Despite starting 28th due to failing post-qualifying inspection, Kyle Busch was a man on a mission in today’s Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono.
Finishing fourth in Stage 1, Busch and his crew parlayed some pit strategy at the end of Stage 2 for track position in Stage 3.
All told, Busch’s path to the front was not without some hardy challenges from his Joe Gibbs Racing stablemates.
“(Daniel) Suarez, man, I can’t say enough about my teammates,” Busch excitedly said. “What an awesome race! He was probably the third best car. He gave us a run for our money on the restarts. Last one, I spun my tires a bit too much and he got a good run. That gave (Erik) Jones a good opportunity.”
Certainly, as Busch took the field to green on lap 163, Suarez equaled the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion’s restart effort.
Running side-by-side heading into turn one, Jones saw a possible chance at victory as he ran inside of Suarez to make it three wide between the JGR clan.
However, Busch’s experience and powerful No. 18 Caramel M&M’s Toyota Camry was just too much on this race day. Drawing daylight between himself and Suarez, the 33-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada native drove his way to his sixth win of the 2018 MENCS season.
“Can’t say enough about Adam Stevens and all my guys,” Busch acknowledged. “Man, we fought it all weekend.”
Remarkably, Busch continued the winning ways of the MENCS triple threat. By all means, this season has turned into a regular season heavyweight match among NASCAR’s most aggressive veterans.
“What’s crazy is how this year keeps going,” Busch observed. “Harvick gets one, we get one, Truex gets one. We’re back and forth. We answered the fight this weekend without the fastest car.”
Meanwhile, Suarez made earnest challenges to prevent Busch from repeating his Pocono victory from last year. In the end, the Monterrey, Mexico native recognized how close he was to his first MENCS win.
“We lost the balance a little bit (in the beginning) and made some adjustments,” Suarez said. “We made the car better. I thought we were a solid top-five car. In a short run, I felt like we were the best car. It hurts to be close.”
Perhaps the biggest scare of the race was Bubba Wallace’s lap 155 crash. The rookie racer reportedly lost his brakes heading into Turn 1, resulting in a savage hit that destroyed both ends of his No. 43 Mile 22 Chevy Camaro.
Fortunately, the mild-mannered Wallace expressed gratitude and his trademark sense of humor following his horrifying accident.
“I’m OK,” Wallace said. “That was a huge hit. Everyone, back at home, I’m okay. Hardest one of my career. I was just telling them here, ‘There’s no feeling like being helpless in that situation going off into Turn 1.’ It scared the hell out of me.
We’re good. Bit my cheek, banged my foot off the pedal. I’m okay though. I’ll wake up tomorrow and I’ll be a little sore. The safety has come a long ways. It’s good to be able to climb out of the car. They gave me an ultrasound. No twins or anything.”
Ultimately, Busch prevailed with Suarez, Alex Bowman, Kevin Harvick, Jones, William Byron, Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, and Denny Hamlin taking top-10 finishes from the “Tricky Triangle.”
From scenic Long Pond, Pennsylvania to the Finger Lakes region of New York State, the MENCS tour prepares for next Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC and MRN Radio.