With a memorable weekend at Nashville Superspeedway behind us, the main three NASCAR series will travel to Pocono Raceway this coming weekend to conclude the month of June. Nestled within the serene Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania, the lush, green atmosphere of the facility has made it a popular choice among fans for years.
Pocono Raceway may be nicknamed “The Tricky Triangle,” but based on the number of bizarre moments it has given us over the decades, perhaps “The Tumultuous Triangle” could be a nice secondary nickname. Whether these incidents were brought on by wildlife, weather or on-track contact, Pocono is one of those racetracks with a reputation for providing some unpredictable moments.
1. 1991 Champion Spark Plug 500
The 1991 Champion Spark Plug 400 was just 18 laps old. Ken Schrader was leading teammate Ricky Rudd when they both spotted something odd in turn 1.
In one of the most bizarre debris cautions in Cup history, a chicken was found strutting its way down the track against the turn 1 wall. Several safety workers jumped out of their truck to chase the scared chicken in a scene so comical that you could play the “Chicken Dance” over it. Nevertheless, the workers caught the chicken and lifted it to safety outside the track.
Nowadays, animal activity at Pocono Raceway happens every now and then. Groundhogs, deer, rabbits, and foxes have all made unwelcomed appearances with cars on the track. But the 1991 chicken incident sticks out as one of the funniest animal disturbances that NASCAR has ever seen.
2. 1993 Champion Spark Plug 500
As mentioned above, Pocono has a long history of races being interrupted with wildlife on the track. But what if I told you that a fan pulled off the same accomplishment in the 1993 Champion Spark Plug 500?
Legend has it that 25-year-old Chad Blaine Kohl was on the tail end of a nine-hour drinking binge from the night before, taking a pill to keep himself conscious and awake. However, it might’ve been too potent, considering he caused a major disturbance past the halfway point.
An inebriated Kohl cleared the spectator fence and ran across the infamous Long Pond straightaway, stumbling over the wall just as race leader Kyle Petty approached him. Once he did that, he took off for the woods, but eventually got lost. He started a small fire to get attention and was directed out of the woods by a police helicopter, ultimately to jail. He was charged with arson, defiant trespass, risking a catastrophe, public drunkenness and a handful of other infractions.
Even though it didn’t end in a good way for Kohl, at least he has the honors of being a member of the fans-on-the-track club during a live NASCAR race.
3. 2010 Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500
Denny Hamlin was approaching the white flag with a sizable lead over the field in the 2010 Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500, but contact between Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano ended up being a firestarter for some ensuing craziness at the end of the race…and beyond.
While racing in the top five, Logano got a tap from Harvick entering turn 3, sending his No. 20 Toyota around and out of contention. A frightening airborne crash involving Kasey Kahne ended the race under yellow during the race’s lone overtime finish, with Hamlin hanging on to take the checkered flag.
But that wasn’t all. Logano, who finished 13th, took matters into his own hands and visibly expressed his frustration with Harvick and the No. 29 pit crew on pit road, one of the first times in his young career that he stood up to another driver post-race. No punches were thrown, but his comments about Harvick in his TNT interview made it even more memorable.
4. 2012 Pennsylvania 400
The 2012 Pennsylvania 400 started out as a tame race. But as it reached its halfway point, a sizeable storm cell was coming toward the track. This forced teams to scramble up their strategies and figure out new game plans on how to win the race.
After a caution for a wrecked Kurt Busch and a set of pit stops, the field restarted on lap 91 with the dark clouds closing in. The top four cars of Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski all charged into turn 1 with too much momentum, sliding up the racetrack out of control. Kenseth ultimately spun all the way around, getting collected by Hamlin in the process. Jeff Gordon, who had had a forgettable season up to that point, snuck underneath the tangling cars to take the lead under the caution. On lap 98, NASCAR brought the field to pit road under the red flag.
As the storm set in with ferocity, NASCAR called the race to give a delighted Gordon his 86th career win and his first of the 2012 season. It is one of the few times in his career that inclement weather handed him a victory.
5. 2016 Pennsylvania 400
Much like #4, Pocono’s rainy reputation reared its ugly head in the same event in 2016, but in a much different form.
Under cloudy skies, the first part of the Pennsylvania 400 provided an entertaining race for the fans, with occasional crashes and fierce battles for the lead. The final portion of the race ended on a long green flag run, with drivers topping off with fuel right as the pit window opened. Then-rookie Chris Buescher hadn’t had a pleasant rookie season up to that point and it seemed to continue, with the No. 34 suffering a flat tire during the previous green flag run. The Front Row Motorsports team was forced to pit off cycle from the field.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. As others made their final pit stops, Buescher stayed on the track to lead his first Cup Series laps. Then. on lap 133, a thick patch of fog descended onto the track, blocking the visions of drivers, spotters and fans around the facility. Buescher cruised around under the caution flag trying to keep fuel in his tank until the race was stopped on lap 139. As the fog worsened and the rain arrived, NASCAR ended the waiting for Buescher and made the race official, giving him his first career win and the second-ever win for Front Row Motorsports.
Buescher has been searching for his second career win ever since that summer day in 2016. But, for the former Xfinity champion, he’s grateful to just be known as a Cup winner at all, whether the weather played a role in it or not.