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NASCAR Cup: Kyle Busch finally returns to victory lane

Kyle Busch celebrates in victory lane at Pocono Raceway after winning the Overton's 400 on July 30, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Kyle Busch celebrates in victory lane at Pocono Raceway after winning the Overton’s 400 on July 30, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Kyle Busch snapped a 36-race winless streak that dated back to the 2016 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday with his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the season in the Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceay in Long Pond, Pa. He started on the pole and led 74 laps of the 160-lap race en route to the 100th Cup Series win for Toyota. Busch also got Toyota its first win in 2008.

“For today, that (finally) was the word,” Busch said. “It’s been a frustrating year, and this certainly relieves a little bit of that. I wouldn’t say all of it. Adam [Stevens, crew chief] and these guys did an awesome job today. I can’t say enough about this M&Ms Caramel Camry. Toyota, this is their 100th Monster Energy Cup Series win. I can’t say enough about all of our partners and everyone on this team. All these guys, the pit crew, they do a great job each and every week. We had to rely on them on that final stop so we didn’t lose too much time to those guys, because we had so much distance that we were letting them have it on us with those fresher tires that they had. It’s been a frustrating year, but an awesome day today.”

Busch’s win on Sunday was the first of his career at Pocono, leaving only Charlotte Motor Speedway as a track at which Busch has yet to win a Cup Series race. His team is likely to face a fine in the coming week, though, as his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team had a lug nut loose or missing in post-race lug-nut inspection.

Kevin Harvick finished second, Martin Truex Jr. was third, Denny Hamlin fourth, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-five.

Busch took his final lead with 15 laps remaining.

Matt Kenseth began the final cycle of green-flag pit stops with 37 laps remaining, and most of the race field followed suit. Busch was third in the running order before the cycle began. He inherited the lead as he stayed out longer than his fellow-competitors, not making his final stop until 25 laps remaining. With the benefit of newer tires, Busch erased his sizable deficit and took the lead 10 laps later.

“The only chance the I had (to keep Busch behind me) was to get into the corner correctly,” Harvick said. “I got in there and was loose all the way through the corner on entry and just kept holding the brake down, holding the brake down, holding the brake down, and finally, I’m sure he thought I was going to go, and I didn’t accelerate. I was trying to stay on the bottom to park the thing to get going and he had a good run. Guys on the Mobil 1 Ford did a great job. Kyle had the class of the field all weekend. His car was really, really fast. He got the pole. Got the win. Pretty much just charged through the field. We definitely have a little bit of work to do. I feel like we got closer and closer. I feel like we raced around all the Toyotas all day. Just proud of everyone on the Mobil 1 Ford.”

While Kenseth was among the first to pit in final green-flag stops, he was the last to pit at the end of stage one/beginning of stage two. Kenseth was among eight drivers involved in a wreck on lap one, and as a result, he pitted in the early laps to repair minor damage. He, then, stretched his fuel mileage to 39 laps to get to the end of the first stage. Busch and Truex, though, were able to pass Kenseth on the track on lap 46 to return to their previous positions of top-two in the running order before the stage ended. Back in the lead, Busch won stage one.

Aric Almirola’s car sustained the most significant damage in the lap one incident — enough damage to retire him from the race.

“I have no idea (what happened),” Almirola said. “Our Smithfield Ford Fusion was really good to start off there. I had passed about seven cars the first two corners. I was making a lot of progress and then we got to turn three and everybody just stacked up. I saw some smoke. I saw some cars stopped. I got piled in from behind and just drove into the accident. I haven’t seen a replay and have no idea what caused the wreck. Sort of a bummer not to even make a whole lap. Not our day.”

Aside from the cautions that divided the race into three stages, the yellow flag only waved two other times — on lap 58 for a wreck between Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne and, again, on lap 70 when Kyle Larson had a problem with his car’s driveshaft.

Despite the low number of cautions, varying pit strategies played a role throughout the race. With most of the frontrunners opting to pit on lap 97, three laps before the conclusion of the second stage, with plans to stage out during the caution between the second and third stages, Clint Bowyer inherited the lead, and as a result, claimed his first stage win of the season  with his win of stage two.

Bowyer finished the race in the sixth position. Finishing seventh through 10th were Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Kenseth and Chase Elliott.

Truex was the only other driver to lead more than 20 laps, running up front for 31 circuits.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (Facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (Facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on July 30, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,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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