There was a point just after the completion of Stage 1 in the Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway when Kyle Busch was worried about making it to the finish. The transmission, Busch told his Joe Gibbs Racing team, was popping out of fourth gear and eventually got stuck there.
Then the finish of the Pocono Mountains 350 came down to fuel mileage. As multiple drivers were forced to pit road in the final 10 laps, it was Busch who made it to the end and won for the second time this season.
“Yeah, stuck in fourth gear. About out of gas,” Busch said of his 59th career win. “Just saving, just riding, playing the strategy the best we could with what was given to us. I just can’t say enough about everybody on my team, everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota, TRD, all the work they’re putting in. Sometimes these races aren’t always won by the fastest car, but I felt we had the fastest car.
“Even though we were in the back and behind and having to come through and persevere through being stuck in fourth gear, no clutch, all that stuff. It’s all burned out. Nothing left in this M&M’s Minis Camry. It was awesome today. … Really great to pull off another win here at Pocono. Feels good.”
Busch pitted for the last time on lap 95, a lap or two later than those he wound up racing for the win. With 20 laps to go, Busch sat sixth and knew those in front of him would either be forced to pit for fuel or would try and stretch it to the end.
Fuel? @KyleBusch has plenty!
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 27, 2021
When Brad Keselowski pitted with nine laps to go, giving the race lead to William Byron, Busch was in third place, having moved around older brother Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson. Byron pitted with three laps to go, moving Denny Hamlin to the top spot. A lap later, Hamlin needed to come down pit road while Kyle Busch took the white flag.
Kyle Busch made it to the finish line over eight seconds ahead of Larson. Keselowski cycled back to a third-place finish, with Kevin Harvick finishing fourth and Darrell Wallace Jr. fifth.
Ryan Blaney finished sixth, Alex Bowman was seventh, and Ryan Preece finished eighth. Tyler Redick finished ninth, and Joey Logano completed the top 10.
Harvick pitted from second on lap 112. Bowman pitted from the race lead on lap 115. Those pit stops were what moved Keselowski into the race lead. Keselowski then jumped both in the running order by taking fuel only.
But it was Kyle Busch’s transmission issue that ended up putting him in a position to win the race. The reason he pitted later than those around him was that the No. 18 Toyota team kept trying to fix the transmission issue. Under one caution, Kyle Busch’s car chief even climbed inside the car to work on it.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 27, 2021
The issue was never resolved as Kyle Busch routinely needed to be pushed off pit road when he came down for service and struggled to get back up to speed. Running green to the finish after the caution flew for the last time on lap 93 played into his favor. he did not have to worry about restarts and was in the lead pack when the fuel mileage plays began.
“You don’t know, you know?” said Kyle Busch of the day ending in a win. “The biggest thing was trying to time the restart right. Leave pit road, come back around, be at full speed by the time the field takes the start/finish line. We were a little bit off on that. We were from here to pit road off on that. That’s about all we could do. That’s all you could think about doing in that situation, just thinking through any opportunity and obstacle that’s on you. That’s just what we did.
“Again, great job to my team. Thanks to (crew chief) Ben Beshore. Thanks to Matt, the fuel guy, for getting it full. That’s a big important one today. Really great to take home another checkered flag.”
Sunday’s race featured 12 lead changes among 10 drivers and four caution flags.