Kyle Busch bolts to sixth Cup win of the season
By Rick Minter/ Andrews McMeel Syndication
Kyle Busch’s win in Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono Raceway was his sixth of the season and allowed NASCAR’s Big Three to maintain their stranglehold on the Monster Energy Cup Series.
In the 21 races to date this year, Busch and Kevin Harvick have six victories apiece, while Martin Truex Jr. has four.
Busch and Harvick posted the two fastest times in qualifying on Saturday, but were among 13 drivers who had their times disallowed when their cars failed post-qualifying inspection.
But that didn’t hamper either of them for long. Busch started 28th, took the lead for the first time on Lap 112 and led a race-high 52 laps, including the final 42.
Harvick started 27th and was in front by Lap 65, then led a total of 30 laps before a pit-road collision with Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola sent him to the rear of the field late in the race. Still, he rallied to finish fourth in what many described as the fastest car at the track.
Truex was the only one of the Big Three to struggle at Pocono. He passed inspection after qualifying on Saturday and started eighth, but he never led a lap and finished 15th.
For Busch, it was a memorable weekend, as his win in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race was the 51st of his career, tying him with the retired Ron Hornaday Jr. for most wins in that series. He already holds the all-time record for wins in the Xfinity Series with 92, and now is tied with Tony Stewart for 13th on the all-time Cup list. One more Cup win will tie him with NASCAR Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson. And Busch’s 192 victories across NASCAR’s top three series are second only to the retired Richard Petty, who got all of his 200 wins in the elite Cup series.
Busch, who is just 33 years old, said in his winner’s interview after Sunday’s race that he’s proud to be in such legendary company, and that he plans to keep adding to his totals.
“Tony [Stewart] is a great friend of mine and really one of the guys that I kind of looked up to coming up,” Busch said. “Tony was a great teammate, great friend and still is, so it’s pretty cool to tie him, and certainly means a lot to kind of keep climbing the ladder and getting to the next bunch of guys, and eclipsing that 50 is going to be pretty special.”
A group of relative newcomers, led by sophomore driver Daniel Suarez, posted career-best finishes at Pocono.
Suarez, who started on the pole after the disqualifications of Busch and Harvick, led a total of 29 laps and challenged Busch for the lead on two late-race restarts before finishing second — the best result of his two-year Cup career. He said that’s even sweeter considering the next stop on the Cup circuit, the road course at Watkins Glen International, is where he finished third last year, his best finish in 2017.
“I was just talking about that, how good is this result for our race team and for everyone in the 19 group because we know how good we run in the Glen, and we had a good result my first time there in the Cup car,” he told reporters at Pocono. “We are not expecting anything less. We have good momentum right now on our side, and hopefully, we can keep that going.”
Hendrick Motorsports youngsters Alex Bowman and William Byron finished third and sixth respectively, both career-bests as well.
The finish allowed Bowman, who holds the 16th and final spot in the playoff standings, to put 56 points between him and his two closest challengers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Paul Menard, with just five regular season races left.
“It was great to have a good points day, but not trying to watch it too much, just trying to do the best job I can and that we can each and every week,” Bowman said. “If we maximize each and every week, hopefully they won’t catch us in points, and we’ll go from there.”