NASCAR is trying something different with the Cup Series races at Pocono this year — run them on consecutive days. The coronavirus pause threatened to scuttle the plan, but NASCAR returned to racing early enough to keep it intact.
The first half of the doubleheader, the Pocono Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale, took place Saturday, and while the race wasn’t that exciting, there was a bold piece of strategy that provided drama.
Kevin Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, called for just two tires on a green-flag pit stop in Stage 3 to gain track position. Harvick eventually took the lead and then held off Denny Hamlin for his first Cup victory in 39 tries at the Tricky Triangle.
“We weren’t where we needed to be to start the race and lost a bunch of track position, but we came back and made some great strategy calls to get in clean air and get out front and make some good laps,” said Harvick. “It’s great to finally check Pocono off the list.”
Who won the NASCAR race at Pocono?
Kevin Harvick made his crew chief’s pit strategy pay off by outlasting Denny Hamlin. The win was Harvick’s third win of the NASCAR Cup Series season, tying him with Hamlin for the most in the series, and his first at Pocono Raceway. The winning margin was 0.761 seconds.
Hamlin tried to run down Harvick on the final lap but Harvick prevented him from drafting to get close.
Hamlin said he was dealing with a vibration in the closing laps but may not have had enough for the 4 car regardless.
“With about 15 or 20 (laps) to go, the vibration just got really, really bad,” Hamlin said. “It still would have been tough to pass. Even though we got there, it would have been tough to get around him.”
NASCAR at Pocono results
Harvick led the final 17 laps after outmaneuvering Hamlin and polesitter Aric Almirola, who led the most laps with 61. Almirola finished third, while rookie driver Christopher Bell came home in fourth and Hamlin’s teammate Kyle Busch finished fifth.
# Rookie. (i) Ineligible for series points.
Average speed of race winner: 134.467 mph.
Time of race: 2 hours, 25 minutes, 1 second. Margin of victory: 0.761 seconds.
Caution flags: 6 for 21 laps.
Lead changes: 10 among 8 drivers.
Lap leaders: A. Almirola 1-19;J. Logano 20-30;A. Almirola 31-45;M. Truex Jr. 46-59;D. Hamlin 60-66;A. Almirola 67-93;D. Hamlin 94-96;R. Newman 97-109;M. McDowell 110;C. Buescher 111-113;K. Harvick 114-130.
Leaders summary (Driver, times led, laps led): Aric Almirola 3 times for 61 laps; Kevin Harvick 1 time for 17 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 1 time for 14 laps; Ryan Newman 1 time for 13 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 11 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 10 laps; Chris Buescher 1 time for 3 laps; Michael McDowell 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage 1 Top 10: 22,10,12,18,9,1,21,2,88,20
Stage 2 Top 10: 10,22,19,12,21,88,4,18,11,9
Material from the NASCAR Wire Service was used in this report.
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