Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How behind Sunday’s race? Amy Henderson has you covered each week with the answers to six race-day questions, covering all five Ws and even the H… the Big Six.
Who… gets my shoutout of the race?
Racing is a game of skill, strategy, and running smart. When all of those things work together, a driver can surprise everyone, and that’s what Landon Cassill did on Sunday. Cassill was quietly solid all day, lurking in a decent position for his underfunded team. For the No. 40, a top 25 is a very good day, and a top 20 is a major breakthrough. A top 15? Almost a pipe dream considering the number of competitive teams these days. But this week, Cassill drove a clean, smart race and had enough fuel left in the tank when so many others ran dry. That meant a 14th-place finish for the No. 40, the team’s best finish ever on a track that doesn’t run restrictor plates. A caveat in NASCAR is that lack of money does not equal lack of talent, and Cassill showed that to be true at the Tricky Triangle.
What… beyond the drivers’ control affected the action?
While it’s not completely beyond their control, the biggest influence on the race was undoubtedly fuel mileage. Teams made their own beds with late pit strategy, banking on cautions that never came, and when they didn’t, several tanks had nothing left, including some teams who thought they had enough to go the distance. Mileage on a run is only partially up to the drivers; after all, you can only go so slow to conserve because it is still a race. Mileage races aren’t popular with fans, but they do highlight the importance of strategy and the razor-thin margins teams operate on throughout a race. And you can’t say the closing laps weren’t exciting as team after team came up short… who would make the end and win? It may not be a fender-banging shootout, but there were plenty of white knuckles, nonetheless.
A couple of NASCAR’s calls are also in question this week. What on Earth was up with holding the caution after Brad Keselowski‘s tire rolled away on pit road? NASCAR had said the tire was in a “safe area” but changed its collective mind a few laps later, only the tire hadn’t moved. It initially rolled into a blocked-off area, but almost immediately rolled back before coming to a stop, yet NASCAR waited to throw the caution afterward for another lap. A tire might not seem like a big deal, but at nearly 100 pounds apiece, when mounted, had someone hit it and it flown into the pits, it could have been very bad indeed.
Another pit road call, this one a penalty to the No. 13 team of Casey Mears, was also questionable. Mears suffered a penalty for having too many men over the wall on a lap 126 stop. While the team admitted that it was technically the case, the extra man was, according to a team Twitter post, pushed over the wall by a track safety worker. If that’s the case, it should have been evident on video… and if it was evident on video, NASCAR should have reversed the call. Teams should be held responsible for errors they make. But in this case, a person not under the team’s control forced the mistake, and penalizing for that doesn’t sit right.
Lap 130, Casey has been assessed a pass-thru penalty for too many guys over the wall. Fireman knocked a guy over the wall. Bad call. #nascar
— GEICO Racing (@GEICORacing) August 2, 2015
Where… did the polesitter and the defending race winner wind up?
Kyle Busch was looking to win his fourth race in a row, and he drove like it in the closing laps, closing on leader Joey Logano after the final restart of the day. But in the end, Busch’s hard charging came with a price as he ran out of fuel on the frontstretch just after he took the white flag. It’s a long way around at Pocono and Busch had to pull onto an access road, thus not completing the final lap and falling to 21st. As a result, he’ll have to wait at least one more week to try and break into the top-30 and lock down a Chase spot.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. came in hoping to defend his win from a year ago. His day started well; Earnhardt was running in the top five by lap 40. However, a lap 72 spin after contact with Cole Whitt seemingly put an end to his effort. Earnhardt had one more chance at a good finish, though: fuel mileage. He was able to go the distance on the final run, and that was good enough for a solid fourth-place finish.
When… did it all go sideways?
While several drivers were involved in a lot of crashes, the scariest moment came when Kasey Kahne spun onto pit road just five laps into the race, slamming the pit wall between AJ Allmendinger‘s and Travis Kvapil‘s pits. Nobody was hurt, but some helmets that were sitting on the wall were thrown 25 feet behind the pits and a piece of Kahne’s car was embedded in the wall. Kahne’s crash was the second one of the weekend to involve the pit wall; Jeb Burton spun in the same manner during Saturday practice and hit just a few pit boxes away. When Kahne spun, he was almost in Burton’s tire marks. Kahne was slow to get out but was unhurt. A 14-minute, 43-second red flag was required to repair pit wall with metal plates. It was a reminder that NASCAR can never be safe enough.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 2, 2015
Allmendinger’s team tweeted a couple of photos of the damage.
