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NASCAR Cup: Denny Hamlin leads JGR 1-2-3 at Pocono

LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA – JULY 28: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, clebrates in victory lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 28, 2019 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Denny Hamlin claimed his third Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of 2019 and the 11th victory of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing Sunday in the Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. Sunday’s win was Hamlin’s fifth at Pocono but his first there since 2010.

Joe Gibbs Racing swept the top-three of the finishing order, with Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr. finishing second and third.

The other JGR driver, Kyle Busch, finished ninth.

Busch was one of a few drivers not in fuel conservation mode in the race that went into overtime. Busch gave up the lead to make his final pit stop for fuel and two tires under green-flag conditions on lap 135. Other frontrunners made their final stops during a caution that came out for Ryan Preece on lap 114.

“He said we were good 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,” Hamlin said of crew chief Chris Gabehart. “I knew that – honestly, 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, 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.”

When Busch made his final stop, he counted on the race running green for the remainder of the scheduled 160-lap distance and everyone else would have to pit again. His fellow competitors went into fuel-conservation mode, seeming determined to go the remaining distance without stopping. They were aided by two late-race cautions, but the second of those two counter-balanced some of its benefit by sending the race into overtime. Still, the frontrunners stayed out and managed to go the distance.

“It was a good day overall for our Bass Pro Shops/Tracker ATVs Boats Camry,” Truex said. “I was trying to save fuel, there, in that long run. We were running second to the 20 (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 (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.”

William Byron finished fourth after starting the race in the back because of a failed inspection between Saturday’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race. Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five after also starting in the back. Larson was in a backup car after a crash in practice.

“Last week, I felt like we had one of the fastest cars and we didn’t get to show it,” Larson said. “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.”

Busch was on his way to pit road, out of fuel, on lap 98 just before the yellow flag waved for an incident involving Daniel Suarez and Ryan Blaney.

When Busch pitted from the lead just before the caution, Jimmie Johnson inherited the lead and, as a result, won the second 50-lap stage that ended on lap 100.

Busch and Kevin Harvick had combined to lead all laps to that point. Harvick started on the pole and led the first 39 laps before pitting late for four tires in a green-flag cycle of stops on lap 40. Busch took the lead, having pitted earlier in the cycle, taking two tires on lap 21.

Busch remained up front to win the first 50-lap stage, but after pitting early in the first green-flag cycle, he pitted during the caution between the first two stage. Harvick, after pitting late, stayed out to restart up front for the second stage.

Busch restarted 10th, but on slightly newer tires, he moved up to third on lap 60, took second from Hamlin on lap 63 and the lead from Harvick on lap 72.

A few laps after losing the lead, Harvick pitted from second a few laps later. Busch had a couple of opportunities to pit under caution before running out of fuel — first when Chase Elliott hit the wall on lap 83 and, then, for rain sprinkles on lap 92. He stayed out during both cautions.

Johnson pitted after his stage win, turning the lead back over to Harvick, who stayed out between the second stage and the third 60-lap stage.

Hamlin took his first lead on lap 104. Busch regained the lead after staying out during the Preece caution. Jones, Hamlin and Truex were second through fourth in the running order after being the first three off pit road with two-tire stops.

Harvick finished the race sixth, Daniel Hemric was seventh, Brad Keselowski eighth, and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-10, despite his incident with Suarez.

“It was a good day,” Harvick said. ”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.”

Below is the complete finishing order of the Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway:

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Posted by on July 28, 2019. Filed under Breaking News,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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