After having radio issues for majority of the day, Ryan Blaney scored his first career victory at Pocono Raceway in the Axalta Presents The Poconos 400.
“I think it exceeds the dream a little bit. I grew up watching my dad race on this race track and it’s so cool to get the Wood Brothers in victory lane, number one, and to do it here at a race track that is really close to Ohio – a home to me – is pretty awesome,” said Blaney.
This is the Wood Brothers first victory since the 2011 Daytona 500. Blaney becomes the seventh different driver to score his first career victory with the Wood Brothers. This weekend marks the 99th victory for the team.
With 10 laps remaining, Blaney had a charge on then race-winner, Kyle Busch, with fresher tires. Busch tried to block Blaney on the front stretch and on the short-stretch, but Blaney was able to pass Busch. While Blaney and Busch were battling for the lead, Kevin Harvick was able to work his way to Blaney, but was unable to pass him in the remaining laps. Harvick was better than Blaney in the second turn, but was no match for Blaney on the rest of the track.
After having brake and engine issues early on in the race, Harvick was able to finish the race in the second position.
“I missed a shift from third-to-second and I have to thank the Roush Yates Engine shop for building a pretty sturdy engine because it should have blown up and it never blowed up,” said Harvick after rallying for a second place finish to winner Ryan Blaney,” said Harvick. “I had a tough time driving in the corner all day. We never could stop like we needed to all weekend, so you just had to be really careful with the brakes. If I'd over-drive it for a lap or two, the pedal would start going down, and then I was really at a deficit. So, I had to be very aware of where I let off every lap.”
After running up front for majority of the race, Erik Jones was able to finish in the third position for his best career Cup finish.
“Just happy, happy that we finally get a finish that we deserve. We ran top-five most of the day and had good strategy and it worked out. The last restart played out right into our hands and got it during the third (stage) and knew we had to hold those guys off and we’d be just fine,” said E. Jones. “It’s exciting, happy we had a fast race car. Wish we had a little bit faster one and then we could have gone up there and raced for it, but definitely a good day for us.”
Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Ky. Busch, and Matt Kenseth rounded-out the top-10.
Truex Jr maintains the points lead by one point over Larson. Harvick is 144 points behind Truex in third, Ky. Busch is 121 points behind the leader. and Keselowski rounds out the top-five in points only 130 points behind Truex.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is a trip to Michigan International Raceway for the FireKeepers Casino 400. The race will run on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network with green flag flying shortly after 3:00 p.m. EDT.
Another weekend of disappointment occurred this weekend at Pocono Raceway for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
The weekend started on the wrong foot for Earnhardt, Jr. in the opening practice session of the weekend. Earnhardt, Jr. had to start at the rear of the field due to an engine change before qualifying. The rev limiter on the engine turned 12,615 RPM. The engine rev limiter was supposed to run at 9,500 RPM.
On Saturday, Earnhardt Jr. and his team were not impressed with their practice speed According to Twitter, the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team sat down after practice and worked on some adjustments, but needed to make substantial gains.
On Lap 57 in the race, Earnhardt Jr. radioed to his team that the shifter was not natural to him this weekend.
“Just something in my motion, I mean there really isn’t anything different. The shifter is not different, the handle is not different, the location, everything is the same. I don’t know. It’s something about my motion that’s not... going in the wrong gear. I wish I could blame it on something else, because this is awful, it feels awful,” said a dejected Earnhardt Jr. “The car was fast. We drove up into the top 15 there running great lap times. Really, really happy with the car. Wasn’t really running that hard backing up the corners big time and just cruising forward, really happy. It’s just my fault.”
Missing the shifter raises some concerns for Earnhardt, Jr. because he has to return to Pocono and still has to deal with the road courses.
“This really concerns me coming back here and the road courses you know. But, we haven’t had any problems all year long, but at places where we do a lot of shifting I don’t know what is going on, what I’ve got to do or why this is really happening out of nowhere,” said Earnhardt, Jr.
“I don’t know… we don’t really have an answer to it other than me just having to pay more attention, but I mean I’ve been doing this all my life and this isn’t a common issue, but it has been this weekend.”
Earnhardt, Jr. finished the race in the 38th position.
Kyle Busch will start from the pole in Sunday’s Axalta Presents the Pocono 400 from Pocono Raceway. This is Busch’s second pole in a row in 2017 and his 21st career pole. This was Busch’s third pole from Pocono.
The car was really good,” Busch said. It’s showed good speed since we unloaded here. It’s going to be a tricky race at the tricky triangle as it heats up throughout the weekend.”
Martin Truex, Jr. will start second, Matt Kenseth will start third, Ryan Blaney will start fourth, and Kurt Busch round out the top-five.
The first round of qualifying saw Kyle Larson go to the top of the board at 178.625 mph. Ky. Busch was second fastest at 178.056 mph. Kevin Harvick was third fastest at 177.285 mph. Joey Logano was fourth fastest at 177.176 mph. Keselowski rounded out the top-five at a speed of 176.796 mph. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. qualified 28th, but will start at the rear of the field due to changing his engine in the only practice session of the day. Notable drivers who did not advance to the second round include Chase Elliott (P25), Kasey Kahne (P26), and Ty Dillon (P27). There will be no drivers sent home as 39 drivers arrived at Pocono.
