Rough go for Busch
Kyle Busch’s winless streak carries on.
With a smack and a thud, Busch’s winless streak continued unceremoniously for at least another week.
Contact with Ryan Blaney on Lap 76 of Sunday’s Pocono 350 sent Busch spinning into the inside wall off Turn 2, causing heavy damage and ending his day.
The incident ensured that Busch’s drought would reach 15 races after being shutout of Victory Lane during the doubleheader weekend at the Tricky Triangle.
Busch was fifth in Saturday’s Pocono Organics 325.
“The guys did an amazing job from yesterday to today,” said Busch. “I guess it proves that you get a little practice time in, and we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with. “
Busch, a two-time and the defending Cup Series champion, has not won since Homestead-Miami Speedway in the 2019 season finale.
Entering the weekend, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver had made 30 series starts at Pocono, posting four poles, three wins (2017, 2018, 2019), eight top fives and 15 top 10s.
Since NASCAR’s return to racing in mid-May at Darlington Raceway following a hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the series has operated with a modified schedule, which has taken away qualifying and practice time.
Busch has lamented the loss of the latter, but the opportunity to race twice in one weekend made Pocono the perfect place for him to finally breakthrough.
Those hopes were dashed when Blaney made contact with the left rear of Busch’s car, as the two raced behind the lapped car of Garrett Smithley in the Tunnel Turn sending Busch hard into the inside wall with six laps to go in Stage 2 of the 140-lap event.
“The M & M’s Camry was pretty fast; Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys did a great job,” said Busch, who finished 38th. “It’s just frustrating and unfortunate.
“I know what happened, but it doesn’t make any sense to talk about it. It would just come across as a bad way.”
Busch, the defending winner of last season’s June Pocono race, entered the weekend ninth in points, the highest ranked driver in the standings without a win this year.
Pocono had been particularly good to Busch as of late. In his last seven series starts at the track, he had put up three wins and seven consecutive top 10s.
Busch has just seven top-fives and eight top-10s this season. He had 17 top-five and 27 top-10 finishes a year ago.
Sunday was his second DNF of the season, and first since the Daytona 500.
Busch is currently 11th in the series standings, one spot behind brother Kurt, and 158 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.
WINNERS … The weekend wasn’t a total wash for the Joe Gibbs Racing team, as Denny Hamlin beat the fading sunlight and Harvick to win Sunday’s race. The victory was the sixth for Hamlin at the track, tying him with Jeff Gordon for the most all-time.
It was Hamlin’s series-leading fourth win of the season, and the 41st of his career, breaking a tie with Mark Martin. Hamlin is now 19th on the all-time wins list.
Starting with Matt Kenseth’s win on Aug. 2, 2015, Joe Gibbs Racing has now won six of the last 11 NASCAR Cup Series races at Pocono Raceway, including the last three consecutive - Kyle Busch’s win in July of 2017 and his back-to-back victories in July 2018 and June 2019, and Hamlin’s victory last July.
The roles were reversed Saturday, as Harvick held off a hard-charging Hamlin for his third win of the season, and first in 39 career starts at Pocono.
Harvick leads the point standings by 52 points over Blaney, who earned his first victory of the season last week at Talladega.
DON’T BLINK … What was billed as a doubleheader weekend at Pocono turned out to be a trifecta of races on Sunday. Weather pushed the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race from Saturday to Sunday morning, which was followed by the Xfinity and Cup Series races.
Brandon Jones earned his first career victory in the Truck Series, while Chase Briscoe took the win in the Xfinity event.
All of the events during the weekend were held without fans in attendance.
THAT’S NOT ALL … While Saturday and Sunday were reserved for the sport’s top three series, that wasn’t the only on-track action that took place at Pocono over the weekend. The ARCA Menards Series hit the Tricky Triangle on Friday, with 17-year-old Ty Gibbs claiming his third career victory.
Gibbs is the 28th consecutive different ARCA Menards winner at Pocono, a streak that dates back to 2006. Gibbs is the grandson of NASCAR team owner and Hall of Fame NFL coach Joe Gibbs.
UP NEXT ... NASCAR heads to the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway next Sunday for the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400.
The IndyCar Series will also be in action at the Brickyard on Saturday for the GMR Grand Prix on the track’s road course.
Both events will be held without fans in attendance.