Hamlin saves enough fuel to earn fifth career win at Pocono

Coming off last week’s loss at New Hampshire Denny Hamlin had hopes of winning at Pocono Raceway, a track where he has been so successful over the years. Despite fuel concerns and one NASCAR Overtime, Hamlin was able to hold off his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr. for his third win of the 2019 season and his first since Texas back in March.

“He (Chris Gabehart, Crew Chief) said we were good to the checkers, but not the green-white-checkered,” Hamlin said in his post-race interview with MRN Radio. “He said, we were going to have to have a different conversation if it went into overtime, but I knew with all of those caution laps with about six or seven to go, I knew we were good to go. It helped us out, honestly, I did everything I could to save fuel there when I got out front. If it was going to be not enough, it was going to be not enough.”

“Proud of the whole team putting me on great strategy there. This is a perfect team effort this weekend. We really identified our weakness from the first race and we went to work, as a driver and a team, therefore we’re better for it.”

Kevin Harvick sat on the pole after Saturday afternoon qualifying with Joey Logano on the outside pole. Several cars failed prerace inspection on Sunday morning. Those included Austin Dillon who failed twice for a rear toe issue, Jimmie Johnson, William Byron, Michael McDowell, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Corey Lajoie, Ross Chastain and Reed Sorenson. Everyone who failed the pre-race inspection had to go to the back when the race started.

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Also going to the back were Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, who wrecked during Saturday morning practice sessions and had to go a backup car.

Stages were broken up into 50/50/60 laps to make up the 160-lap race.

Stage 1: Lap 1-Lap 50

The green flag for the Monster Energy NASCAR Gander RV 400 was moved to 3:08 p.m. ET Sunday due to the potential threat of rain showers. The PJ1 traction compound was also reapplied to the track on Sunday morning.

It was all Kevin Harvick from the get-go but there were a few minor incidents. Brad Keselowski who had been struggling all weekend hit the wall on the front stretch and had a right rear tire go down on Lap 5.

Just a few laps later, pit strategy came into play with Alex Bowman pitting on Lap 14 in hopes of splitting the stage up. More drivers started to come down between Laps 21-39. Kyle Busch and Jones pitted from the top five at the beginning of the green-flag pit stops. During the pit stop, Jones had an issue with the wrench breaking off which was a potential concern, but it never really became a problem for the No. 20 team.

On Lap 39, Harvick finally pitted from the lead along with Hamlin, from the top two spots. Both would have to stop two more times during the race. On the same lap, we would see Kyle Busch cycle out of the pit stops as the race leader. Busch would hang on to for the rest of the stage and win Stage 1.

Joey Logano, Harvick, Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Jones, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-10 finishers of Stage 1.

Stage 2: Lap 54-Lap 100

Harvick would recycle as the leader after staying out under the stage break. On Lap 61, Blaney made contact with the wall and had to pit for extensive damage. Four laps later, Kyle Busch made his pit stop. Jimmie Johnson also had issues under his pit stop, catching a jack.

A battle for the lead started began to heat up between Busch and Harvick as the weather started to threaten the area. Busch was able to take the top spot on Lap 72, with Harvick pitting on Lap 78. A caution flew on Lap 83 for Chase Elliott, who blew a right-front tire and came to a stop on the frontstretch. Elliott wound up with a disappointing last-place finish.

Kyle Busch stayed out, while a few others like Larson, Logano, Truex, Keselowski, Bowyer, Daniel Hemric, Bubba Wallace, Jones, Austin Dillon and Almirola, pitted.

As the restart came on Lap 87, rain hit the racetrack bringing out the caution again on Lap 91. However, it was a short-lived rain shower and the race resumed with five to go in Stage 2.

Race leader Busch pitted with three to go, as he had fuel concerns. However, an unlucky caution occurred one lap later when Daniel Suarez and Blaney made contact with each other with two to go in the second stage, and sent Blaney spinning, bringing out another yellow.

The Stage would end under caution with Johnson winning the stage, his first stage win since 2017. Harvick followed in second as Logano, Truex, Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Jones, Keselowski, Bowman and Larson all finished inside the top-10. Busch finished a disappointing 25th after leading at one point.

Stage 3: Lap 103-Lap 163

In what would be an exciting third and final stage, Hamlin took the lead after the restart. Busch was back inside the top-10 on Lap 113. Another caution flag was flown, however, on Lap 115, for Ryan Preece who slammed into the Turn 1 wall. Preece wound up 37th after the incident.

From there, it became a fuel mileage race to the finish. Jones reported that he was two laps short with 33 to go. Many other drivers also had concerns about saving fuel, including Hamlin. Anticipating that the leaders could run out of fuel, Busch pitted with 26 to go. Hamlin would wind up passing Jones for the lead with 17 to go and Truex moved up to second a few laps later.

Pole sitter Kevin Harvick also started to close in on the race leaders and was told that he was good to go on fuel to the checkers, barring any yellows. While it looked as though Hamlin would run away with the win, a caution came out with eight laps to go for the No. 53 of Josh Bilicki who stalled on the backstretch.

There was a broad range of different strategies with Bowman, Kurt Busch, Logano, DiBenedetto, Stenhouse and Blaney, among others, pitting, while the top leaders including Harvick, Hamlin and Jones, among others, opting to stay out.

A restart came with four to go, but another caution occurred almost immediately as Kurt Busch accidentally came up and made contact with Stenhouse, causing him to hit the wall off Turn 1. Stenhouse retaliated by wrecking Busch, which also collected Michael McDowell. Also, Suarez was penalized for laying back on the restart.

