Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service   LONG POND, Pa. –

Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota, leads Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer Ford, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Little Hug Fruit Barrels Ford, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 3, in Long Pond, Pa. Truex would go on to win by 2.496 seconds ahead of Kyle Larson, who came in second.

Taking charge of Sunday’s Pocono 400 by staying out under caution on Lap 140 of 160, reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. pulled away after a restart with seven laps left to win the race and inject himself emphatically into the title conversation. The outcome was all about control. Five-time winner Kevin Harvick had it for most of the event, leading a race-high 89 laps. Four-time winner Kyle Busch had it late, winning the race off pit road on Lap 126 and leading Truex and Harvick until a debris caution slowed the action on Lap 139 and changed the course of the race. Busch finished third and Harvick fourth, as Kyle Larson grabbed second place after a Lap 144 restart and held the rest of the way, finishing 2.496 seconds behind Truex. With the victory, the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota made sure NASCAR’s Dominant Duo of Harvick and Busch can rightfully now be renamed the Big Three. The Mayetta, New Jersey, driver won for the second time at Pocono, the second time this season and the 17th time in his career. Collectively, Harvick, Busch and Truex have triumphed in 11 of the 14 Cup races this year. Truex was running second to Busch when NASCAR called the debris caution on Lap 139, after a parade of cars ran over a shiny object in Turn 1. When crew chief Adam Stevens called Busch to pit road—and Truex, Harvick, Chase Elliott and Larson remained on the track, Truex had control of the race—and made the most of it. “It’s been a really good weekend overall,” said Truex, who led 31 laps and overcame a slow pit stop that dropped him to 14th after he won the race’s first stage. “I feel like we’re getting back to where we were last year (when Truex won eight races). “It’s always fun to win, but especially when you beat the best guys out there. These two guys (Busch and Harvick) were so fast today. Honestly, we were all really equal. It was a matter of who could get out front. The 4 (Harvick) and I stayed on tires. We felt like in practice we were really fast on scuffs. (Crew chief) Cole (Pearn) made a good call to stay out, and once I got in clean air, this thing was a rocket ship.” Busch lost last year’s spring race at Pocono when he stayed out on old tires. Stevens made the opposite call on Sunday, but fresh rubber didn’t produce the benefit he and Busch had expected. “We decided to pit and put tires on again right there, because we had about 10 or 11 laps on tires,” Busch said. “And that’s where we got burned here in this race in that exact situation last year. So we didn’t want to make the same mistake again. “But once I got back there, I just couldn’t pass those guys. I was just stuck where I was at. The four tires just didn’t do anything today. It was certainly all about being out front.” Harvick held the lead when Derrike Cope spun off Larson’s front bumper on Lap 124, causing the third caution of the afternoon and the first for a racing incident. Harvick was blocked in his pits by pole winner Ryan Blaney and lost the lead to Busch. For Harvick, the die was cast from that point on. “We had a good car all day,” Harvick said. “Just came down to really losing control of the race on the last pit stop. Really not pitting or pitting didn’t really seem to matter. We lost control to the 18 (Busch) and wound up losing a couple more spots on the restart starting on the inside, and that was the end of the day.  “Car was fast, and everybody did a great job. It just didn’t work out.” Brad Keselowski ran fifth, followed by Blaney, Aric Almirola and Jimmie Johnson, who led his first two laps of the season during the first exchange of green-flag pit stops. Busch leads the series by 87 points over Harvick in second and 90 over Joey Logano (ninth Sunday) in third. Larson acknowledged that his runner-up finish was serendipitous. “We weren’t quite as fast as what I thought we’d be after practice,” Larson said. “I ran probably sixth or seventh all day long and finished second. Was happy about that, because I felt like, obviously, we were at a little bit of a disadvantage on tires there, but the track position overcame that.  “But I felt like, if I didn’t have a good restart on any one of those, I would have fell back outside the top five from those guys on fresher tires. Happy we finished second but needed a lot more to kind of compete with the three guys that ran up front all day.” In other words, Larson has work to do before the Big Three can become the Fabulous Four. Kyle Busch claims first NASCAR Xfinity win at Pocono LONG POND, Pa. – A new high-downforce, restrictor-plate competition package at Pocono Raceway brought a familiar result on Saturday—at least where the NASCAR Xfinity Series is concerned. Overcoming a pit road speeding penalty that sent him to the back of the field for the start of the second 25-lap stage in the Pocono Green 250, Kyle Busch clawed his way through the field to win the 92nd race of his career. What wasn’t familiar was Busch’s victory at Pocono. It was his first, in his second start at the 2.5-mile triangular track. And it was Busch’s first Xfinity victory of the season in his fourth start of the year. Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was the clear class of the field. Only the penalty put the outcome in doubt. Busch grabbed the lead from pole winner Cole Custer on Lap 3 off 100 and held it through the end of Stage 1, winning that leg by 7.171 seconds over teammate Christopher Bell. But both Busch and Bell were too fast on pit road during stops and Lap 28, and the teammates restarted 21st and 22nd on Lap 31. By the end of Stage 2, won by Paul Menard, Busch had climbed to sixth, and from there it was a matter of time before he returned to the top spot. That happened when he stayed out under caution after Bell and Justin Allgaier, two of the top contenders, wrecked on the Long Pond straightaway on Lap 61 and exited the race. Busch held the lead from the restart on Lap 66 to the finish and crossed the stripe 2.521 seconds ahead of runner-up Chase Elliott, who was subbing for suspended Spencer Gallagher. “The car was on rails this week,” Busch said. “It was last week, too (in an eighth-place finish at Charlotte), but we were just able to over the