In what will no doubt go down in the books as one of the crazier races at the ‘Tricky Triangle’, here are the highlights of what was surprising and not surprising from the Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Surprising: In an unusual race where one of his team’s drivers run out of fuel on the way to a fourth straight win and one of his other drivers coasted into Victory Lane, the best quote of the day was from Coach Joe Gibbs.
He told Sirius XM radio’s Claire B. Lang, “I’ve been going to Victory Lane so much that I might just have to go to rehab.”
This was Joe Gibbs Racing’s fourth consecutive win in that same number of races.
“It was a big deal today the way everything played out,” Gibbs added. “But I think you do, in pro sports you realize how hard it is to win a race, and when you get in a situation like this, you really want to enjoy it, and I think we do.”
Not Surprising: Matt Kenseth accomplished a first-time twofer as he took the checkered flag with just enough fuel left for a burnout.
“Today is a first,” Kenseth said. “I checked two things off the list. I won at Pocono, I didn’t think that would ever happen, and I won a fuel-mileage race, I didn’t think that would ever happen.
“There’s been a few through the years that I thought we had it all figured out, and we were the only one that was going to make it and all that stuff and you catch an untimely caution and there’s been some other ones where you are kind of dominating the race and you’re out there and you run out of gas and somebody back mid-pack had enough gas to make it and have lost several like that.
“Feels good to get one like that. We had a fast car and we were able to get the fuel mileage good enough to get the win.
“So yeah, this is a first for me.”
Surprising: It was Groundhog Day at Pocono, at least for the eerily similar three crashes that happened with cars smacking into the pit road wall. It happened to Ray Black Jr. in the Truck race, as well as Jeb Burton in practice. And then the third hit happened in nearly the same way but in the race to Kasey Kahne.
“I just got loose really late, so far off the corner,” Kahne said. “A really late exit. I’m not sure why or what happened. It just jumped out. You’re so far off the corner, to slow slide and get so far down pit road, it was crazy.
“I’ve never ended up over there like that. I don’t know why that was. I couldn’t believe when the No. 26 (Jeb Burton) did earlier this weekend and then I did.”
Not Surprising: While several drivers, especially those that ran out of fuel, might want to put Pocono in their rear view mirror, there was one driver who no doubt burned rubber leaving the track.
“It was one of those days,” Sam Hornish Jr. said. “I missed a shift on a restart which wasn’t any good and then we had a tire come apart and then we got hit and then Kurt (Busch) was trying to hold on to it and I saw that he got it straightened back out and it is one of those things where everything stops smoking long enough that you think he has it back under control again and then it is just wobbling around on him.
“Unfortunate for us for sure. I love coming to Pocono and I have had some good runs here and led laps and felt like we could win races, but it just hasn’t been for us this year.”
Surprising: There was no one more surprised than Kyle Busch that the race went green at the end, especially given the many early race cautions. And the driver, who was hoping for his fourth consecutive win and a boost into Chase contention, was also surprised that he was short enough on fuel not to make it to the finish line.
“It was a caution-filled race there for a while,” Busch said. “I was surprised the end then went green. I don’t know where we were on our strategy and all of that stuff.
“I’ve got to debrief with Adam (Stevens, crew chief), but I don’t know how close we were and if we were one lap short of making it then I probably needed to save or do a better job of running those last 30 laps or so.
“We were short, we run out, but we went down swinging so I can’t fault my guys for that. An awesome call, they called the race right and another Monster Energy can of gas and we’d be winning another one.”
Not Surprising: The irrepressible Clint Bowyer was nearly jumping up and down when he got out of his race car after finishing top-10.
“Holy cow that was a finish,” the driver of the No. 15 Maxwell House Toyota said of his eighth place run. “What a race. We got caught with the caution lights and had a heck of a comeback. We were able to save enough fuel and give the Maxwell House Toyota a great finish.”
Surprising: The fourth place finisher felt like a time traveler when all was said and done at the ‘Tricky Triangle.’
“Yeah, in the booth up there, they turned the clock back to 1973 and let that thing play out a little bit and let everybody run out of gas,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “That was pretty cool. It’s kind of like some of the older races where you just can’t count on them to throw them cautions there at the end. And they didn’t today.”
Not Surprising: For his very last appearance at Pocono, Jeff Gordon actually went off script and could not have been more pleased with the result.
“No, the script I had played out in my head was we were going to be 15th, so this one was way better than that,” the driver of the No. 24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet said after finishing third.
“For whatever reason the last couple times we’ve been here we’ve had decent race cars, not maybe the cars that we would have liked to have had, but cars far capable of better finishes than what we’ve had, have been getting, and just a lot of different circumstances not playing out. Some to our own credit and others just circumstances.
“Today finally one went our way for a change, which is really nice to bounce back after last week’s unfortunate incident where we lost so many points.”
Gordon gained one spot in the point standings, moving from the 11th spot up to 10th.
Surprising: In spite of overcoming adversity, including hitting two of his pit crew members during a doomed stop, to finish runner-up, Brad Keselowski felt surprising empathy, in fact even heartbreak, for his teammate’s misfortune at the race end.
“The fuel came into play at the end and we were able to take care of it to bring home second, which is a very respectable day,” Keselowski said. “Certainly not where we were going to finish without the fuel, but that is sometimes how it works.
“I think my teammate (Joey Logano) and his team did a phenomenal job. I am heartbroken for them to not win the race.”
Not Surprising: Mama told him there would be days like this, so Kevin Harvick was able to let his first DNF since April 2014 roll off his back.
“Yeah, coming around turn two I knew I had some issues but didn’t realize they were going to be that big,” Harvick said. I’m just really proud of my Jimmy John’s/Budweiser team. The car was fast. You’ll have days like this.”
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series will travel to battle the road course at Watkins Glen. The CHEEZ-It 355 at The Glen will run at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN on Sunday, August 9.