Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), was forced to retire from Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway after only 23 laps. He finished 42nd, one spot out of last place.
On lap 22, Busch radioed to his team that he thought he had an engine issue with his M&M’s Toyota and he took his car to the garage one lap later. Busch, who finished behind all drivers except Johnny Sauter, started seventh.
“Something in between the frame rails just didn’t want to operate correctly, so it’s unfortunate, because I thought we had a good car this weekend,” said Busch, who has seven top-10 finishes in 20 starts at Pocono. “The car in practice was strong and it felt good, and we were biding our time early in the race. We pitted early to get off sequence a little bit to see if we couldn’t do something different than the leaders, but we just didn’t get the chance to see how the race would play out. Obviously you hope for better days for this M&M’s Camry team.”
The race was marked with eight caution flags (seven for accidents) including a 13-car melee at lap 118.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the GoBowling.com 400 to score his 22nd career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his second at Pocono. After a late-race caution, Earnhardt held off Kevin Harvick, who finished .228 of a second behind Earnhardt, while Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-10.
Earnhardt was aided by a pit strategy engineered by crew chief Steve Letarte that worked perfectly with the cautions. On Lap 121 Earnhardt took his No. 88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet SS to pit road to take four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment while the majority of the front-runners stayed out.
Ten laps later, Earnhardt visited pit row once again to top off his fuel, allowing him to gain track position on the drivers who took tires and fuel.
With only five races remaining before the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship chase field is set, the next race will be the 355 at The Glen Aug. 10 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.