I know we ask this a lot in regards to Kyle Busch, but how did Kyle Busch do that? In Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Explore the Pocono Mountains 350, Busch’s car got stuck in fourth gear, which hampered his ability to fire off pit road and to get up to speed on restarts.
But somehow, some way, while running on fumes late in the race, Busch had just enough to score his second win of the season.
After climbing from his No. 18 M&M’s Mini Toyota Camry, and taking his patented bow in front of the grandstands at Pocono, Busch said he and his team were simply trying to make lemonade out of lemons.
“Yeah, it’s stuck in fourth gear. Not out of gas. Just saving. Just riding. Just playing the best strategy we could with what was given to us,” Busch explained. “Just can’t say enough about everybody on my team. Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota, TRD, and all the work they’re putting in and everything.”
This marks Busch’s 59th-career NASCAR Cup Series win.
Following Busch to the line was Kyle Larson, who also made his fuel last to the end. Larson rallied from the rear, after a flat tire knocked him out on the last lap of Saturday’s race and forced him to a backup car for the second half of the weekend double-header.
“Surprising finish for us,” Larson admitted. “Our HendrickCars.com Chevy was really loose for the majority of the race and then we got a lot of nose damage there on one of the restarts. It was off on speed after that, but Cliff and everybody did a really, really good job managing the race and coaching me through saving fuel there at the end.”
Brad Keselowski finished third, Kevin Harvick came home fourth and Bubba Wallace scored the first ever top-five and top-10 for 23XI Racing with a solid fifth-place finish.
Wallace was elated to have a weekend where everything went right.
“All in all, really solid weekend,” Wallace said. “Great day for DraftKings, their first week on the car. First top-five for the team. I think that’s a little pen to paper action to re-sign, re-up there. But all in all, happy with how the weekend went.”
Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Ryan Preece, Tyler Reddick and Joey Logano rounded out the top-10 finishers on the day.
As Busch made it to the line with enough fuel, several others like William Byron and Denny Hamlin weren’t so fortunate. Byron, who looked to potentially have the race won, didn’t have enough fuel and had to pit coming to two laps to go. Hamlin, who assumed the lead, followed suit a lap later.
Byron would finish 12th, while Hamlin, who is still seeking his first win of 2021, finished 14th.
For Hamlin it was the frustrating continuation of a recent trend of not being able to make it to the finish of the race without an extra pit stop.
“I just do what I’m told,” Hamlin seethed. “Don’t run when I’m not supposed to run. Run when I’m supposed to run. The result is we have pitted on the last lap three weeks in a row. That’s tough. I hate seeing the light coming to pit road. Fuel mileage has got us the last two weeks and lug nuts the week before.”