Entering the weekend, everyone knew it was going to be a long one at Pocono Raceway. After all, it was the first doubleheader weekend in NASCAR Cup Series history.
But Mother Nature, she can be a b*tch at times. More weather delays, beginning on Saturday, which led to the first tripleheader at the same track on the same day among the top three national touring series on Sunday (June 28): starting at 9:30 a.m. ET, ending 11 hours later, spanning 291 laps and 727.5 miles.
With a lot of racing, it means more stats. Let’s dig in.
Coming off a championship-winning 2019 season, Kyle Busch was automatically one of the favorites for the 2020 title. Now, 15 races in, we might have to reassess.
At the beginning of the year, there was so much talk about “What’s wrong with Toyota?” Enough of that crap. Denny Hamlin leads the Cup Series with four victories, adding a sixth triumph at Pocono to his resume on Sunday.
While the No. 11 team is racking up playoff points and Martin Truex Jr. has been sporty in certain races this season, Busch is still looking to earn his first playoff point of the season. Let me repeat, Busch is still looking to earn his first playoff point of the season.
It’s things like Sunday’s race that has taken Busch of contention this season. The No. 18 Toyota had a run-in with Ryan Blaney earlier in the race, and the No. 12 showed no prisoners a few laps later, dumping Busch in the Tunnel Turn. The No. 18 finished the race in 38th.
The struggles don’t resemble just the opening 15 races of the season, though. Dating back to the first Pocono race of 2019, Busch has scored one victory in 37 races. Granted, that was the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Will Busch rebound? Of course. He has the talent and its freakin’ Joe Gibbs Racing. Don’t be surprised if the No. 18 wins next weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Then the talk will be “Will Rowdy win two straight?”
Since Kevin Harvick joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, the No. 4 team has been above and beyond the best team in the stable. Hell, he won the first of two races at Pocono this weekend. But don’t sleep on Aric Almirola, as he is in the best stretch of his Cup career.
Since a fifth-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway two weeks ago, four races have passed and the No. 10 Ford has been a factor in all of them. However, Almirola stood out in Saturday’s event at the Tricky Triangle.
Via a random draw, Almirola scored the pole. And unlike other starts where he began from the front row this season (has drawn the front row a total of four times), he remained there throughout the race.
At the end of the first stage, Almirola was second, losing out on a playoff point to Joey Logano. In the second stage, roles were reversed, as the No. 10 earned its first playoff point of the season.
Plain and simple: Almirola dominated, leading 61 laps, only to pit for four tires late, needing more fuel than others at the front. In 13 prior races this season, he’d been out front for just 25 laps.
Our @SmithfieldBrand Ford Mustang was crazy fast today. We led the most laps, won a stage & scored a bunch of points. Brought home a P3 finish & earned our third top-5 in a row. To say I'm proud of this team is an understatement. Ready to get after it again tomorrow. 🤙 pic.twitter.com/FAhWOTsQbl
— Aric Almirola (@Aric_Almirola) June 28, 2020
In Sunday’s 350-miler, Almirola backed up his third-place run on Saturday with a fifth, scoring his fourth consecutive top-five finish a career-best streak.
By any chance did you happen to watch that Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race? No? Cool, I’ll fill you in. It was so bad that it was good, especially the opening two stages.
It began with an opening lap crash involving three-time series champion Matt Crafton and Codie Rohrbaugh. On lap 6 — the first lap back to green — Raphael Lessard nicked the grass, causing him to move up into Austin Wayne Self. Because the opening two stages are just 15 laps each, NASCAR elected to red flag so there was at least some racing in the opening stage.
At one point, it was so bad that I overheard a team member (couldn’t tell you what team) say, “God damn, we can’t go more than five laps with these kids. Go back to bed, kids.” Big yikes!
The second stage was filled with two incidents with three more coming in the final stage. At the end of the 60-lap, 95-minute race, there were a total of nine cautions for 29 laps, meaning 48.3% of the race was run under yellow. The average green flag run: 3.1 laps.
Officially, there were nine cautions for 29 laps today, meaning 48.3% of the race was ran under yellow.
The average green flag run was 3.1 laps, per @racingreference.
— Dustin Albino (el-bee-no) (@DustinAlbino) June 28, 2020
Much like the Truck Series race Sunday morning, the NASCAR Xfinity Series race was filled with carnage, especially with some of the top teams. Because of that, teams with lesser funding filled up the top of the scoring pylon.
Leading the charge was Jeremy Clements in third, scoring a much needed top-five finish. The season has been a tale of two tapes for the No. 51 team: solid or out to lunch with mechanical failure… after mechanical failure… after mechanical failure.
With a third-place finish, @JClements51 scored his best career finish on an oval.
— Dustin Albino (el-bee-no) (@DustinAlbino) June 28, 2020
On the final restart of Sunday’s long, caution-filled race, Clements made some bold moves. The only two drivers he failed to eclipse was Chase Briscoe (who won his fourth race of the season) and Ross Chastain, running for Kaulig Racing.
The finish was Clements’ third top-10 finish of the year. It also marks the best finish he’s ever recorded on an oval (previously it was fourth at Bristol Motor Speedway last August and at Talladega Superspeedway in 2016). Remember, though, he was victorious in 2017 at Road America.