In a late turn of events, Chase Elliott was declared the winner of the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, July 24, after NASCAR disqualified the initial results of race winner Denny Hamlin and runner-up finisher Kyle Busch.
The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion from Dawsonville, Georgia, initially came home in third place behind Joe Gibbs Racing’s Hamlin and Busch. Two hours after Hamlin claimed the checkered flag on the track, however, the news of the disqualification involving Hamlin and Busch following the post-race inspection process was announced. This prompted NASCAR to award Elliott, who currently leads the regular-season standings, his fourth victory of the 2022 Cup season.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, Denny Hamlin claimed his third pole position of the season after his No. 11 FedEx Toyota TRD Camry posted a pole-winning lap at 169.991 mph in 52.944 seconds. Joining him on the front row was teammate Kyle Busch, whose No. 18 M&M’s Toyota TRD Camry clocked in a fast qualifying lap at 169.498 mph in 53.098 seconds.
On Saturday, NASCAR assessed L1 penalties to Petty GMS Motorsports’ two entries piloted by Ty Dillon and Erik Jones after both were found to have violated NASCAR’s Rule Book pertaining to the Rocker Box Assemblies. As a result, both entires were docked 35 driver/owner points and their crew chiefs, Jerame Donley and Dave Elenz were suspended for Sunday’s event. With the team electing not to appeal the penalty, Joey Cohen served as Dillon’s interim crew chief while Danny Efland served as Jones’ interim crew chief.
Prior to the event, William Byron, Ross Chastain, Justin Haley, Erik Jones and Cody Ware dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective cars. In addition, the No. 45 23XI Racing entry normally piloted by Kurt Busch dropped to the rear of the field due to a back-up car and for a driver change as Xfinity Series competitor Ty Gibbs took over the ride. Gibbs filled in for Busch, who was not medically cleared to compete following his wreck during qualifying on Saturday.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Hamlin rocketed toward the front with an early advantage exiting the frontstretch, but Kyle Busch gained a huge run through the first turn and grabbed the lead. Then, entering the Long Pond straightaway, Hamlin scrubbed the outside wall as he was overtaken by Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney. As the field fanned out through the Tricky Triangle’s three turns, Busch led the first lap as the field returned to the frontstretch. By then, Hamlin was back in fifth.
Through the first five scheduled laps, Kyle Busch was leading by two-and-a-half seconds over Chase Elliott followed by Larson, Hamlin and Blaney while Chris Buescher, Daniel Suarez, Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace and Alex Bowman were in the top 10.
During the following lap, the first caution flew when rookie Austin Cindric slipped sideways and spun in Turn 3 as he barely tapped the inside wall toward the frontstretch and flat-spotted the tires on his No. 2 Keystone Ford Mustang. During the extensive caution period, Joey Logano, Justin Haley, Bubba Wallace, William Byron, Kevin Harvick, rookie Todd Gilliland, Aric Almirola, rookie Harrison Burton, Michael McDowell, Cole Custer, Josh Bilicki and JJ Yeley pitted while the rest, led by Kyle Busch, remained on the track.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 12, Kyle Busch launched ahead on the outside lane, but he then went wide entering the first turn and lost both the lead and his momentum. With Busch losing the top spot and a bevy of spots, a three-wide battle for the lead occurred between Larson, Elliott and Hamlin through the Long Pond straightaway before Larson assumed the top spot with a strong move on the outside lane through the Tunnel Curve.
By Lap 15, Larson was leading by more than six-tenths of a second over teammate Elliott followed by Hamlin, Blaney and Suarez while Bubba Wallace, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell, Chris Buescher and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were in the top 10. Ross Chastain was in 11th followed by Tyler Reddick, Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones while Corey LaJoie, Michael McDowell, Austin Dillon, William Byron and rookie Harrison Burton were in the top 20. Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick was mired in 23rd behind teammate Chase Briscoe, Aric Almirola was in 25th in front of Logano, Brad Keselowski was in 29th and newcomer Ty Gibbs was in 33rd.
At the Lap 20 mark, Larson continued to lead by nearly four-tenths over teammate Elliott while Hamlin, Blaney and Suarez were in the top five. Behind, Kyle Busch started to challenge Suarez for sixth place while Wallace, Bell, Buescher and Chastain were in the top 10. Shortly after, Austin Dillon pitted under green as part of a strategic move.
