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Kurt Busch Wins Rain-Delayed Pocono Cup Race

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 6 2016
Kurt Busch squeezed a victory out of his Stewart Haas Racing Chevy on Monday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett)

Kurt Busch squeezed a victory out of his Stewart Haas Racing Chevy on Monday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Rusty Jarrett)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Kurt Busch, in full fuel-conservation mode over the final 30 laps, held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski to win Monday’s rain-delayed Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway.

The victory was the first of the season for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver. He led 32 laps in getting sprint-logo-08the win.

“I didn’t know if we were going to have enough fuel,” Busch said. “This is a wonderful win for us. We’ve been so close all year. It’s a matter of just putting it all together.”

He became the ninth race winner of the year and now has his team in the Chase.

The victory made interim crew chief Johnny Klausmeier, who was making his first-ever appearance on the top of a Cup pitbox.

“Well it’s special anytime you win,” Busch said. “For (suspended crew chief) Tony Gibson to be out this week because of a lugnut issue we had to overcome a lot.  Johnny Klausmeier our interim crew chief, our lead engineer, he stepped up and when you do that it makes you really feel about that team comradery, that team chemistry and that team effort.”

Earnhardt finished second in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet while Keselowski, who bounced back from two penalties in his Team Penske Ford, was third.

Rounding out the top five were Hendrick’s Chase Elliott and Penske’s Joey Logano.

Keselowski started the race from the pole but quickly turned it over to teammate Joey Logano. Logano led 17 laps before being passed by Kyle Larson.

Larson was passed by Kenseth on Lap 26. Kenseth kept the lead until Kevin Harvick, who was pitting out of sequence, assumed P1 on Lap 54.

On Lap 58, the yellow flag waved and Harvick, who was issued a speeding penalty early in the race, headed to the pits and handed the lead back to Kenseth.

On the Lap 66 restart, Elliott blew past Kenseth and into the lead.

The rookie kept the lead on-track until he pitted under caution with 42 laps to go. During that stop, Elliott and crew opted for four tires while four cars opted for two or no tires and three others took for but just flat beat Elliott out of the pits. The result was Elliott dropping seven spots.

Leading the field to the green flag on the restart with 33 laps to go  was  Earnhardt Jr.  A lap later, Busch made the pass of Earnhardt for the lead.

Earnhardt said he probably cost himself the victory on the restart.

I should have been able to hold that No. 41 (Busch) off on that final restart,” Earnhardt said. “Me and the No. 24 (Chase Elliott) was racing pretty hard and it gave the No. 41 the opportunity to get a run on us.  I should have been able to defend that a little bit better.  If I could have got in front of him I don’t think he would have got by us.  The car wasn’t all we hoped it would be, but it was good.  They worked on it and improved it.  We were real tight starting the day and we just kept freeing it up.  We got it pretty decent at the end, but still not where we want to be.  We will work on it and come back and try to do a little better job the next race here.”

Busch and Earnhardt, and most behind them, found themselves in fuel mileage trouble.

Busch’s team radioed their driver telling him he needed to save fuel. Earnhardt’s team radioed to go for it.

“I was like, whoa, how many laps shy are we? Busch said of his orders. “They said two. These are really long straightaways at Pocono and you have to manage saving fuel as well as maintaining lap time.  So many thoughts can go through your head, but I just stuck with the checklist.  I just stuck with saving fuel and watching the No. 88 (Earnhardt, Jr.) behind us.”

With seven to go, Busch began disengaging his clutch to conserve fuel but still was able to maintain a 1-plus-second lead.

Meanwhile, Keselowski, who had no fuel concerns began to move in on Earnhardt for second place.

But neither could get near enough to catch Busch.

“We were awful strong we just needed some more laps and a little more time,” Keselowski said. “I think we might have had a shot at it. It was a pretty strong weekend. The last four or five weeks have been strong runs. We have a bunch of seconds and thirds. Not quite the win we wanted but a lot to be proud of.”

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Axalta ‘We Paint Winners’ 400
Pocono Raceway
Long Pond, Pennsylvania
Monday, June 06, 2016

  1. (9) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 160.
  2. (8) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Chevrolet, 160.
  3. (1) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 160.
  4. (13) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 160.
  5. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 160.
  6. (11) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 160.
  7. (3) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 160.
  8. (5) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 160.
  9. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 160.
  10. (14) * Ryan Blaney #, Ford, 160.
  11. (21) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 160.
  12. (22) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 160.
  13. (24) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 160.
  14. (10) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 160.
  15. (25) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 160.
  16. (32) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 160.
  17. (26) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 160.
  18. (23) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 160.
  19. (17) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 160.
  20. (16) Aric Almirola, Ford, 160.
  21. (28) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 160.
  22. (35) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 160.
  23. (34) David Ragan, Toyota, 160.
  24. (29) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 160.
  25. (18) Chris Buescher #, Ford, 159.
  26. (15) Greg Biffle, Ford, 159.
  27. (38) * Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 159.
  28. (40) * Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 159.
  29. (39) Jeb Burton(i), Ford, 158.
  30. (37) * Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 155.
  31. (12) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 150.
  32. (33) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 145.
  33. (20) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 135.
  34. (6) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 131.
  35. (7) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 125.
  36. (31) Landon Cassill, Ford, 121.
  37. (19) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 117.
  38. (36) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, Accident, 102.
  39. (30) Brian Scott #, Ford, 81.
  40. (27) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, Accident, 57.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  125.49 mph.

Time of Race:  03 Hrs, 11 Mins, 15 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.126 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  10 for 40 laps.

Lead Changes:  14 among 10 drivers.

Lap Leaders:    0; J. Logano 1-17; K. Larson 18-25; M. Kenseth 26-53; K. Harvick 54-62; M. Kenseth 63-65; C. Elliott # 66-86; Kyle Busch 87-89; C. Elliott # 90-118; A. Allmendinger 119-120; T. Dillon(i) 121-123; D. Earnhardt Jr 124-126; C. Elliott # 127; D. Earnhardt Jr 128; Kurt Busch 129-160.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  C. Elliott # 3 times for 51 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 32 laps; M. Kenseth 2 times for 31 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 17 laps; K. Harvick 1 time for 9 laps; K. Larson 1 time for 8 laps; D. Earnhardt Jr 2 times for 4 laps; T. Dillon(i) 1 time for 3 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 3 laps; A. Allmendinger 1 time for 2 laps.

Top 16 in Points: K. Harvick – 490; Kurt Busch – 465; B. Keselowski – 442; C. Edwards – 437; Kyle Busch – 416; J. Johnson – 415; C. Elliott # – 413; J. Logano – 410; M. Truex Jr – 403; M. Kenseth – 382; D. Earnhardt Jr – 381; D. Hamlin – 372; A. Dillon – 348; J. Mcmurray – 342; *. Blaney # – 340; R. Newman – 338.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 6 2016
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