The second round saw Ky. Busch at the top of the board at 178.483 mph. Logano was second fastest at 178.313 mph. Blaney was third fastest at 178.295 mph. Kenseth was fourth fastest at 178.087 mph. Harvick rounded out the top-five with a speed of 178.006 mph. Notable drivers who did not advance to the final round include Daniel Suarez (P14), Austin Dillon (P17), Denny Hamlin (P18), Jimmie Johnson (P19), Clint Bowyer (p20), and Danica Patrick (P24)
In the final round, Ky. Busch posted a speed of 179.151 mph. Truex Jr. posted the second fastest speed at 178.543 mph. Kenseth posted the third fastest speed at 178.108 mph. Blaney posted the fourth fastest speed at 177.897 mph. Kurt Busch posted the fifth fastest speed at 177.799. Keselowski, Larson, Jamie McMurray, Logano, and Ryan Newman round out the top-10.
Teams will have only one practice session on Saturday beginning at 11:30 a.m. EDT to prepare for Sunday’s race that will go green shortly after 3:00 p.m. EDT. Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network will have practice and race coverage.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania for the 36th annual Axalta Presents The Pocono 400. The race will consist of two 50-lap stages and a stage of 60 laps.
There will be 39 drivers competing in Sunday’s field. The most notable will be Darrell Wallace, Jr., who will be making his first Cup start in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports entry as Aric Almirola continues to recover from his injury sustained at Kansas Speedway.
Kyle Busch will be without his crew chief, Adam Stevens, and his tire changer and carrier following a penalty assessed on Wednesday after a wheel came loose on a pit stop at Dover International Speedway on Sunday.
Drivers are excited for their trip to the “Tricky Triangle”.
“Pocono is so different from any track that we go to all year as it has just three turns. The straightaways are really long and each turn is really different. With that being said, I really enjoyed racing at Pocono last year and have been looking forward to making my return since we left a year ago,” said Daniel Suarez. “Scott (Graves) and the guys have worked hard each week to make our Toyota Camry’s as fast as possible, and I feel really good about where we are as a team right now. Last week at Dover was a great run for us, so hopefully we can build on that and have another great finish for ARRIS and everyone involved with this No. 19 team on Sunday.”
"Pocono is such a fun track to drive. It's very unique because it drives similar to a road course and there is a lot shifting involved. I've always had a lot of fun racing there. You can really attack the corners and the racing is great. We're hoping to unload with a good base setup on our IncredibleBank Ford and bring home a solid top-25 finish,” said Matt DiBenedetto.
"You have try your best to find a setup that allows you to be good in all three corners to be successful at Pocono. You have to hit all three corners perfectly. Turn 1 is very important because it leads into the second-longest straightaway, and Turn 3 is obviously important because it takes you into the longest straightaway of the track. You would think that Turn 2 is the least important, but it seems like time is really made and lost in that turn by hitting your mark. If you miss it by even just a foot, your lap time really suffers. So it's important to hit all three corners,” said Paul Menard.
Cup teams will have one practice session on Friday at 11:00 a.m. EDT and qualify at 4:15 p.m. EDT. Teams will have on practice session on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. EDT. The race will be on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. EDT. Motor Racing Network and Fox Sports 1 will have coverage all weekend long.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be adding a new driver to their ranks beginning this weekend at Pocono Raceway. Bubba Wallace Jr. will be the interim driver in the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series entry while Aric Almirola continues the healing process after suffering a T5 Vertebrae Compression Fracture at Kansas Speedway last month.
After the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Pocono, Roush Fenway Racing will suspend operations of their No. 6 entry driven by Wallace Jr. Roush Fenway and Wallace Jr. will continue to look at opportunities for him to get in the Xfinity car when sponsorship arises.
“It's an exciting opportunity not only for myself but my family, first of all, my fans, everybody that's helped me get to this level ever since I started racing when I was nine years old and had dreams of running in a Cup race, making my name present in the sport. So this is the perfect opportunity. So I'm very thankful for that,” said Wallace.
Wallace Jr.’s named emerge shortly after 2010 among the NASCAR ranks through the Drive For Diversity program. While in that program, Wallace Jr. showed success. Wallace reflected on that time and where it lead him today.
“That was a great opportunity that presented itself when we signed on with Joe Gibbs Racing, joined on with Rev Racing at the same time to compete in the Diversity Program, K&N Pro Series East,” said Wallace Jr. “With that success came my career where it is now. So definitely without that on‑ and off‑track success we had in those two years, I don't know if I'd be here today. A lot of that credit goes to those guys over there.”
With this step into Cup competition, Wallace Jr. hopes this opportunity helps open the door for more diversity in NASCAR.
“This is a huge step for NASCAR, the whole sport in general, for bringing diversity to its top‑tier level of NASCAR. I'm glad to be leading the forefront of that right now. It just shows that we're trying to bring in a new demographic,” said Wallace. “We're trying to bring in a new face, get a younger generation, no matter what color, what age. We're trying to get everybody involved to bring NASCAR back. It's been a fun journey.”
Although the future is uncertain when Almirola returns, Wallace Jr. will make the most out of this opportunity.
“I don't know what's going to happen. One thing I can touch on is I know I'll go out there and prove to everybody inside the racetrack, outside the racetrack, on the TV, that I belong in the Cup Series. Do the best that I can. Give an extra 200% each and every time I climb in the car for Ford, for Richard Petty, for everybody on the team, for Smithfield, to go out there and make the opportunity the greatest it has been,” said Wallace Jr.
Wallace Jr. has five years of experience in the Xfinity Series. He has six top-five finishes, 34 top-10’s, and two poles. Wallace Jr. hopes this chance in Cup brings many more years to come at NASCAR’s top level.