By Lap 27, Bubba Wallace, Bell, Buescher, Chastain, Tyler Reddick, Alex Bowman and Stenhouse pitted under green. Just as they all peeled off the track to pit, the caution flew when Aric Almirola got loose and spun his No. 10 Haas Automation Ford Mustang in Turn 3 as he flat-spotted his tires. Almirola’s spin was enough for NASCAR to conclude the first stage scheduled for Lap 30 to conclude under caution and Larson claimed his third stage victory of the 2022 Cup season. Teammate Elliott settled in second followed by Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Suarez, Blaney, Erik Jones, Byron, Martin Truex Jr. and Harvick.
Under the stage break, Burton, Logano, BJ McLeod, Cody Ware, Bell, Chastain, Wallace, Buescher, Gilliland, Stenhouse, Austin Dillon, Reddick and Custer remained on the track while the rest, led by Larson, pitted.
The second stage started on Lap 34 as Burton and Logano occupied the front row. At the start, the field fanned out to multiple lanes approaching the first turn as Bell, who restarted behind Burton, challenged Burton for the lead. When the field returned to the start/finish line, Bell assumed the lead while Wallace overtook Bell for the runner-up spot. By then, Logano was back in sixth as Kyle Busch and Chastain were in the top five.
During the following lap and as the field continued to scramble for positions, the caution returned when Josh Bilicki suffered a flat tire, spun and wrecked in Turn 1.
As the race proceeded under green on Lap 40, the field fanned out to multiple lanes again approaching the first turn as Bell’s No. 20 Rheem Toyota TRD Camry retained the top spot ahead of Harrison Burton’s No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Mustang and Wallace’s No. 23 DoorDash Toyota TRD Camry. Not long after, however, the caution returned when Hamlin, who was running in 18th, got loose and spun his No. 11 FedEx Toyota TRD Camry past the Tunnel Curve in Turn 2 as he was dodged by the field. During the caution period, some drivers, including Austin Dillon, pitted, while the rest, led by Bell, remained on the track.
As the race restarted under green on Lap 44 and with the field fanning out, Bell retained the top spot on the outside lane while Wallace and Kyle Busch battled for the runner-up spot. Just as the field made its way through the first turn and entering the Long Pond straightaway, the caution flew when Corey LaJoie got loose underneath Michael McDowell. This caused McDowell to slip and slap the outside wall while LaJoie pounded the wall and came to a rest sideways and with damage to his car. During the caution period, Erik Jones, Stenhouse, Haley, McDowell, Noah Gragson, Cody Ware and McLeod pitted while the rest, led by Bell, remained on the track.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 48, Kyle Busch’s No. 18 M&M’s Toyota TRD Camry received a push from Ross Chastain’s No. 1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to the lead ahead of teammate Bell as the field spread out through the Long Pond straightaway and entering the Tunnel Curve.
By Lap 55, Kyle Busch was leading by more than a second over teammate Bell followed by Wallace, Larson and Byron while Truex, Chastain, Reddick, Bowman and Blaney were in the top 10. Burton was back in 11th ahead of Suarez, Buescher, Elliott and Harvick while Logano, Hamlin, Erik Jones, Briscoe and Almirola were in the top 20. By then, Logano pitted under green.
Two laps later, Wallace and Burton pitted under green while Kyle Busch extended his advantage to more than two seconds over teammate Bell and more than three seconds over third-place Larson. Bowman would also pit his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 under green.
Just past the Lap 60 mark, Byron and Harvick also pitted under green along with Bell, Larson, Suarez and Elliott as Kyle Busch remained the leader by more than six seconds over teammate Truex and nearly seven over Chastain.
On Lap 65, Kyle Busch surrendered the lead to pit under green followed by Buescher as Truex assumed the lead. By then, Chastain had also pitted. Another two laps later, Truex surrendered the lead to pit along with Almirola as Blaney cycled to the lead. By then, Reddick had completed his pit stop.
Through Lap 75, Erik Jones, who overtook Blaney for the lead two laps earlier, was leading by six-tenths of a second over Hamlin followed by Blaney Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon while Stenhouse, Brad Keselowski, McDowell, Kyle Busch and LaJoie were in the top 10.
At the halfway mark on Lap 80, Erik Jones continued to lead by eight-tenths of a second over Hamlin followed by Blaney, Austin Dillon and Stenhouse while Kyle Busch, McDowell, LaJoie, Gilliland and Larson were in the top 10. Shortly after, Blaney, who led seven laps, pitted under green.
Two laps later, the caution flew when Ty Dillon, who had just made a pit stop under green, spun past the Tunnel Curve in Turn 2. During the caution period, Wallace and Blaney remained on the track while the rest of the field, led by Erik Jones, pitted.
With seven laps remaining in the second stage, the event proceeded under green. At the start, Wallace received a push from Kyle Busch on the outside lane to emerge with the lead followed by Busch while Blaney fell back to third in front of Erik Jones, Hamlin, Chastain, Larson, Suarez and Byron. Through the Tunnel Curve, Busch quickly cycled his way back to the lead as Blaney also overtook Wallace for the runner-up spot. Not long after, Chastain, Erik Jones and Hamlin all overtook Wallace for spots in the top five as Kyle Bush ran away from the field.
With three laps remaining in the second stage, Wallace, who was falling below the leaderboard on old tires, pitted under green as Kyle Busch was out in front by nearly a second over Chastain. Meanwhile, Blaney and Erik Jones battled for third in front of Hamlin.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 95, Kyle Busch clinched his second stage victory of the 2022 season. Chastain settled in second followed by Blaney, Erik Jones, Hamlin, Harvick, Byron, Suarez, Elliott and Larson.
Under the stage break, some of the drivers, led by Buescher, pitted while the rest, led by Kyle Busch, remained on the track.
With 60 laps remaining, the final stage started as Kyle Busch and Chastain occupied the front row. At the start, Kyle Busch retained the lead ahead of Chastain while Hamlin made a bold three-wide move on Blaney and Erik Jones through the Long Pond straightaway and entering the Tunnel Curve to move into third place. Shortly after, Byron rocketed his No. 24 Raptor Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 into fourth place as Jones and Blaney fell back to fifth and sixth in front of Harvick and Bell.
Ten laps later, Kyle Busch retained the lead by three-tenths of a second over Chastain while Hamlin, Byron, Bell, Harvick, Erik Jones, Suarez, Elliott and Larson were in the top 10. A few laps earlier, Blaney pitted under green after his No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang sustained a flat left-rear tire.
Nearing the final 40 laps, names like Chris Buescher, Reddick, Stenhouse, Harvick and Austin Dillon pitted under green while Kyle Busch held a narrow advantage over Chastain. Soon after, Elliott pitted along with Suarez, Truex, Larson, Byron, Erik Jones and Aric Almirola. Following the pit stops, Byron was penalized for equipment interference.
With 37 laps remaining, Kyle Busch surrendered the lead to Chastain as he pitted under green along with teammate Bell and Bowman. During the following lap, Chastain pitted under green as Hamlin cycled to the lead.
Two laps later, Buescher spun in Turn 3, but the race continued under green as the leader, Hamlin, pitted under green. Once the rest of the field, including Logano and Wallace, pitted, Chastain cycled to the lead ahead of Kyle Busch and Hamlin.
Down to the final 30 laps of the event, Chastain was leading by nearly a second over rival Hamlin while third-place Kyle Busch trailed by one-and-a-half seconds.
Then seven laps later, the caution flew when Blaney got loose in Turn 3, spun and pounded the inside wall head-on. During the caution period, names like Gilliland, Austin Dillon, Keselowski, Bowman, Chase Briscoe, Byron, Haley, Ty Dillon, Gragson and Stenhouse pitted while the rest led by Chastain remained on the track.
With 19 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start, Chastain and Hamlin dueled for the lead entering the first turn. Then through the first turn, Hamlin, who was still irritated over his share of run-ins with Chastain throughout the season and vowed payback, moved up the track and edged Chastain into the outside wall, causing him to pound the wall. While Hamlin ran away with the lead, Chastain, who lost his momentum, was then hit by Harvick’s No. 4 Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang and Bell scraped the outside wall as Chastain spun and clipped the inside wall. The wreck spoiled Chastain’s opportunity to win along with Harvick’s opportunity to grab a win and keep his Playoff hopes alive.
When the race proceeded under green with 13 laps remaining, Hamlin retained the lead with a strong start on the outside lane followed by teammate Kyle Busch while Elliott was in third followed by Bell and Reddick. Behind, Suarez was in sixth followed by McDowell, Truex, Larson and Erik Jones.
With 10 laps remaining, Hamlin continued to lead by nearly eight-tenths of a second over teammate Kyle Busch followed by Elliott and Reddick while Suarez and Bell battled fiercely for fifth in front of McDowell, Truex and Larson. By then, Wallace rallied his way into 10th place.
Down to the final five laps of the event, Hamlin remained the leader by seven-tenths of a second over teammate Kyle Busch followed by Elliott, Reddick and Suarez.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Hamlin led by nearly nine-tenths of a second over teammate Kyle Busch. Despite enduring a bumpy road to victory from start to finish, Hamlin was able to smoothly navigate his way around the Tricky Triangle’s turns and straightaways for a final time as he beat Busch by nearly a second to grab what would have been his third victory of the 2022 season and a record-achieving seventh victory at Pocono.
“It’s the team,” Hamlin, who shared a victorious moment with his daughter, Taylor, on the frontstretch, said on USA Network. “They just were able to come back with a great strategy there to get us back upfront from the mistake I made. I just wanted to be a local short-track racer in Virginia. That’s all I really cared about. I was able to get a great break from [the late] J.D. Gibbs. That’s why I’m driving the No. 11 for Joe Gibbs Racing. It feels good to win here at Pocono.”
Following the event, however, NASCAR disqualified the first and second-place cars of race winner Hamlin and runner-up, Kyle Busch, due to their cars failing the post-race inspection process. NASCAR later stated that an issue with the front fascia was found on both cars, which prompted the sanctioning body to strip the results of both Joe Gibbs Racing competitors.
With Hamlin and Busch disqualified, Chase Elliott, who initially finished in third place, was awarded the victory. As a result, Elliott notched his fourth victory of the year, becoming the first four-time winner of this season. It was his first at Pocono and his 17th career win in NASCAR’s premier series. This also marks the first time this season that an initial Cup winner was disqualified due to an issue stemming from the post-race inspection process.
“Yeah, unfortunately, we were doing our post-race inspections, which we do,” Brad Moran, NASCAR Cup Series managing director, said following the announcement. “There were some issues discovered that affect aero of the vehicle. The part was the front fascia. There really was no reason why there was some material that was somewhere it shouldn’t have been, and that does basically come down to a DQ. It is a penalty, both for the 11 of Denny Hamlin and the 18 of Kyle Busch have been DQed. Their vehicles are being loaded in the NASCAR hauler and they’re going to go back to the R&D Center [in Concord, North Carolina].”
Joe Gibbs Racing has been given until 12 p.m. ET Monday to file an appeal.
Tyler Reddick was promoted to second place while Suarez, Bell and Larson finished in the top five. McDowell, Truex, Wallace, Erik Jones and Austin Dillon completed the top 10. Notably, Ty Gibbs finished 16th in his Cup debut.
There were 15 lead changes for 10 different leaders. The race featured nine cautions for 37 laps.
With five regular season races remaining this season, Chase Elliott continues to lead the regular season standings by 105 points over Ross Chastain.
Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, Joey Logano, William Byron, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez, Tyler Reddick, rookie Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe and Kurt Busch are currently guaranteed spots for the 2022 Cup Series Playoffs based on winning at least once throughout the regular-season stretch. Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. are above the top-16 cutline based on points. Kevin Harvick trails the top-16 cutline by 83 points, Aric Almirola by 140, Erik Jones by 182, Austin Dillon by 206, Michael McDowell by 207, Bubba Wallace by 236, Justin Haley by 247, Chris Buescher by 266, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by 287 and Cole Custer trails by 301.
1. Chase Elliott
2. Tyler Reddick
3. Daniel Suarez
4. Christopher Bell, 14 laps led
5. Kyle Larson, 18 laps led, Stage 1 winner
6. Michael McDowell
7. Martin Truex Jr., two laps led
8. Bubba Wallace, four laps led
9. Erik Jones, 11 laps led
10. Austin Dillon
11. Alex Bowman
12. William Byron
13. Aric Almirola
14. Brad Keselowski
15. Chase Briscoe
16. Ty Gibbs
17. Cole Custer
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
19. Corey LaJoie
20. Joey Logano
21. Justin Haley
22. Ty Dillon
23. Harrison Burton, four laps down
24. Noah Gragson
25. Todd Gilliland
26. Cody Ware
27. Kevin Harvick
28. JJ Yeley, one lap down
29. Chris Buescher, two laps down
30. BJ McLeod, two laps down
31. Austin Cindric, six laps down
32. Ross Chastain – OUT, Accident 16 laps led, Stage 2 winner (*Awarded after Kyle Busch’s disqualification)
33. Ryan Blaney – OUT, Accident, seven laps led
34. Josh Bilicki – OUT, Accident
35. Denny Hamlin – Disqualified, 21 laps led
36. Kyle Busch – Disqualified, 63 laps led
Next on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the series’ second annual event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, which will also mark the series’ fourth road course event of this season. The event is scheduled to occur on Sunday, July 31, at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.