The incident set up a NASCAR Overtime finish with two laps to go. Despite having some fuel concerns for potential multiple overtimes, Hamlin was able to hang on to tie NASCAR legend Fireball Roberts on the all-time wins list with 34 career wins.

“The lap traffic was a benefit for me,” Hamlin added. “It kind of slowed down the 20 (Jones) and I saw he was letting off early on entry and that allowed me to dive-bomb on the outside into the PJ1 in Turn 1. With the 19 (Truex) he had to go low to pass a lap car. I just decided to take the middle lane in Turns (3 and 4). Once again, I had an extra lane that wasn’t there in the past and I was able to get around him. Just once you get behind, it’s so hard to pass but we were able to get it done.”

Hamlin led twice for 53 laps to earn his third win of the 2019 season. There were seven cautions for 24 laps along with nine lead changes among five drivers.

Playoff Watch

  1. Kyle Busch
  2. Martin Truex Jr
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Brad Keselowski
  5. Joey Logano
  6. Kevin Harvick
  7. Kurt Busch
  8. Chase Elliott
  9. Alex Bowman
  10. Aric Almirola, +94
  11. Ryan Blaney, +79
  12. William Byron, +62
  13. Erik Jones, +39
  14. Kyle Larson, +37
  15. Clint Bowyer, +12
  16. Ryan Newman, +12

    Below The Cut Line
  17. Jimmie Johnson, -12
  18. Daniel Suarez, -31
  19. Paul Menard, -68
  20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr, -88

Monster Energy Cup Series Race Number 21
Race Results for the 46th Annual Gander RV 400 – Sunday, July 28, 2019
Pocono Raceway – Long Pond, PA – 2.5 – Mile Paved
Total Race Length – 163 Laps – 407.5 Miles

Fin Str No Driver Team Laps S1Pos S2Pos S3Pos Pts Status
1 9 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground Toyota 163 4 5 0 53 Running
2 4 20 Erik Jones Reser’s Main St Bistro Toyota 163 7 7 0 43 Running
3 8 19 Martin Truex Jr Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Toyota 163 5 4 0 47 Running
4 31 24 William Byron Liberty University Chevrolet 163 0 0 0 33 Running
5 23 42 Kyle Larson Credit One Bank Chevrolet 163 6 10 0 38 Running
6 1 4 Kevin Harvick Busch Beer Gen X Ford 163 3 2 0 48 Running
7 17 8 Daniel Hemric # Caterpillar Chevrolet 163 0 0 0 30 Running
8 11 2 Brad Keselowski Alliance Truck Parts Ford 163 0 8 0 32 Running
9 5 18 Kyle Busch Skittles Toyota 163 1 0 0 38 Running
10 30 12 Ryan Blaney MoneyLion Ford 163 0 0 0 27 Running
11 13 14 Clint Bowyer Toco Warranty/Haas Automation Ford 163 10 0 0 27 Running
12 3 10 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 163 8 0 0 28 Running
13 2 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 163 2 3 0 41 Running
14 19 6 Ryan Newman Performance Plus Ford 163 0 0 0 23 Running
15 32 48 Jimmie Johnson Ally Chevrolet 163 0 1 0 32 Running
16 33 37 Chris Buescher Kroger Fast Start Chevrolet 163 0 0 0 21 Running
17 10 95 Matt DiBenedetto Toyota Express Maintenance Toyota 163 0 0 0 20 Running
18 16 21 Paul Menard Menards/Duracel Optimum Ford 163 0 0 0 19 Running
19 34 3 Austin Dillon Freightliner Chevrolet 163 0 6 0 23 Running
20 12 88 Alex Bowman Nationwide Chevrolet 163 0 9 0 19 Running
21 14 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Performance Ford 163 0 0 0 16 Running
22 21 43 Bubba Wallace Victory Junction Chevrolet 163 0 0 0 15 Running
23 22 36 Matt Tifft # Surface Sunscreen Ford 163 0 0 0 14 Running
24 7 41 Daniel Suarez Haas Automation Ford 163 0 0 0 13 Running
25 35 34 Michael McDowell Long John Silver’s Ford 163 0 0 0 12 Running
26 36 32 Corey LaJoie Adirondack Tree Surgeons Ford 162 0 0 0 11 Running
27 6 1 Kurt Busch Monster Energy Chevrolet 162 9 0 0 12 Running
28 24 0 Landon Cassill(i) Mane N Tail Chevrolet 159 0 0 0 0 Running
29 25 13 Ty Dillon GEICO Military Chevrolet 159 0 0 0 8 Running
30 37 15 Ross Chastain(i) Chevrolet 159 0 0 0 0 Running
31 28 77 Quin Houff Rapid City Rush Chevrolet 158 0 0 0 6 Running
32 38 27 * Reed Sorenson Lehigh Valley Phantoms Chevrolet 158 0 0 0 5 Running
33 27 51 BJ McLeod(i) JACOB COMPANIES/Pocono Organics Ford 158 0 0 0 0 Running
34 29 52 Austin Theriault Trick Shot/Bangor Savings Bank Ford 157 0 0 0 3 Running
35 26 53 * Josh Bilicki(i) Token 4 Token Chevrolet 146 0 0 0 0 Driveshaft
36 15 38 David Ragan MDS Transport Ford 123 0 0 0 1 Accident
37 20 47 Ryan Preece # Kroger Chevrolet 114 0 0 0 1 Accident
38 18 9 Chase Elliott NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet 83 0 0 0 1 Accident

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