Pocono NASCAR: Cup Series leader Harvick ends Pocono drought

Bethonie Waring
Autosport
Harvick beats Hamlin to win opening Pocono race
Harvick beats Hamlin to win opening Pocono race

Kevin Harvick claimed his first ever Pocono victory in the first of two NASCAR Cup races at the Pennsylvania circuit this weekend.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver started from ninth on the grid but dropped backwards in the first half of the race as the field ran a variety of strategies.

Harvick had relatively fresh tyres in the closing stages of the race and a comfortable lead ahead of Denny Hamlin in second.

He held the gap for a few laps as Hamlin struggled with vibrations, but the Toyota driver had an easier time passing lapped cars and was able to reel Harvick in. He was able to close in to just 0.761s behind of Harvick.

Pole sitter Aric Almirola and Joey Logano dominated the first two stages of the race, opting to pit much later than the rest of the field. Logano took the first stage win ahead of Almirola ahead of Ryan Blaney.

The pair were joined by Martin Truex Jr after the first pit stops cycled through. Truex was one of the earliest pitters, and his alternate strategy had helped him climb up from 11th on the grid.

Almirola took the second stage win ahead of Logano and Truex.

Harvick beats Hamlin to win opening Pocono race
Harvick beats Hamlin to win opening Pocono race

The trio led early in the final stage, but pit stop strategy put them behind Hamlin and Harvick after the final round of pit stops.

Logano's chance of victory dissolved when his left front tyre punctured in the closing stages of the race, while Truex fell back to sixth with his own vibration issues.

Almirola came home third, ahead of Christopher Bell and Kyle Busch.

The only major incident of the race came on lap 72 of 130 when Tyler Reddick ran into the back of Erik Jones. Both cars were heavily damaged and taken out of the race.

The incident could have an impact on tomorrow's race and drivers will have to use the same cars in both races.

Any changes to key components will put the driver at the back of the grid.

Clint Bowyer took seventh ahead of Michael McDowell, who briefly led after staying out late in the final stint.

Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher completed the top 10.

Pending any penalties, Ryan Preece is set to start on pole tomorrow. The Chevrolet driver finished 20th, just behind Austin Dillon. The top 20 finishers will be reversed for tomorrow's grid, putting Preece, Dillon, and Kurt Busch on the front row of the grid.

Race results - 130 laps

Pos

Driver

Team

Car

Gap

1

Kevin Harvick

Stewart-Haas Racing

Ford

2h25m01.s

2

Denny Hamlin

Joe Gibbs Racing

Toyota

0.761s

3

Aric Almirola

Stewart-Haas Racing

Ford

15.224s

4

Christopher Bell

Leavine Family Racing

Toyota

17.163s

5

Kyle Busch

Joe Gibbs Racing

Toyota

18.944s

6

Martin Truex Jr.

Joe Gibbs Racing

Toyota

25.152s

7

Clint Bowyer

Stewart-Haas Racing

Ford

26.072s

8

Michael McDowell

Front Row Motorsports

Ford

26.841s

9

Brad Keselowski

Team Penske

Ford

27.465s

10

Chris Buescher

Roush Fenway Racing

Ford

30.071s

11

Matt Kenseth

Chip Ganassi Racing

Chevrolet

31.312s

12

Ryan Blaney

Team Penske

Ford

31.726s

13

Matt DiBenedetto

Wood Brothers Racing

Ford

32.713s

14

William Byron

Hendrick Motorsports

Chevrolet

32.897s

15

Ryan Newman

Roush Fenway Racing

Ford

33.539s

16

Cole Custer

Stewart-Haas Racing

Ford

40.283s

17

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

JTG Daugherty Racing

Chevrolet

40.578s

18

Kurt Busch

Chip Ganassi Racing

Chevrolet

41.094s

19

Austin Dillon

Richard Childress Racing

Chevrolet

41.140s

20

Ryan Preece

JTG Daugherty Racing

Chevrolet

41.784s

21

Jimmie Johnson

Hendrick Motorsports

Chevrolet

48.122s

22

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Richard Petty Motorsports

Chevrolet

1 Lap

23

Corey LaJoie

Go FAS Racing

Ford

1 Lap

24

John Hunter Nemechek

Front Row Motorsports

Ford

1 Lap

25

Chase Elliott

Hendrick Motorsports

Chevrolet

1 Lap

26

Ty Dillon

Germain Racing

Chevrolet

1 Lap

27

Alex Bowman

Hendrick Motorsports

Chevrolet

1 Lap

28

Daniel Suarez

Gaunt Brothers Racing

Toyota

2 Laps

29

Brennan Poole

Premium Motorsports

Chevrolet

3 Laps

30

Tyler Reddick

Richard Childress Racing

Chevrolet

4 Laps

31

J.J. Yeley

Rick Ware Racing

Ford

5 Laps

32

Josh Bilicki

Tommy Baldwin Racing

Chevrolet

5 Laps

33

Garrett Smithley

Rick Ware Racing

Chevrolet

5 Laps

34

James Davison

Spire Motorsports

Chevrolet

5 Laps

35

Timmy Hill

MBM Motorsports

Toyota

5 Laps

36

Joey Logano

Team Penske

Ford

6 Laps

37

Joey Gase

Petty Ware Racing

Ford

9 Laps

38

Erik Jones

Joe Gibbs Racing

Toyota

Accident

39

B.J. McLeod

BJ McLeod Motorsports

Chevrolet

Transmission

40

Quin Houff

StarCom Racing

Chevrolet

Accident


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