 27th (Chase Elliott) on Sunday.
NEXT: Sunday, July 4 at Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wis.), 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC