Denny Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart would flex their pit strategy muscles to outduel Kevin Harvick to the finish at Pocono Raceway Sunday evening.
For a ninth time in 2020, a NASCAR Cup Series race was delayed by weather. This time, lightning and rain would halt the race twice for a near hour at Pocono Raceway.
Multiple drivers, including pole-sitter Ryan Preece, would have to drop to the rear due to engine changes, backup cars or transmission changes.
It would be Kurt Busch and Austin Dillon leading the field to green. Kurt Busch would hold serve and lead the entire stage to score his first stage win of the season.
During the stage, Chase Elliott would get into the back bumper of Michael McDowell on the frontstretch, turning him into the wall. McDowell would then blow a tire in the tunnel turn, causing him to spin and hit the outside wall hard. He would finish 40th after scoring a top-10 finish in Saturday’s race at Pocono. McDowell was not happy with Elliott. Over the team radio, someone said, “Remember it. Remember it. He’s got a lot more to lose.”
Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney would lead the field to green to start stage two. In the tunnel turn, Blaney would clear Kurt Busch for the lead and sail off. However, on lap 38, Christopher Bell would go around in the tunnel turn and crash, ending his day. He joined McDowell as top-10 finishers from Saturday to wreck on Sunday. Bell finished 39th.
Another top-10 finisher from Saturday, Chris Buescher, would crash seven laps later.
Pit strategy would play a role during a long run late in the stage. Leaders like Kyle Busch, Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. would pit while Denny Hamlin, Saturday’s winner Kevin Harvick, and Matt DiBenedetto would stay out.
However, on lap 75, Blaney and Kyle Busch would get together in the tunnel turn, causing Kyle Busch to spin and wreck. Another bad points day for Kyle Busch as he has yet to score a playoff point in 2020. He finished 38th.
On the ensuing restart, Ryan Preece would go around in the tunnel turn. The tunnel turn added another member to a lengthy list of drivers having trouble there on Sunday.
Due to pit strategies being altered due to multiple cautions, Aric Almirola and Brad Keselowski would lead the field to green with two to go in stage two. Keselowski would go on to win his third stage of the season.
The pace of the race would pick up as drivers believed they were racing to darkness instead of the scheduled 140 laps. Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano would pick up penalties on pit road, which would ruin their days.
The race win would come down to the strategy of Harvick and Hamlin. Harvick came in before Hamlin did, but Harvick would stall in traffic. Hamlin got a splash of fuel and two tires, and was able beat Harvick coming off of pit road by over three seconds.
Hamlin would then cruise to his fourth win of 2020 and sixth win at Pocono.
Harvick finished second for his eighth top-five of the season. Erik Jones gets a nice third-place finish after crashing on Saturday. Chase Elliott finishes fourth and Almirola rounds out the top-five to score back-to-back top fives this weekend.
DiBenedetto scored his fourth top-ten with a sixth-place run. William Byron finished seventh. Clint Bowyer, Alex Bowman and Truex Jr. round out the top 10.
The Cup Series heads to the Brickyard on Independence Day weekend. Coverage will move to NBC for that race.