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In a Nutshell: The Camping World Truck Series Overton’s 150 began as yet another walk in the park for Kyle Busch.
But on lap 35, Busch’s bad break turned up the heat on what had been a boring Pocono affair. The floodgates were busted wide open when Kyle Busch crashed in the Tunnel Turn, ending his day. Busch wrecked after leading the opening 32 laps en route to winning the first two stages.
The next restart sparked another crash in Turn 1, which led to yet another restart and a jumbled running order near the front. Eventually, Matt Crafton shoved John Hunter Nemechek into the lead. But Christopher Bell got to Nemechek’s back bumper with nine laps to go, making the pass with a handful of circuits remaining.
Bell led seven laps en route to his fourth checkered flag of the season.
Who Should Have Won: Hands down, Busch had the best truck. However, on lap 35, Justin Haley went down the track as the duo entered the Tunnel Turn, clipping the right rear of the No. 51 truck and turning him into the outside wall.
“I don’t know why he’s mad at me,” Busch said after his incident. “It felt like I got crashed. It’s pretty bad to see that happen and to see it going in a corner like that. It’s frustrating. It was a brand new truck. I’m pretty sure it’s hurt. I don’t know what excuse he would have. But I’ll move on. Tomorrow’s tomorrow and we’re going to play with the big boys.”
Busch picked up his fifth and sixth Truck stage victories of the season. In his other four stage victories in 2017, he went on to win the race at both Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Johnny Sauter Comes from the Back to the Front
After qualifying seventh for Saturday’s Overton’s 150, Johnny Sauter had to start from the rear due to a broken valve. It didn’t take long for Sauter to get to the top 10.
In fact, the No. 21 truck ended the opening stage in 10th, earning a stage point. Which is something he thought would be easily done due to the speed his GMS Racing truck showed in practice on Friday. In the first practice, Sauter was sixth on the board, while ending final practice in third.
A handful of drivers decided to pit prior to the end of the second stage, hoping to make the right strategy call to get ahead of Busch. Of those drivers, Sauter restarted as the leader proceeding the second stage. The No. 21 truck led the next 12 laps before Nemechek got by him with 17 laps to go.
“You’re kind of a sitting duck,” Sauter said of the restarts. “You sit here and say you could have done this or you could have did that, but I tried to mix it up as much as I possibly could, but I wasn’t fast enough. Way too tight on corner exit and I don’t know why because when I got clean air the thing would fly. I just never got that opportunity because they got me on the restart.”
Sauter crossed the finish-line in fifth, notching his eighth top-five finish of the season. The No. 21 truck has been among the top 10 in all but two races this season, and was coming into Pocono having to rebound from his worst finish of the season at Eldora of 24th.
As for Pocono, and starting in the rear, Sauter said he knew track position was going to be important. Once he was back in dirty air, it was hard to pass.
Cody Coughlin picks up First Career Top 10
It took 24 career races, but Cody Coughlin finally captured his first-career top-10 finish, coming at Pocono Raceway, where he placed 13th last season.
Coughlin, 21, started Saturday’s event from 13th, the worst of the four ThorSport Racing machines. The No. 13 truck did not earn any stage points in either of the opening two stages, but like Sauter, pitted with a few laps remaining hoping to get track position to start the final 30 lap stage.
With a caution coming out for Busch as soon as the race resumed, it allowed Coughlin to keep his track position in the top five. Along with Sauter and the No. 13 truck, Crafton, Enfinger and Haley all were on the same strategy.
With an 17-lap run to the finish, Coughlin was able to stay in the top 10, coming home eighth, the second highest finishing rookie of the race, just behind Austin Cindric, who finished seventh.
“It was a good day,” Coughlin said post-race. “We’ve been running there all year, we just haven’t finished there. It was nice to at least finish where we’ve been running, but we want to run better. I’m happy with it.”
With the finish, Coughlin gained points on Haley who is just ahead of him in the standings. Dating back to the eighth race of the season at Gateway Motorsports Park, the No. 13 truck has matched his number in the standings in 13th.
Last week at Eldora, Coughlin posted what was then a career-best finish of 11th. The Ohio native believes that it’s just a matter of time before he starts clicking up top 10s on a regular basis.
“If we could just finish races, we would have career-bests every week,” hes said. “I think it’s good momentum, for sure”
The series heads to Michigan in two weeks, where Coughlin had a good showing last season until he crashed with six laps remaining, resulting in a 20th-place effort. Through 12 races this season, the No. 13 truck has an average finish of 15th.
- Bell picked up his fourth victory of the season, one shy of William Byron’s mark at this point of the season that he set in 2016. It’s Kyle Busch Motorsports sixth victory of the season. Though Busch looked to be the dominant truck, the No. 4 team capitalized and picked up his second top-10 finish in as many starts at Pocono.
- Ben Rhodes came home second after recording his first pole of the season. Coming into Pocono, the No. 27 team had dropped three positions in the championship standings after having three consecutive finishes of 14th or worse. With the runner-up finish, Rhodes is now sixth in the standings, seventh on the playoff grid, five points above Grant Enfinger, the first driver below the playoff cutoff.
- On lap 39, three rookies had a rough going when Chase Briscoe got into the side of Kaz Grala, sending him up into the path of Noah Gragson. The No. 18 truck got the worst of the accident, as Gragson hobbled out of his car, looking as though he was trying to catch his breath. Briscoe rebounded to finish ninth, while Grala and Gragson finished 23rd and 24th, respectively.
- With four races remaining until the playoff cutoff at Chicagoland Speedway, the battle for the final two playoff positions is a tight one. The aforementioned Rhodes sits seventh on the board, five points ahead of Enfinger. Ryan Truex, who placed third in Saturday’s race jumped up to the final position, four points ahead of the No. 98 truck.
Truck Rookie Report
2017 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
No. of rookies in the race: 9
No. of rookies to finish in the top 10: Cindric was the highest finishing Truck Series rookie, finishing seventh. Coughlin came home a career-high eighth, while Briscoe and Hayley rounded out the top 10.
Rookie of the Race: Cindric
Points Update: With the victory, Bell took back the points lead over Sauter, upping the reigning champion by seven markers. It’s only the second time in his brief history that the 22-year-old has held the points lead, also taking the helm after his first victory of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Since then, the No. 4 truck has been second in the standings to Sauter.
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series has a week off before heading to Michigan International Speedway on August 12. Coverage of the LTI Printing 200 begins at 1 p.m. ET On Fox Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiruisXM NASCAR Channel 90.