Who’s in the headline – There are 23 racetracks on the Cup schedule. After Kyle Busch’s win at Pocono Raceway this weekend, he has a points-paying victory at every track on the current schedule except for Charlotte Motor Speedway. It had been 36 races since Busch won a Cup race but the much-maligned slump is finally over. Instead, this playoff-clinching win puts him one away from 40 Cup trophies overall for his career.
What happened – Kyle Busch won the pole and jumped out to the lead on the start. At the end of the first lap, there was an eight-car pileup in Turn 3. It took six laps on the 2.5- mile track to clean up the mess. After the race went back to green, it was Busch who led 30 of the first 50 laps and took the win in the first stage. The second stage saw Clint Bowyer play strategy perfectly to grab his first stage win of the season. After the end of the second stage, the race went green, with multiple teams playing different fuel strategies to try and catch the next caution, but it never happened. When it was all said and done, there were nine leaders with 16 lead changes but it was Busch breaking his winless streak, scoring his first win of the season and positioning himself for a locked in spot in the playoffs.
Why you should care – The series has five races left before the playoff cutoff after Richmond. There are currently 13 drivers with wins on their resume for 2017. If four more drivers can win in the next five races, a driver with a win will not qualify for the playoffs. It is a long shot, but it could still happen. The other interesting fact is Busch has 176 wins in the NASCAR national series. He is closing in on the magic 200 number. The debate about the comparison of Cup wins to national series wins will heat up but one thing is for sure, it will be a passionate debate.
What your friends are talking about – Joe Gibbs Racing employs the pit crew that works on the No. 78 car of Martin Truex Jr. After a confrontation on pit road at Indianapolis after Truex and Kyle Busch wrecked out of the event, JGR suspended two members of the crew for three races. The situation didn’t seem that volatile and the impact to Truex’s season could be dramatic. That said, coach Gibbs doesn’t put up with shenanigans from crew members often so it isn’t surprising.
Target has announced it is not coming back to Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in 2018. The chain store company stated they are going to pursue sponsorship in the soccer arena over the coming years. After the company pulled out of Ganassi’s IndyCar team, it had to be an assumption that the move was going to happen in Cup racing as well. The debate over the value and the activation that Target received and provided will rage for a while. But one thing is for sure, another big sponsor has bailed on the Cup Series.
Teresa Earnhardt won an appeal in the case against Kerry Earnhardt being allowed to use his own name to try and make money to support his family. The case stems from the use of “Earnhardt Collection” by Schumacher homes to market a series of house plans. Obviously Earnhardt’s last name is his own but Mrs. Earnhardt claims that he is confusing buyers into believing her late husband has something to do with the plans. Mrs. Earnhardt’s continued greed and lack of interest in sharing the late NASCAR hero’s legacy with his fans is mind boggling to say the least. We can all hope she’ll eventually decide her pettiness is foolish and allow everyone to celebrate her husband and give his children the opportunity to enjoy their name without looking over their shoulder for their step mother.
Paul Menard is going to move to the No. 21 with the legendary Wood Brothers next season as Ryan Blaney is heading to a third Team Penske effort. The move leaves 2018 plans for Richard Childress Racing up in the air, but Mr. Childress says that his organization will field three teams next season, and the details will be released at a later date.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is joining NBC next season. The battle for the retiring driver was ultimately won by the network covering the second half of the season. For the many fans who hoped to see Earnhardt replace Darrell Waltrip next season, that is not going to happen.
Brad Keselowski signed a contract extention to stay with Team Penske for the foreseeable future. After Joey Logano was recently signed to an extension and Blaney was added to the fold, Penske’s organization looks to be on very solid footing for years to come.
Who is mad – Congratulations Aric Almirola, you qualified 25th for the Overton’s 400. Sorry about your luck that you failed to complete a full lap. Since Almirola has been back in the seat, he has finishes of 24th, 13th and 38th. While being back in the car has to feel great for Almirola, his results have to be disappointing.
