DENNY HAMLIN DELIVERS AT POCONO
Last week at New Hampshire, a disappointed Denny Hamlin felt like he didn’t do enough to prevent Kevin Harvick from picking up his first win of the season. At Pocono, Hamlin did everything right to pick up his third.
“I was in fuel save mode and still trying to get around those guys," Hamlin said. "Once I knew I got around them, then I really went into conservation mode instead of stretching the lead out there.”
Continuing off his success last week, Harvick won the pole at Pocono and would get to a strong lead in the first stage to stay out as long as possible. The issues would begin early for some front runners as Brad Keselowski scrubbed the wall and had to pit only a few laps in because of tire issues. As drivers pitted and positions shuffled, Harvick stayed out as late as possible, setting up Kyle Busch to take over the lead when Harvick finally pitted. Kyle Busch went on and took the first stage win by over four seconds after Harvick gave up the lead with his late pit.
Harvick got the lead back for the stage two start and pulled away from Denny Hamlin in a hurry. Kyle Busch started the stage in tenth and wasted no time getting back to the lead; successfully taking it back from Harvick in the matter of a few laps. After Harvick pitted, the first caution of the day came out after Chase Elliott blew a right front and slammed into the wall; relegating him to a last-place finish. Busch stayed out and kept the lead until a sprinkle of rain came to the track and brought out the second caution with ten to go in the stage. The green came back out with five to go, and Busch held the lead until he pitted with two to go; giving the lead to Jimmie Johnson who powered by Harvick for second on the restart. Johnson won his first stage of the year after a caution ended the stage when Daniel Suarez got loose underneath Ryan Blaney; sending Blaney into the wall.
Harvick got the lead back for the start of stage three but lost it on the restart into turn two after getting loose. This scenario enabled Hamlin to get underneath him pull a crossover to the front. The fourth caution came out after Ryan Preece got into the wall; giving the lead to Kyle Busch as he was the only leader to not pit. Pit strategies started to come into play as everyone, but Busch decided to try to run the whole rest of the way and save fuel. A caution was avoided after David Ragan got the wall, but he was able to keep it moving. Erik Jones inherited the lead after Busch pitted with twenty-six to go but lost it ten laps later to Hamlin after having to back it down to save fuel. Harvick was coming back up through the field and was making gains on the leaders until another caution came out for Josh Bilicki breaking a drive shaft and coming to a stop on the track with eight to go.
The leaders stayed out, and Hamlin easily got to the lead after a strong push from Jones. The caution came back out after Kurt Busch came up off of the corner into Ricky Stenhouse Jr, putting both of them into the wall, and Stenhouse retaliated by spinning Busch who clipped Michael McDowell. The caution set up an overtime finish that was perfect for Hamlin after he got a nearly flawless start to get out ahead and pick up his third win of the season.