Denny Hamlin Takes Checkered Flag at Pocono for Sixth Time
It was an action-packed doubleheader weekend for the NASCAR Cup series circuit from the Tricky Triangle of Pocono over the weekend. After running the Pocono Organics 325 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday afternoon, which was won by Kevin Harvick for the first time in his 39 races at the track, Sunday was slam full of entertaining racing on the track. The Tricky Triangle became the first track to run three races on the same day in its history. After Brandon Jones won the Truck Series race and Chase Briscoe claimed the checkered flag in the Xfinity Series run, it was time for the Cup Series drivers to take to the track for the Pocono 350.
While Mother Nature tried to do its part to hamper the race and it required pit stalls to be lit up with numbers as drivers raced against the impending darkness to finish the race. Pocono lacks appropriate lighting as most of their races take place during the day. In the end, though, it was Denny Hamlin earning his fourth win of the season and his sixth win all-time at the Tricky Triangle as he held off Harvick by a comfortable 3.068 seconds to take the checkered flag. Erik Jones was third, followed by Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola to round out the top five. That capped a solid weekend for Almirola, who finished third in the Pocono Organics 325 on Saturday before Sunday’s fifth-place finish.
All told, after only 10 lead changes in Saturday’s race, there were just 12 on Sunday over the course of 140 laps with eight different drivers holding the lead during the race. Hamlin led a race-high 49 laps, followed by Kurt Busch (35), Ryan Blaney (21) and Brad Keselowski (13) in that department. Harvick led 11 laps while Martin Truex Jr. (five), Almirola (four) and Kyle Busch (two) each held the lead for at least one lap in the race. There were eight caution flags totaling 32 laps in the race, including a red flag for 51 minutes due to rain after just six laps had been completed. The race didn’t restart until nearly 6:15 pm ET, throwing things into a bit of chaos. Much like Saturday’s race though, the final 51 laps of the race were run under green flag conditions.
Nearly a quarter of the field was moved to the back of the field for a variety of reasons after Saturday’s race. Quin Houff, Tyler Reddick, Erik Jones, Joey Logano and Alex Bowman all moved to the back of the pack after switching to their backup cars. B.J. McLeod and Chase Elliott shuffled to the back due to transmission changes while William Byron and Ryan Preece, who was slated to start from the pole based on Saturday’s finish being inverted for Sunday’s grid, had engine changes. Only two vehicles were out of the race when the checkered flag waved and they were two of the bigger surprises from Saturday. Christopher Bell, who was fourth Saturday for the first top-five finish of his career, crashed on lap 39 and ended up 39th. Similarly, Michael McDowell, who logged his first top-10 of the season with an eighth-place finish Saturday, crashed on lap 15 and ended up 40th in the race.
Kurt Busch, Harvick, Keselowski, Matt DiBenedetto and Truex Jr. were the five drivers to run in the top 10 in each of the first two stages of the race. Of that group, Harvick (second), DiBenedetto (sixth) and Truex Jr. (10th) finished in the top 10 when the race came to a close. Keselowski ended up finishing 11th while Kurt Busch finished 13th in the race. Had you followed what we proposed for the top prop bets for Saturday’s race, both parts one and two, and carried it over to Sunday since it was the same track, you would have had some success.
Based on what we projected for Saturday at Pocono, William Byron to finish in the top 10 (-125) would have cashed on Sunday after he was 14th on Saturday. We had projected Jones to finish in the top five (+260) but he wrecked out Saturday before turning in his stellar third-place showing Sunday. The call on Hamlin to finish in the top five (+115) also bore fruit on both days. Jones to post the top finish among Group C drivers (+235) would have hit on Sunday as would Almirola to log the best finish in Group D (+240), much as it did on Saturday. Hitting on Toyota as the manufacturer of the winning car (+150) would have made for a decent payday as well.
At the conclusion of Sunday’s race, it was Harvick leading the Cup Series points standings by 52 points over Blaney. Keselowski (67 points back) is third, while Elliott (71 points behind) and Hamlin (75 points back) rounded out the top five drivers. For the playoff standings, Hamlin took the lead with his fourth win of the season, breaking a tie with Harvick. Logano and Keselowski each had two victories while Blaney, Elliott, Truex Jr. and Bowman each have one on the board. Almirola and Kurt Busch held the ninth and 10th-place spots as they held the highest point totals among non-winning drivers entering Saturday.
As for the NASCAR Cup circuit, the next race that will be run is the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records on Sunday, July 5 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There will be no fans in attendance at the Brickyard but there will be plenty of turning and burning to take place. Race time is scheduled for 4 pm ET with the television coverage slated to be handled by NBC. Hopefully, the weather will be better as nine of the 15 races run this season have been impacted by weather conditions, including last week’s race at Talladega that was postponed from Sunday to Monday.