Overton’s 400 – Pocono Raceway

The Overton’s 400, previously known as the Pennsylvania 400, is the second of two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races held every season at the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond.

The action started quickly on July 30th when, on Lap 1 coming out of Turn 3, Matt Kenseth got turned and collected Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon, Michael McDowell, and Aric Almirola. The latter car was crushed in the wreck and Almirola went on to finish in the 38th position. However, that’s where the notable action stopped given that Kyle Busch drove away on the restart. While he lost the lead briefly during green flag pit stops, Busch gained it back and went on to win the first segment.

Kenseth stayed out of the pits during the caution and was declared the race leader when the field started Stage 2. He fought Kyle Busch hard but eventually surrendered the lead to the No. 18. Not long afterward, Jimmie Johnson was turned by teammate Kasey Kahne and was sent into the wall in Turn 3 on Lap 57. This wreck ended Johnson’s day as he and his team went to the garage and finished 35th. Thirteen laps later, there was another caution for Kyle Larson who lost his drive shaft in Turn 1. He went to the garage to make repairs and returned to the track 12 laps down.

When the race restarted, Denny Hamlin was the leader after staying out while the rest of the field pitted. Hamlin was given a powerful push from Brad Keselowski on the restart and pulled away with the lead. The second place car of Kyle Busch got loose and was nearly sideways in Turn 1. Busch went up the race track and fell all the way back to 7th while Hamlin lost the lead to Martin Truex Jr with 11 laps remaining in Stage 2. In a strange pit strategy with 3 laps to go in Stage 2, the Top 8 drivers pitted with the exception of Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski. Bowyer held the lead and captured his first stage win of the season.

After green flag pit stops in Stage 3, the lead cycled back to Denny Hamlin. A side-by-side battle ensued between Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr, and Kevin Harvick. Busch was able to navigate through and build nearly a 6-second lead over Kevin Harvick.

Kyle Busch started on the pole and led a race-high of 74 laps en route to his 39th career win and the 100th win for Toyota. This broke his 36-race winless streak, the longest in his career as he noted in his post race interview when he admitted that during Stage 2, with his sudden loss of several positions, he thought, “Well… there’s another Pocono race (over)“.

His win was met an even mix of cheers and boos from the crowd – the same response he received during driver introductions prior to the race. NASCAR officials noted a loose lug nut upon entry to pit road, before the car moved onto the winner’s circle, causing an announcement that the #18 would be sent to the Research and Development Center for further inspection. Findings, if any, will be announced on Wednesday.

With Busch now into the playoffs, it leaves only 3 spots open with 5 races to go in the regular season. Who will make it in and who will be left out?

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