— JTG Daugherty Racing (@JTGRacing) August 2, 2015
— JTG Daugherty Racing (@JTGRacing) August 2, 2015
Why… did Matt Kenseth win the race?
You will often hear drivers talk about putting themselves in position to win. It’s all about running the right strategy and capitalizing when others don’t plan quite so well. This week, that’s exactly what Kenseth and Co. did. Kenseth was running in the top five on the final restart, perhaps not fast enough to win, but fast enough to hold off a lot of other drivers, and that put him in position should anything go wrong in front of him. When it did go wrong for Logano, then Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch, Kenseth inherited the lead and took it all the way to the checkers, reminding everyone that the fastest car doesn’t always win if it doesn’t also have the best strategy.
How… did the little guys do?
The Three Best
JTG Daugherty Racing, Allmendinger: The No. 47 team played the fuel-mileage game with skill and that meant taking a top-15 car and finishing seventh with it, exactly what a smart team should be doing. They’ve struggled a bit more this year than in 2014, but Allmendinger is the defending race winner at Watkins Glen and he’s an outstanding road racer, so look for another strong performance next week.
Hillman-Smith Motorsports, Cassill: Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and others it’s better to be smart. Cassill and Co. ran a solid race, putting themselves in great position to capitalize when several teams fuel calculations didn’t hold. His 14th-place finish is his team’s best ever on a non-restrictor-plate track.
Furniture Row Racing, Truex: Truex ran much better than the results show. He had a top-five car all day long, and could have made a run at a Pocono sweep had the fuel-mileage bug not bitten. Adding insult to injury, Truex was caught speeding entering pit road on his forced final stop, he would have finished 10th but the penalty knocked him back to 19th.
All the Rest
|47||AJ Allmendinger||JTG Daugherty Racing||Bush’s Grillin’ Beans Chevy||22nd||7th|
Fuel mileage paid off for the No. 47 bunch
|40||Landon Cassill||Hillman-Smith Motorsports||Chevy||29th||14th|
Strong, smart race
|78||Martin Truex Jr.||Furniture Row Racing||Furniture Row Chevy||13th||19th|
Speeding penalty compounded with fuel mileage problem
|51||Justin Allgaier||HScott Motorsports||Fraternal Order of Eagles/Switch Hitch Chevy||31st||24th|
Solid run overall
|7||Alex Bowman||Tommy Baldwin Racing||FW1 Wash & Wax Chevy||28th||25th|
Ran a smart race and it paid off
|46||Michael Annett||HScott Motorsports||Pilot Flying J Chevy||39th||26th|
Needed a solid run and got it
|35||Cole Whitt||Front Row Motorsports||MDS Ford||33rd||27th|
Whitt reported difficulty in balance the three different turns; contact with Earnhardt Jr caused lap 72 crash
|13||Casey Mears||Germain Racing||GEICO Chevy||26th||28th|
Strong early, into top 15, but pit road penalty for removing equipment; second penalty for too many men over the wall late in the race (according to team, the extra man was pushed over by a safety worker)
|83||Matt DiBenedetto||BK Racing||Burger King Toyota||36th||29th|
DiBenedetto has been a real asset to this team
|23||JJ Yeley||BK Racing||Dr. Pepper Toyota||35th||30th||+5||N/A|
|34||Brett Moffitt||Front Row Motorsports||A&W Ford||32nd||31st|
Heavy tire rub lap 26 after contact with Gilliland; got lucky with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. caution, could pit under yellow
|32||Travis Kvapil||GO FAS Racing||Skuttle Tight Ford||40th||32nd||+8||N/A|
|38||David Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||Love’s Travel Stops Ford||37th||33rd|
Some damage from early contact with Moffitt
|98||Reed Sorenson||Premium Motorsports||Chevy||41st||34th||+7||41st|
|26||Jeb Burton||BK Racing||Maxim Toyota||38th||35th||+3||39th|
|62||Timmy Hill||Premium Motorsports||Ford||43rd||36th|
Equipment simply outclassed
|33||Alex Kennedy||Circle Sport||MediaCAST Chevy||42nd||38th|
Suffered heavy damage in lap 92 crash