deficit we had this weekend (from the penalty) and bring it back to the front.” Busch’s only worry was getting through heavy race traffic in his charge from the back to the front after the start of the second stage. “You’re always worried about something crazy or an unpredictable situation happening,” Busch said. “We just kind of had to bide our time and be patient a little bit, kind of make moves when we could make moves… “All in all, though, we knew we had speed in our race car, and it was really fast out front, once we got to those top five, top six cars.” Daniel Hemric ran third, followed by Austin Cindric, Custer and series leader Elliott Sadler. Busch got 48 laps out of his last tank of fuel. Elliott, who passed Hemric for second with one lap left, was hoping Busch’s Camry would sputter before he reached the finish line. “We came in to top off (on Lap 58), Elliott said. “We wanted to be on the good side of fuel, and I was hoping these guys would push it a little too close… But it was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to the next one.”  Bell and Allgaier were victims of the Lap 61 crash that started with Sadler pushing Allgaier up the straightaway between Turns 1 and 2 in close quarters with the No. 28 Ford of Dylan Lupton. Contact between the cars of Lupton and Allgaier turned Allgaier’s Chevrolet toward the wall, where he collected Bell’s Toyota in the process. Both cars were damaged too severely to continue. “I just made a mistake there whenever I followed Kyle (Busch) to Pit Road at the end of the first stage,” Bell said. “He was going really fast, and I thought I could, too. And I just ended up speeding. “There was nothing I could have done there with Justin, for that matter. We were just victims of Pocono restarts. It just got really hairy. It was exciting. That’s why sometimes we love it and sometimes we hate it.” Sadler retained the series lead by 62 points over Custer in second and 63 over Hemric in third. Kyle Busch’s NASCAR track sweep is a done deal—for now LONG POND, Pa. – Kyle Busch completed an unprecedented, monumental feat last Sunday in winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The victory gave the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs racing Toyota a win at every Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series track at which he has competed. Only one problem. Busch expects the accomplishment to be short-lived. With the addition of the road course at Charlotte this fall for the first elimination race in the Playoff, Busch expects the arbiters of the sport—whoever they may be—to demand that he take the checkered flag on the “new and different” track.  “Everybody wants to make my life more difficult,” quipped Busch, who was fastest in Saturday’s final practice for Sunday’s Pocono 400. “So I’m sure that I won’t be credited for all the race tracks once the Roval gets here, so that would certainly be the next one that comes up. “It’s in the same vicinity. Richard Petty has won 13 races at Richmond, right, but nobody characterizes the dirt track versus the pavement track being different.” In fact, Petty won on three different iterations of Richmond Raceway, both on dirt and pavement, but never on the current .75-mile configuration. But a big item on Busch’s bucket list is a race Petty won seven times. “It’s my life, so we’ll just keep going, keep trying to win in it, and the Roval is next,” Busch said. “And then after that, it’s about the Daytona 500 and trying to get that one. “It took another guy that’s very, very popular (Dale Earnhardt Sr.) 20 years to get it done, so I’d like to think it won’t take me that long, although I’m creeping up on that number. So we’ll see how soon we can get that one accomplished.” Ragan tests ‘All-Star’ package, favors it for certain tracks Given the strong buzz about the higher-downforce, restrictor-plate competition package used for the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race in May, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the configuration would get additional test time—sooner rather than later. That happened last Tuesday and Wednesday at Michigan International Speedway in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series manufacturers’ wheel-force test at the two-mile track. David Ragan drove a Ford, Justin Allgaier a Chevrolet and Drew Herring a Toyota. “They’ve got a new tire for Michigan, so the manufacturers elected to use one of our wheel-force tests to go up, and we ran some laps with the current aero package, and we ran some laps with the new All-Star package,” Ragan said. “I felt like, with just three cars there, it’s really hard to get a really good read on what kind of draft you would have, what kind of ability you would have to pass cars.  “But I felt like it was similar to Charlotte. They cars drove really good. You could stay in the throttle. You felt like you were definitely going slower, but it did create a little bit of a draft, and it bunched everybody up. We only had three cars there, but we did run some together, and it was pretty easy to stay caught up with the person in front of you, and you could feel a pretty good draft going down the straightaway, and you could make up three or four car-lengths pretty easy.”  Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said in an interview on FS1 Saturday morning that the package could be used in as many as three Cup points races this year to evaluate its possible viability for certain tracks in 2019.  “For us, it’s making sure everybody has had enough time to look at it, has enough time to evaluate it,” O’Donnell said. “If you look back at it, we really only ran it last year at Indy (Xfinity) and the All-Star Race, and this weekend is the first-time in Xfinity at Pocono. “Taking all that data and evaluating if this is right direction to go is the first step.” Ragan believes certain minor changes to the All-Star package could facilitate the ability to pass. “I feel like they’ve got to tweak the package to allow a car that does get a run the ability to get out of line and continue with that run,” Ragan said. “Sometimes, at the All-Star race, a car in front of us would lift, and we would get a run, and you would pull out to pass, and you would still get stalled out. “I think there are probably some different variations of spoiler height, maybe the front ducts or maybe a gear to tweak. The thought process behind the package would be ideal at some race tracks, but I don’t think it would work at every race track—at some race tracks, we don’t need anything different from what we have now.”

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