Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2015 Windows 10 400 at Pocono

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.

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.

Allmendinger’s team tweeted a couple of photos of the damage.

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

No. Driver Team Car Start Finish +/- Points Position
47 AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing Bush’s Grillin’ Beans Chevy 22nd 7th
Fuel mileage paid off for the No. 47 bunch
+15 23rd
40 Landon Cassill Hillman-Smith Motorsports Chevy 29th 14th
Strong, smart race
+15 N/A
78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing Furniture Row Chevy 13th 19th
Speeding penalty compounded with fuel mileage problem
-6 5th
51 Justin Allgaier HScott Motorsports Fraternal Order of Eagles/Switch Hitch Chevy 31st 24th

Solid run overall

+7 29th
7 Alex Bowman Tommy Baldwin Racing FW1 Wash & Wax Chevy 28th 25th
Ran a smart race and it paid off
+3 34th
46 Michael Annett HScott Motorsports Pilot Flying J Chevy 39th 26th
Needed a solid run and got it
+13 35th
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
+6 31st
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)
-2 21st
83 Matt DiBenedetto BK Racing Burger King Toyota 36th 29th
DiBenedetto has been a real asset to this team
+7 36th
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
+1 33rd
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
+4 30th
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
+7 N/A
33 Alex Kennedy Circle Sport MediaCAST Chevy 42nd 38th
Suffered heavy damage in lap 92 crash
+4 40th


About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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I am still amazed at the telling of this race. Very interesting………Actually when Logano dominated they still were getting “Kyle points” for talking about him, a whopping 16 or 17 laps and mostly ignoring the leader. The print and broadcast media should make it less obvious, but they won’t.


Note the number of articles titled “Kyle Busch runs out of gas” and saying that he would have won his ? in a row. Usually don’t mention until deep into the article that the only reason he was in that position was Logano ran out first.


Yup, that pesky little fact that Logano was even on the track was omitted too. Nope the heartbreaker of the race certainly belongs to Logano, but you wouldn’t know it by the gushing of the sheep media. The spin regarding Kyle and the Nascar trying to get him into “The Chase” and the Toyo angle is pretty lame. Glad to see most people are not buying what they are selling. And some are saying Kyle ‘dominated”, I find this faux reporting very interesting.


Sheesh, yeah talk about revisionist history — Logano certainly led more laps that KyBu but you’d never know it from the reporting.


Agreed, Logano lost, a heartbreaker but that’s racing. Miscalculation, but it really comes to light the media bias when you hear that “Kyle was the man” the whole race. Ah, no he wasn’t. These people are nuts. Pet peeve of mine.


I’m willing to give Kyle his due as a good driver – even if I’m not a fan of his, but the story of his push to get into the chase now that NASCAR issued the waiver for him missing all of those races is obviously the “feel good” story that NASCAR is looking for this year and therefore the media is going to push it.


Correct..and in typical Nascar media fashion, they are beating the dead horse to death again. They are very unoriginal in everything they report on and they keep it up! There are 42 other drivers with stories to tell. Imagine that!


I agree, kb, the lack of imagination and constant focus on just a few things is one of the reasons IMO (along with some really sad racing) that fewer and fewer people are interested. there used to be articles and information about lots of drivers & teams not just the chosen ones. I was interested in knowing the information – even if I wasn’t a fan of that particular make or team. Now it is just the same old drone and regurgitation of the same old story lines.

for instance, Amy is one of the few writers who talks about the “little guys”. I appreciate that – I was sorry that Landon Cassill lost his seat with HMS – no idea why other than maybe they figured that Chase Elliott was going to be more marketable because of the Elliott name. Taking nothing away from Awesome Bill’s kid but I can’t see any reason other than that to shove Landon out the door.


Exactly, I like to hear about the little guys. I am sick for instance of hearing about Martin Truex’s Jr’s “longtime girlfriend” and her struggles, she isn’t even his wife, are her and Kyle the only one who have experienced health issues? And how is she relevant to the NASCAR fan community other than being his “longtime girlfriend”. I don’t mean it to sound mean, but damn. They pick who they want to pump up or the flavor of the week. I am sure there are many other interesting stories with families that can be told without being over blown or intrusive, or maybe more stories about actual racing. All this ‘fluff” gives me a headache. Imo of course.


I’m waiting for the crash. 5 Races to go, and if Kyle lives up to past history he will crack and fall apart. If not now, then in the Chase.


Richie’s mad at you. Kyle isn’t going to turn into David Pearson. He’s Ernie Irvin. I’d rather bet on Mr. Hyde turning into Mr. Nice Guy.


Ha! No, I’m not mad, LOL. Kyle has a history of season-wrecking races. I hope he breaks out of that. Though, I am not sure I want him to do so this season. If he managed to win this ridiculous chase format this year after his time out of the car, everyone around here would mock it worse than any of the previous chase winners.


Well personally I’m hoping that Gordon wins it. Even though I am no fan of the chase, I really really want him to win the big trophy for his final season. Sigh – that probably makes me a hypocrite but it would still make me very happy.


If Kyle had decided to run as fast as he could, would he have had a big enough lead to make a pit stop and keep the lead, like in F1? Would the others have had to keep up with him and also make pit stops? Would Brian have called for a debris caution because it wasn’t Johnson in front?

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