The NASCAR Cup Series drivers headed to Pocono Raceway on Sunday, June 27, for the second race of the doubleheader weekend. Alex Bowman captured the first race and had every intention of sweeping the Tricky Triangle. However, Kyle Busch delivered a stunning win while dealing with multiple issues.
The final 20 laps turned into a fascinating fuel-mileage battle. Busch and his brother Kurt both hit pit road at lap 94 and had to focus on conserving their gas for a late-run to the finish line. Byron and Denny Hamlin sat in a similar position. Once these drivers learned that they had saved enough fuel to reach the end of the race, they began pushing their cars to the limit while fighting for the checkered flag. However, some miscalculated.
Hamlin and Byron both appeared to have the advantage as the laps dwindled, but they both ran out of fuel and headed to pit road. Busch moved to the front of the pack and began focusing on his own conservation efforts while multiple other drivers ran out of fuel. Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski took second and third, respectively, while Kevin Harvick and Bubba Wallace rounded out the top five.
Busch Had a Fascinating Day at the Track
The runner-up to Bowman in the Pocono Organics CBD 325, Kyle Busch entered the race on Sunday with the goal of winning his second race of the season. Early on, it appeared that he would achieve this goal due to several laps at the front of the pack. However, Busch dealt with a surprising issue.
The two-time Cup Series champion revealed over the radio early in the race that he was dealing with transmission issues. His No. 18 JGR Toyota Camry kept popping out of gear. Busch had to combat this problem by holding his car in gear while essentially driving with one hand for much of the race.
Despite dealing with the transmission problem that kept him in fourth gear, Busch remained in a good mood. He joked with his crew chief throughout the race, even while trying to get his car moving in fourth gear, and he fought for the top spot several times. The NBC Sports broadcast also revealed that Busch was singing “Fly Like an Eagle” by the Steve Miller Band.
Busch remained optimistic throughout the race and managed to capture his second win of the season while stuck in fourth gear. He only led 30 laps, but he turned in his best performance of the season and delivered a stunning win, his fourth at Pocono Raceway.
The Trip to Pocono Provided Bounce-Back Opportunities for Several Drivers
Several teams have struggled during the first 18 races of the 2021 Cup Series season. The four-car Stewart-Haas stable failed to win a race while Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. both experienced slumps after winning races and punching their tickets to the playoffs. However, many of these drivers performed at a much higher level at the Tricky Triangle.
Truex jumped to the lead early on Sunday after overtaking Chris Buescher and Michael McDowell on the 14th lap. He led for the rest of Stage 1, capturing the green and white checkered flag and adding a playoff point to his collection. Truex ultimately finished 11th.
Similarly, Keselowski took the lead during the stage break and led until the 46th lap. He headed to pit road for tires and fuel before returning to the track and fighting for a top finish once again. The Team Penske driver did not win either of the first two stages, but he remained near the front of the pack for the majority of the third stage, fighting for only his second top-10 finish in the past eight races, which he achieved after a late pit stop for fuel.
Several other drivers spent time near the front of the field while turning in their strongest performances for the season. The list included Ryan Newman, Chase Briscoe, Aric Almirola, and Bubba Wallace. Though Newman and Briscoe finished 21st and 22nd due to fuel issues.