It appeared Kyle Busch was out of it when he pitted with 25 laps to go. With 16 to go, however, he put the chrome bumper to Kevin Harvick and set sail to victory in the Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Martin Truex Jr. commanded the race on the final restart on Lap 106. Cars started hitting pit road for the final time with 37 to go, and Truex followed suit three laps later. Busch assumed the race lead, having yet to pit. He did so with 25 to go.
Brad Keselowski led the next five circuits before making his final stop, cycling the lead to Denny Hamlin.
With 17 to go, Harvick got to Hamlin’s inside and made the pass for the lead rounding Turn 1, but he didn’t hold it to the start/finish line as Busch bumped him out of the racing groove rounding Turn 3 and took the lead with 16 to go.
The gap from him to Harvick widened further as the laps closed and he drove across the line to claim his 39th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory in 447 career starts.
“I never thought this day would happen. Such an awesome race car. Adam Stevens and all these guys on this No. 18 team, they never give up. They’ve been fighting all year long. We’ve all been fighting all year long. Just wasn’t sure why, you know, or what was next, but obviously this is a great day for us. Great day for all of our fans. Appreciate the fans here at Pocono. Thanks for coming out. This is something I’ve been waiting for for a long, long time.”
Harvick finished second and Truex rounded out the podium.
Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-five.
Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-10.
Busch led the field to the green flag at 3:20 p.m. He lost the lead during a cycle of green flag stops on Lap 22, but powered by Matt Kenseth going into Turn 1 to take it back and win the first stage. During the aforementioned pit cycle, Truex, Jones, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kenseth all led.
Kenseth regained the lead by opting not to pit under the stage break, only to lose it when Busch powered by him on the outside through Turn 3 on the Lap 56 restart. He held it until caution flew on Lap 70, debris from Kyle Larson’s car, saw him lose it to Hamlin exiting pit road. But because Hamlin didn’t maintain pace car speed, Race Director David Hoots bumped him from the lead and moved up Austin Dillon.
His time up front didn’t last long, however, as Hamlin too it back on the restart, going into Turn 1.
Truex returned to the lead on Lap 90, but opted to short-pit the second stage with three laps remaining in it. This handed the lead to Clint Bowyer, who won the stage and set up the run to the finish.
Caution flew for the first time on the first lap for a multi-car wreck in Turn 3. Jimmie Johnson brought out the third caution on Lap 57 when he made contact with teammate Kasey Kahne and spun out in Turn 3.
NUTS & BOLTS
The race lasted two hours, 50 minutes and seven seconds at an average speed of 141.080 mph. There were six lead changes among nine different drivers and five cautions for 21 laps.
Truex leaves with an 85-point lead over Larson.