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Saturday October 21st, 2017 4:44AM

Kyle Busch breaks winless drought with Pocono victory

By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service
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LONG POND, Pa. - Barely more than three hours after the Pocono crowd greeted Kyle Busch with a chorus of boos during driver introductions, Kyle Busch made converts of the fans in the grandstands – at least a large portion of them – with a spectacular burnout after his long-awaited victory in the Overton’s 400.

Benefitting from a splendid pit call by crew chief Adam Stevens, Busch charged through the field after his final stop and pulled away to beat runner-up Kevin Harvick to the finish line by a whopping 6.178 seconds, breaking a career-long 36-race drought and giving Toyota its 100th victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

The win was Busch’s first at Pocono Raceway, leaving Charlotte Motor Speedway as the only active Cup track the driver of the No. 18 Camry hasn’t conquered.

Having won his fourth Pocono pole earlier in the day – on the first instance where the Monster Energy Series drivers have qualified and raced on the same day in NASCAR’s modern era – Busch recorded the 39th victory of his career when he took the checkered flag.

“It’s been a frustrating year, but an awesome day today,” Busch said in Victory Lane. “This is also a meaningful win for me in another way. This is the first time I’ve been to victory lane in a points-paying race since my grandmother passed away. This one’s for her, and she’s smiling down on us here today, and I appreciate that.”

Harvick came to pit road for the final time on lap 124. Eventual third-place finisher Martin Truex, Jr. pitted two laps later, leaving Busch on the track to lead 10 of his race-high 63 laps in clean air.

When Busch finally hit pit lane on lap 135, he left with fresher tires than those on the cars ahead of him and in short order, picked off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, who finished fourth, and Truex.

Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens had discussed the strategy before the race.

“I knew what he was thinking and that’s what it all came down to,” Busch said. “We didn’t really outsmart anyone today. We just kind of played our race and our own strategy and thought about it a little differently than others, and it worked out for us.”

Busch caught Harvick in turn 3 on lap 144 of 160, and when Harvick got loose and slowed in the corner, Busch gave the No. 4 Ford an inadvertent shot to the rear bumper. Busch flashed past Harvick and was gone.

“The only chance that I had was to get into the corner correctly,” Harvick explained. “I got in there and was loose all the way through the corner on entry and just kept holding the brake down, holding the brake down, holding the brake down and finally, I’m sure he thought I was going to go and I didn’t accelerate.

“I was trying to stay on the bottom to park the thing to get going and he had a good run. Kyle had the class of the field all weekend. His car was really, really fast. He got the pole. Got the win. Pretty much just charged through the field. We definitely have a little bit of work to do. I feel like we got closer and closer. I feel like we raced around all the Toyotas all day.”

Busch collected his eighth stage win of the season when he took the green/checkered flag at the end of lap 50, and the victory gave him an additional five playoff points, bringing his season total to 13, tied for third in that category with Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski.

Clint Bowyer collected his first stage win of the season on lap 100, after Truex, Busch, Harvick and Hamlin all came to pit road just before the end of the stage to set up their prospects for a race win. Bowyer finished sixth behind Keselowski.

Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth (who recovered from a spin in turn 3 on the first lap) and Chase Elliott completed the top 10.

Notes: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished 12th in what is likely to be his final run in a Cup car at Pocono… Danica Patrick ran third in Stage 2 and finished 15th, her fourth consecutive top-15 result… The seventh-place finish was the third consecutive top 10 for Suarez.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Pocono Raceway – Long Pond, PA
Overton’s 400 – July 30, 2017

1. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 160.
2. (6) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 160.
3. (2) Martin Truex, Jr., Toyota, 160.
4. (4) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 160.
5. (11) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 160.
6. (7) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 160.
7. (8) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 160.
8. (9) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 160.
9. (15) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 160.
10. (13) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 160.
11. (12) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 160.
12. (23) Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Chevrolet, 160.
13. (18) Kurt Busch, Ford, 160.
14. (20) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 160.
15. (22) Danica Patrick, Ford, 160.
16. (21) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford, 160.
17. (30) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 159.
18. (17) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 159.
19. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 159.
20. (19) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 159.
21. (26) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 159.
22. (33) David Ragan, Ford, 159.
23. (28) A.J. Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 159.
24. (32) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 159.
25. (34) Corey LaJoie, Toyota, 159.
26. (3) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 159.
27. (10) Joey Logano, Ford, 159.
28. (24) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 159.
29. (31) Landon Cassill, Ford, 158.
30. (5) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 158.
31. (35) Gray Gaulding #, Chevrolet, 157.
32. (36) * Stephen Leicht, Toyota, 153.
33. (16) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 148.
34. (37) * Derrike Cope, Toyota, Transmission, 85.
35. (14) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 57.
36. (38) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, Engine, 24.
37. (29) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, Accident, 1.
38. (25) Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 0.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 141.08 mph.

Time of Race: 02 Hrs, 50 Mins, 07 Secs. Margin of Victory: 6.178 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 21 laps.

Lead Changes: 16 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders: Kyle Busch 1-21; E. Jones # 22-24; R. Stenhouse Jr. 25-35; M. Kenseth 36-41; Kyle Busch 42-52; M. Kenseth 53-55; Kyle Busch 56-71; A. Dillon 72-73; D. Hamlin 74-89; M. Truex Jr. 90-96; C. Bowyer 97-101; M. Truex Jr. 102-125; Kyle Busch 126-134; B. Keselowski 135-140; E. Jones # 141; D. Hamlin 142-143; Kyle Busch 144-160.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Busch 5 times for 74 laps; M. Truex Jr. 2 times for 31 laps; D. Hamlin 2 times for 18 laps; R. Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 11 laps; M. Kenseth 2 times for 9 laps; B. Keselowski 1 time for 6 laps; C. Bowyer 1 time for 5 laps; E. Jones # 2 times for 4 laps; A. Dillon 1 time for 2 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 18,78,4,2,21,1,11,14,42,24

Stage #2 Top Ten: 14,2,10,41,31,5,17,6,95,47

Top 10 in Points: 1. Martin Truex, Jr. – 823 (3 Wins); 2. Kyle Larson – 738 (2 Wins); 3. Kevin Harvick – 726 (1 Win); 4. Kyle Busch – 723 (1 Win); 5. Brad Keselowski – 649 (2 Wins); 6. Denny Hamlin – 649 (1 Win); 7. Chase Elliott – 616; 8. Jamie McMurray – 615; 9. Matt Kenseth – 594; 10. Clint Bowyer – 577.

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