Last week Kyle Busch won two races out of two in which he was entered at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with visits to victory lane in both the Xfinity and Sprint Cup events. It looks like he's got a notion to do exactly the same again this weekend at Pocono Raceway if he can, and he's already accomplished half of it by clinching the Pocono Mountains 150, his 43rd victory in 126 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events.
It's Busch's first outing of the year in the championship, in which he is a team owner. After his accident at Daytona in February left him with a broken right leg and left foot, Busch prioritised a return to the Sprint Cup Series before gradually easing his way back into the supporting races.
After a wobbly start to Saturday afternoon's race, Busch essentially dominated and never looked in trouble especially after two of his main competitors took each other out just five laps into the race. However there was still plenty of risk for Busch near the end when a serious of late race cautions led to a maxed-out number of overtime attempts to finish the race.
CLICK: Full race results from Pocono Raceway.
Busch started the race from the front row, but Erik Jones managed to stopped his boss from getting a Truck pole to go with the Sprint Cup one he had already picked up on Friday. Jones posted a time of 54.151s (166.202mph) on the 2.5-mile tri-oval to pip Busch by three hundredths of a second and pick up his sixth pole in 29 Truck Series starts - his first-ever at Pocono - and his fourth pole of the 2015 season.
Still, the team owner would have been happy with the all-Kyle Busch Motorsports lock-out of the front row, with reigning Truck champion Matt Crafton starting alongside owner-driver Brad Keselowski on the second row when the green flag came out to get the party started shortly after 1pm on Saturday afternoon. Immediately, Jones leapt out to a one second lead at the front while Busch initially struggled and fell back to fourth before finding his speed and moving back up to second, quickly giving chase to the rapidly disappearing Jones.
Keselowski and Crafton were left to battle over third place and then found themselves three-wide with JR Motorsports' Kevin Harvick through turn 3 when Crafton's right rear made contact with Keselowski's left front. That sent both trucks into a hard impact with the wall, doing extensive damage in the process. Crafton was not happy, and as he waited for the ThorSport Racing crew to effect what repairs they could on the #88 he stormed down pit road to confront Keselowski.
"He hooked me, the #29 just hooked me, I don't know why," said Crafton. "That's all there was to it getting into Turn 3 ... It's destroyed. It's done, I'm telling you."
Crafton harboured dark suspicions that Keselowski had wrecked him in purpose in the hope that with the points leader out of the race, the second Brad Keselowski Racing truck driven by series regular Tyler Reddick would now have the opportunity to cash in.
"I guess that's maybe how he wants to win a championship with that #19 truck," fumed Crafton. "He's got another think coming. I promise you that truck won't win it. If that's how he wants to do it, we'll get it done."
"Something happened where we obviously made contact," responded Keselowski, denying any such intentions. "We were entering turn 3 and I head my spotter say the #00 was going to make it three-wide and next thing I knew it looks like he went straight into the corner. Next thing I knew we made contact. I was trying to get in line behind him.
"The last thing I want to do is wreck the point leader or any of these regular guys and mess up my day as well," he added. "These trucks are expensive and it's going to cost a lot to fix.
"I have no interest in coming to the Truck Series and wrecking someone on purpose," he insisted. "The last thing I want to do is go out and wreck them. I want my team to earn it if they are to run up front. I have no interest in going out and wrecking someone intentionally and that's not what happened."
With Crafton and Keselowski out of the way, Busch was able to block an assertive attack from Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillon and move around Jones for the lead. He would go on to lead for 53 of the 69 laps of the race, largely uncontested. He was only absent from the front for seven laps just after the midway point of the race during a cycle of green flag pit stops during which time first Crafton's team mate Johnny Sauter and then GMS Racing's Spencer Gallagher took on locum duties at the head of the field.
Once back in front on lap 39 Busch was never ousted again, but actually sealing the deal and claiming the chequered flag proved unexpectedly difficult for Busch and indeed all concerned. Having run 50 laps with just the one caution for Crafton and Keselowski's early mishap, the final laps became a comedy of costly errors and crashes precipitated by a debris caution that closed up the field and set the scene for everyone to bunch up and start falling over one another.
The first of these caution-bred cautions was on lap 56 when contact with Ray Black Jr. in turn 3 sent Wendell Chavous spinning into the pit lane entrance where he hit an inside wall in accident very similar to the one experienced by Jeb Burton in an early Sprint Cup practice session.
That put the race under green-white-chequered overtime conditions in which the drivers would make no more than three attempts to finish the race in a two lap sprint, but the first of these was aborted when contact with Dillon sent Erik Jones spinning out in turn 1. The second also failed to finish the day off as John Wes Townley and Mason Mingus went for a spin in turn 3 before the race could reach the white flag. Finally, on the third and definitely last time of asking, the race managed to stay accident-free for long enough for Busch to break away and win by over a second from Harvick.
As if confirming Crafton's earlier pronouncements of a BKR conspiracy, the highest placed series regular turned out to be Keselowski's team mate Tyler Reddick in third place, which was enough to move Reddick ahead of Crafton in the standings with an 11 point lead.
There was some consolation for ThorSport Racing with Cameron Hayley coming home in fourth ahead of Dillon and his team mate Sauter in sixth followed by Timothy Peters, Matt Tifft and Daniel Hemeric, with Jones recovering to finish the race in tenth position which means that he remains in third place in the standings ahead of Sauter, Hayley and Townley.
The next race on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series calendar is the Careers for Veterans 200 at Michigan International Speedway in two weeks time on Saturday, August 15. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch will be be back in action again at Pocono on Sunday where he has already captured pole position in his campaign to secure a fourth consecutive Sprint Cup victory in a row; if he can do it, it will most likely come with a place in the Chase championship play-offs attached.
See full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Camping World Truck Series championship standings.
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