Jimmie Johnson is most certainly happy that Pocono Raceway doesn’t appear on the schedule again until next June. While he’s had three wins at the track, three of the last four races and four of the last seven, Johnson has finished 35th or worse. After his hard crash in the first race this year and another wreck backwards into the wall this weekend, he has to be sick of his luck there.
Who is happy – Bowyer came into this weekend’s race without a stage win. He has three second place finishes this year and, while he didn’t have a top five on Sunday, he did manage a stage victory and his first playoff point of the season. Bowyer is knocking on the door of a visit back to Victory Lane and it wouldn’t be a shock for it to happen this season.
Daniel Suarez has finished seventh five times this season, including this weekend. While he has two sixth place finishes he has been running stronger as the season has gone along. With JGR breaking into the winner’s circle three weeks ago with Denny Hamlin and this week with Kyle Busch, Suarez could very well be the next JGR driver to notch a win this season.
When the checkered flag flew:
Kyle Busch scored his 39th victory of his career in his 447th career start.
This was Busch’s first career win at Pocono Raceway.
In 2017 this is Busch’s first triumph.
39 wins puts Busch in a tie with Tim Flock for 18th on the All-Time list.
Kevin Harvick crossed the line in second place for his third top two of 2017.
This was Harvick’s fourth second place finish of his career at Pocono.
Harvick’s finish is his 50th second place finish of his career which ranks him tenth on the All-Time list.
Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the podium at Pocono for his seventh top three of the season.
Truex has four career podium finishes as Pocono.
The third place finish is Truex’s 37th career top three. He is tied with Curtis Turner for 59th on the All-Time list.
This win is Toyota’s 100th win in the Cup series. Kyle Busch has scored 35 of them. Other drivers adding to the total:
Denny Hamlin – 27
Matt Kenseth – 14
Martin Truex Jr. – 8
Carl Edwards – 5
Clint Bowyer – 3
Joey Logano, David Reutimann, and Brian Vickers – 2
Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart – 1
Rookie of the Race was Daniel Suarez. That is his tenth such win of the year. Erik Jones has eight and Ty Dillon has three.
Twenty one races into the season there have been fourteen different winners this year. With five races left before the playoff cutoff, if there are four new winners, someone with a win will not make the playoffs. That said, there most likely won’t be 17 unique winners. For now you have Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. tied with most wins of the year with three. Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., with two wins, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, and Kyle Busch with one each. In the fourteen winners Joey Logano is not eligible for the playoffs by virtue of his triumph being considered encumbered at Richmond. Logano will have to win again to make the playoffs based on a victory.
The remaining three drivers in points and their position:
- Chase Elliott
- Jamie McMurray
- Matt Kenseth
The drivers who have scored playoff points so far this season and their total:
Martin Truex Jr – 29
Jimmie Johnson – 16
Kyle Larson – 13
Brad Keselowski -13
Kyle Busch – 13
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 10
Kevin Harvick – 8
Ryan Blaney – 8
Denny Hamlin – 7
Ryan Newman – 5
Kurt Busch – 5
Austin Dillon – 5
Kasey Kahne – 5
Chase Elliott – 2
Matt Kenseth – 2
Joey Logano – 1
Clint Bowyer – 1
What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)
Unlike a week ago at Indianapolis, the race at Pocono went green for the entire final segment. There were no late race restarts that resulted in carnage and excessive pandemonium. Strategy came into play, drivers came from the back to the front on different occasions and the outcome was in question until late in the race. It wasn’t a barn burner but it was intriguing and incorporated plenty of twist and turns. In the end it rates four cold Pocono Pines Pilsners from Pocono Brewery Company.
Where do you point your DVR for next week – The second road course race of the season will take place next Sunday at Watkins Glen International. The race coverage begins at 3:00 PM Eastern on NBCSN. It can also be seen on the NBCSports app and NBCSportLive. The racing action can be heart on your local MRN affiliate and www.motorracingnetwork.com. It can also be heard on SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.