The Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 team was bit again on pit strategy at Pocono Raceway.
Looking to learn from last season when Kyle Busch did not pit late and lost to those on fresher tires, the team did the opposite Sunday afternoon. Busch pitted every chance he had to get four new tires, and won the race off pit road with 34 laps to go.
So when the caution came out with 22 laps to go, Busch hit pit road again. This time, there were others who stayed out, putting him in an excellent position to have an advantage. Of course, it would not be the last caution or restart of the day, negating crew chief Adam Stevens and company’s strategy.
Busch finished third.
“Just real unfortunate … we had that caution that brought us down pit road for what we thought was the final stop of the day [with 34 laps to go], we got tires, we beat everybody off pit road and was in control of the restart, and then in control of the race when we were leading there, and all of a sudden about 10, 11 laps into that run there was a caution in Turn 1 for what looked to me to be a shoe booty,” said Busch. “Somebody took their booty off I guess and chucked it out their window. That was kind of weird that we saw a caution for that, but safety comes first so that just kind of derailed our strategy if you will.
“We lost this race last year on not pitting in that situation and getting beat by tires, and so we pitted this year for tires and got beat by those that didn’t pit. Just really crazy situation there with how all that kind of transpired and went down, but we fought hard for the finish and tried to get the most out of what we could there and just couldn’t pass.”
Having won the most recent Pocono race last July, Busch started the day looking for his second win at the triangle and his second straight. He did lead 13 laps.
“It was a little disappointing that the tires didn’t mean anything more than they did there at the end with guys that had 10, 11 laps on their tires and they were able to still outrun us and beat us for us having fresher rubber,” Busch said. “Clean air was king.”
Busch continues to lead the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series point standings and is now tied with Kevin Harvick at 25 total playoff points.