STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Column by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America photo —
Well, another NASCAR weekend at Pocono Raceway and an IndyCar go at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is in the books.
Nothing but stories flooded the race weekends and only added more suspense to both racing series’ seasons.
Red-hot Kyle Busch was in pursuit of his fourth-straight Sprint Cup Series win and started the weekend off with a bang by grabbing the p0le for Sunday’s Windows 10 400. The momentum only continued as Busch won Saturday’s Pocono Mountains 150 in his first start back in the Camping World Truck Series.
The classic owner-driver battle took place in the closing laps between Busch and his protege Erik Jones, which was the first time they were in a race since the XFINITY Series season opener at Daytona. Busch may have pulled away to a 1.2 second victory over other Cup interloper Kevin Harvick, but the racing between Busch and Jones stood out to me in the final laps of Saturday’s race.
From the lead to the wall, Matt Crafton thought Brad Keselowski took him out of the race so the 2012 Cup champ’s Truck Series driver Tyler Reddick could gain points on the two-time defending Truck Series champion. Put on your tin hats and roll out the black helicopters because I don’t believe what Crafton said about Brad Keselowski Racing for a second.
The points chase between he, Reddick and Jones has been nothing but entertaining this season. It’s been a few years since there was a great championship battle as the one’s that shaping up at the moment. Who can forget the closing laps of the 2012 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway when Ty Dillon gave his all before being making contact with Kyle Larson in the final laps to end his championship hopes, as James Buescher held on to win his first series championship? The way this year has been going, I’d expect this year’s championship battle to go down to the last lap at Homestead.
Saturday marked the first year of the return of the Truck-ARCA Series doubleheader to Pocono Raceway since 2012. The ModSpace 125 ran on Friday the last two seasons, but barely anyone stayed after rain postponed last year’s event by an hour. There was no rain in this year’s race as Cole Custer became ARCA’s youngest-superspeedway winner at the age of 17 years, six months and nine days, beating fellow JR Motorsports driver Chase Elliott by two days.
The irony of all of that happening was that Custer drove an old Chase Elliott car to the victory. Matt Kurzejewski scored his best-career series finish on Saturday with a third after leading 28 laps.
Out of the entire race weekend, Sunday may have been the craziest day. Both the IndyCar and Sprint Cup Series race were taking place at the same time and interesting story lines developed throughout both events.
At Mid-Ohio, Graham Rahal delighted the hometown crowd with a win in the Honda Indy 200 and with a sub-par run by points leader Juan Pablo Montoya, Rahal cut his deficit to nine points heading into the series’ next race on August 23 at Pocono Raceway.
Speaking of Pocono, the Windows 400 started off with a scary crash when Kasey Kahne lost control of his No. 5 Aquafina Chevrolet and slammed into the inside pit wall. Not only was the damage done to Kahne’s car and the wall, but also to his Chase hopes, as the Hendrick Motorsports driver currently sits outside of the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Another big crash took place on lap 28 when Sam Hornish Jr. missed a shift going into Turn 1, leaving Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to drive in the back of the No. 9 car and doing heavy damage to the front of the No. 17 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford. There were seven cautions before half-way, but only one yellow in the second-half of the event.
That threw many teams off, as the race became a fuel-mileage game and those who did the best of saving gas proved to factor the outcome. Joey Logano and Kyle Busch appeared to be saving some towards the end, but it wasn’t enough for either one as Logano’s fuel tank went dry with three laps to go and Busch coasted on the final lap as both drivers finished 20th and 21st, respectively.
With Busch weaving back-and-forth his No. 18 Crispy M&M’s Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth drove by the slowing car to capture his first win at the Tricky Triangle. Brad Keselowski had a scary moment on pit road after two of his pit crew members had to avoid the No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford and had to serve a penalty for the uncontrolled tire to bring out the race’s fifth caution. Nevertheless, he came home with a runner-up finish.
Jeff Gordon gained four spots in the first 15 laps before the competition caution flew when NASCAR decided to have one after an ARCA car laid down some fluid after Saturday’s ModSpace 125. Gordon lost most of his track position after Paul Menard and Kurt Busch made contact in front of him, sending the No. 41 car spinning and getting T-boned by Hornish on lap 66. With the drivers running out of fuel, Gordon crept closer to the front and found himself in third in his final Pocono start.
HMS teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. recovered from a spin to finish fourth in the race sponsor’s car. Greg Biffle scored his second top-five finish of the season with a fifth.
On the subject of twos, Tony Stewart picked up his second top-10 of the season by finishing ninth — highest of the Stewart-Haas Racing cars.
Sunday’s Windows 10 400 might have been the most bizarre Cup race I’ve seen at Pocono Raceway since first going there in June 2002. I was there when Steve Park flipped on the first lap later that July and NASCAR red-flagged the race to repair the guardrail and the time Ken Schrader got on his lid and his No. 49 car caught on fire, but I’ve never seen as many plot twists as Sunday’s race.
Next week’s races at Watkins Glen could produce a surprise winner, but I didn’t expect Matt Kenseth to win on Sunday at Pocono. He was in the right position when it mattered for his second Cup win of 2015.
Now it’s time to see what other surprises we might see heading into the Glen.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, Speed77 Radio, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.