NASCAR at Pocono 2015: Winners, Losers from Windows 10 400
Some races are wilder than others, and Sunday's Windows 10 400 at Pocono is one that will take a day or two to recover from.
The race started out with a slew of cautions, which is unusual for Pocono. Before the race was even one-third of the way over, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were all done for the day.
Things settled down in the middle, but then fuel-mileage games took over and mayhem broke out.
Here are all of the winners and losers from a memorable Sunday at Pocono.
Winner: Fuel-Mileage Races
I'm usually not a fan of fuel-mileage races, which tend to be more worry than action, but on Sunday at Pocono, there was more than enough payoff.
Joey Logano and Kyle Busch were the top two headed down the stretch, and both were on the same pit-road strategy and cutting it close on fuel mileage.
Logano, who has finished as the runner-up to Busch in two of the last three races, led 97 laps on the day and had a good cushion over the No. 18 car with five laps to go.
Then, with about three laps remaining, Logano completely ran out of fuel and had to swing by pit road to fill up. It looked like Busch was going to have enough gas to make it and capture a historic fourth straight victory, but he ran out completely with less than one lap to go. Then Matt Kenseth snuck out the win.
It was a crazy finish that seemed fitting for such an exciting race track.
Loser: Kyle Busch
It's hard to feel sorry for Kyle Busch these days. Coming into this race at Pocono, the No. 18 driver had won three in a row and four of the last five races.
This weekend, he won the Truck Series race and the Coors Light Pole.
But what was looking like a fairytale Sunday ended up in frustration when Busch ran out of fuel on the last lap and ended up in 21st. He had been in position to win the race and clinch his spot in the Chase but now remains 13 points outside of 30th place.
"We went for broke today, and we came up a little bit short," Busch said on NBC Sports Network after the race.
As fast as the No. 18 car has been lately, he should be able to get into the top 30 in no time.
Winner: Matt Kenseth
A frustrating end for Joey Logano and Kyle Busch turned into a celebration for Matt Kenseth, who somehow was able to conserve enough gas to make it through the finish line after the two leaders faltered.
"I never thought I'd ever win at Pocono, and I never thought I'd win a fuel-mileage race," Kenseth said after the race on NBCSN.
His surprise was understandable. Kenseth had been notoriously poor in fuel-mileage races in his career, and he had finished worse than 20th in five of his last six starts on the track. But he conquered the triangle on Sunday.
This was the second Sprint Cup win of the season for Kenseth, and it added to the "Summer of Success" that Joe Gibbs Racing is experiencing.
A Team JGR driver has won seven of the last 11 races, dating back to the All-Star Race. All four team drivers have accounted for at least one victory in that span.
Loser: Kasey Kahne
Kasey Kahne came into the race on Sunday in 14th place in the driver standings, in danger of not making the Chase if he didn't get either a win or a plethora of points in the next few weeks.
Unfortunately, his hopes of having a good day in Pocono ended very quickly, when he got loose and went crashing into the pit wall on just the fourth lap of the day.
His crash was bad enough to bring out the red flag, as the pit-road wall had to be repaired. Luckily, the crew members and spectators standing nearby weren't injured.
"I saw the people, and I was like, 'Man, you guys better take off running. Get out of the way,'" Kahne said on NBCSN.
Kahne ended up finishing in last place. We'll have to wait and see whether his Chase hopes can be repaired.
Winner: Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon has had a lot of reasons to smile this year, as he's been honored by track after track during his farewell season as a Sprint Cup driver.
However, very few of those reasons to smile have come on race day.
That was remedied on Sunday when Gordon finished in third place, notching his first top-five finish of the summer and tying his best finish of the season.
Gordon and his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, focused in on fuel conservation early at Pocono, and it paid off when many ahead of him ran out late in the race.
The legendary No. 24 driver still isn't locked into the Chase, since he doesn't have a win, but this high finish did drastically improve his shot at getting in on points.
That's a good thing for NASCAR—a Chase without Gordon during his final year just wouldn't feel right.
Loser: Stewart-Haas Racing
It's been a great year for Stewart-Haas Racing with the success of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, but Sunday is a day the team would soon rather forget.
Harvick was the first driver in trouble—the 2014 Sprint Cup champion's engine expired only 20 laps into the race, and his hauler was leaving Pocono before the race was even halfway over. He finished 42nd.
Busch had troubles on Lap 66 and went spinning, and then his car was badly damaged when Sam Hornish Jr. slammed into him. He went to the garage for fixes and finished the race, but a 37th-place finish was hardly a consolation prize.
Tony Stewart did manage to salvage a ninth-place finish, one of his best of the year, while Danica Patrick, who led five laps of the race, finished 16th.
Winner: The Resiliency of Brad Keselowski's Pit Crew
Don't ever question the toughness of Brad Keselowski's pit crew. After Sunday at Pocono, we now know that they get right back up after being knocked down. Literally.
Keselowski's brakes jammed up as he went in for a stop at his pit stall during a round of green-flag pit stops about a third of the way through the race.
Since the No. 2 car didn't stop in time, he ended up crashing right into his pit crew. The front-tire changer had to jump over the corner of the car, and the tire carrier jumped on the hood.
Braxton Brannon, the jackman, tried to jump out of the way of the car but ended up getting clipped and suffering the worst fall.
"Brannon was turned in the air, landing hard on his back as the jack went flying and narrowly missed landing on top of him," Jay Pennell of Fox Sports reported.
Thankfully, all of the crew members were OK, and after Keselowski was issued a penalty for the uncontrolled tire created by the wreck, he ended up finishing in second place. I think it's safe to say that on Sunday night, dinner was on Brad.
Loser: Sam Hornish Jr.
You name it, it happened to Sam Hornish Jr. on Sunday in Pocono.
On Lap 27, he slowed down because his tire started coming apart, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s car plowed into him. Stenhouse's day was done, but the No. 9 continued.
However, later, Hornish crashed into the back of Kurt Busch when Busch was spinning. Both cars were heavily damaged in that wreck.
Then, after getting his car back on the track, Hornish got an uncontrollable-tire penalty. While serving that penalty, he got caught speeding on pit road.
The Richard Petty Motorsports driver, who got his second chance at Sprint Cup glory this year after being sent back to the minor leagues for a while, ended up in 39th place.