LONG POND, Pa. (AP) – Kyle Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing team were in sync everywhere on the track but victory lane. When it was time to snap photos of the winners, some members flashed one finger, others held up six.
Yes, that’s one for the win at Pocono Raceway and six for the total this season.
Busch then heard his name shouted from the top of the Richard Petty 200 Victory Circle. He craned his neck toward the section where the words were flanked by two images of Petty in his feathered Stetson hat and dark glasses.
Busch still has a long chase toward Petty on the Cup wins list but it hasn’t kept the 33-year-old star from thinking about how far he can get.
“The top! Pretty simple,” Busch said.
Busch had no one to bump him out of the lead this week and stormed from the bottom half of the field Sunday at Pocono Raceway on the way to his sixth NASCAR Cup victory of the season.
While champagne was sprayed on the podium, team owner Joe Gibbs was a safe distance from the party, a Super Bowl ring glistening on a finger he plugged into his ear to muffle the noise as he talked on the phone.
“Crazy, man. He’s on a tear right now,” he said to the other side.
The milestones kept piling up for Busch in a race where he matched Kevin Harvick for most wins this season.
Busch tied three-time champ Tony Stewart for 13th on the career wins list with 49.
“You keep reaching higher up the ladder and you keep reaching more milestone drivers,” Busch said. “Tony Stewart is one of the all-time best and one of the drivers that I was a fan of growing up. It’s awesome to be able to tie him. There’s many more. We want to keep going.”
Gibbs fielded cars for both Busch and Stewart and said both drivers were born to race.
“Very talented, driven, they want to go to the front,” Gibbs said. “Both of them were real talented, that’s for sure.”
Busch, who won eight times in 2008, made it look easy at Pocono this weekend, with a win Saturday in the Truck Series race. He won for the 192nd time over the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series.
“How many can you get? I don’t know. I’d like to think everything’s achievable,” Busch said.
He has Cup wins this year at Texas, Bristol, Richmond, Charlotte and Chicagoland. He hasn’t gone more than three races without a winning a race since April. Busch had never won at Pocono until July 2017. He’s won 10 races since that date and led more than 2,000 laps.
The only quibble with all this success?
“I do have a trophy case problem,” Busch said, laughing.
Busch was set to start second but his No. 18 Toyota was one of 13 cars dumped to back of the pack for flunking post-qualifying inspection. The penalized cars included Harvick, who used a bump-and-run on the 18 with seven laps left last week at New Hampshire to knock Busch out of contention.
Much like the qualifying penalty, last week was just a minor afterthought.
Harvick’s pole qualifying run also was tossed out but he led 30 laps and finished fourth.
The race was red flagged with six laps left in the wake of a violent wreck by Darrell Wallace Jr. Wallace lost the breaks in his No. 43 Chevrolet and the car shot across the grass and slammed into the wall. There were several tense seconds during a wait for Wallace to put down his window net. Once out, he sat on the track and slumped against the car before he taken to the track medical center.
When the race resumed, Busch zipped away and he surged ahead again on the final restart in overtime to add to the win total for NASCAR’s Big Three: Busch, Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have won 16 of the 21 Cup Series.
“What’s crazy is, how this year keeps going,” Busch said. “Harvick gets one, we get one, Truex gets one. We’re all back and forth.”
Busch held off a pair of young drivers aiming for their first career Cup win. Daniel Suarez, the first Mexican driver to win the pole for a Cup race, finished second and Alex Bowman was third.
There are just five races left before the 16-driver playoff field is set.
Only seven drivers have won races this season.
Harvick had a shot at his seventh win derail when the Ford was damaged on pit road and he slipped again to the back of the pack. Harvick is 0 for 36 at Pocono and has yet to win there or at Kentucky Speedway.
Here are other items of note at Pocono.
Wallace had one of the hardest hits a driver can have at Pocono in a blow somewhat cushioned by the protective barriers. He said he felt helpless and the wreck “scared the hell out of me.”
“That was a huge hit,” he said. “Mom, everybody back at home, I’m OK. That scared the hell out of me.”
Wallace just signed a two-year contract extension through 2020 with Richard Petty Motorsports.
“Everything was good. They gave me an ultrasound, no twins or anything,” Wallace said.
Busch and Suarez went 1-2, Erik Jones was fifth and Denny Hamlin 10th. Gibbs said Craftsman/Stanley has signed on as a primary sponsor for Jones next season.
Matt DiBenedetto approached Aric Almirola on pit road and engaged in a brief, heated conversation.
The series shifts toward the road course where at Watkins Glen, where Truex is the defending race winner.
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