NASCAR Barometer: Truex Weathers Late Cautions to Win in Pocono

NASCAR Barometer: Truex Weathers Late Cautions to Win in Pocono

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Sunday's race at Pocono Raceway was a three-way battle among the top championship contenders in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series. Martin Truex Jr. topped a 400-mile battle between himself, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick after fighting back from a slow pit stop with the fastest machine on track. The three dominating drivers were in a class of their own at the unique circuit, and making the right choices on pit road to gain track position and perfect handling made the difference, as Truex persevered through two late restarts to hold onto the lead and score his second win of 2018. The victory earns him a spot alongside Harvick and Busch as the only multiple-race winners so far in 2018.

This week the series looks ahead to Michigan International Speedway. Kyle Larson swept the two visits to Michigan last season and was a factor in Pocono as well. His aggressive moves forward earned him a runner-up position last week, which could provide some momentum to a track at which his confidence must surely be at its highest.

UPGRADE

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex was very confident in his car after Friday's practice, and it showed in the race. The No. 78 stalked Harvick and Kyle Busch throughout the first stage, and made moves to capture the segment win. Trouble on his pit stop meant he had to work his way back into contention, but he was back in the top five for the final segment. That work gave him back

Sunday's race at Pocono Raceway was a three-way battle among the top championship contenders in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series. Martin Truex Jr. topped a 400-mile battle between himself, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick after fighting back from a slow pit stop with the fastest machine on track. The three dominating drivers were in a class of their own at the unique circuit, and making the right choices on pit road to gain track position and perfect handling made the difference, as Truex persevered through two late restarts to hold onto the lead and score his second win of 2018. The victory earns him a spot alongside Harvick and Busch as the only multiple-race winners so far in 2018.

This week the series looks ahead to Michigan International Speedway. Kyle Larson swept the two visits to Michigan last season and was a factor in Pocono as well. His aggressive moves forward earned him a runner-up position last week, which could provide some momentum to a track at which his confidence must surely be at its highest.

UPGRADE

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex was very confident in his car after Friday's practice, and it showed in the race. The No. 78 stalked Harvick and Kyle Busch throughout the first stage, and made moves to capture the segment win. Trouble on his pit stop meant he had to work his way back into contention, but he was back in the top five for the final segment. That work gave him back the track position he needed to weather two late restarts and a charge from Larson on his way to victory. Truex hasn't won at Michigan but did finish sixth and second with 119 laps led in the two visits last season. The championship battle is heating up, and Truex is making sure he remains part of it.

Kyle Busch – Busch complained early in Sunday's race that the adjustments the team made on their first stop ruined his ability to stay at the front. The crew quickly corrected the handling, which enabled Busch to return to the front to battle Harvick and Truex for supremacy. He was the first of the leaders to take advantage of late cautions to grab fresh tires, but restarting seventh didn't give him enough track position to work his way up to challenge Truex for the win. Still, it was another top afternoon from the former champion. Busch finished in the top 10 in both Michigan races last season and has one win at the circuit from back in 2011. He should be a top contender next week, too.

Kevin Harvick – Harvick took the lead early in Pocono but was unable to hold off Truex for the first stage victory of the afternoon despite leading the most laps to that point. He came back to add his seventh stage win of the season in the second segment, though. It was another strong afternoon from the Stewart-Haas Racing team as they look set to run out front each and every week. While Harvick slipped a few places on the final restarts, it doesn't hide the fact that he was a dominant car throughout signification portions of Sunday's race. Harvick has just one Michigan win from 34 career starts but has finished in the top 10 15 times. Fantasy owners should expect another top finish.

Jimmie Johnson – Confidence just continues building in the No. 48 team. The former champion had a breakout race in Charlotte two weeks ago, and then immediately backed it up with another strong performance at Pocono. Johnson has struggled to come to grips with the new Chevrolet so far this season, but is starting to get the most out of it as evidenced by consistently running inside the top 10 throughout the last 1,000 miles of racing. Back-to-back top performances from him open the door for fantasy owners to begin having confidence in him again. Michigan would be a good place to consider it, too. In 32 starts at the track he has 11 top-10s including a win in 2014. He finished 10th in this race last season, too.

Joey Logano – Logano was the first driver to play the strategy game in Sunday's race pitting earlier than the rest of the field. That move proved to be disastrous after the crew failed to get the car full of fuel. Logano ran out of gas before the stage finish and was forced to pit while the pits were closed putting him a lap down to start the second stage. By the final 20 laps of the race, Logano was only racing to finish inside the top 20 but that was when things paid off. As troubles to other drivers happened in the final laps, Logano moved forward into a top-10 finish. He didn't lead any laps at Michigan last season, but did finish third in the spring visit.

DOWNGRADE

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer didn't have the speed to match the top three contenders but was quick enough to remain in touch with the top five throughout most of the distance on Sunday. However, he had his first bobble as the race distance wound down, but late cautions enabled him to gather things back together and work his way back into the top 10. That didn't last long after another one sent him falling through the field with less than 10 laps remaining. He was only able to recover to finish 20th despite being a top-10 car most of the afternoon. Bowyer has 11 top-10 finishes from 24 career Michigan starts and is growing in confidence each week.

Darrell Wallace Jr. – Wallace was having a decent day in Pocono even cycling through to the lead during pit stops. His pit stop following that stint at the front resulted in a pass-through penalty after he was caught speeding on his exit. While that penalty hurt, it was only the beginning of bad things to come. Wallace had a missed shift at the start of the final stage, which damaged his engine. His race was over at that point, and he coasted all the way around the long track and straight to the garage. He was the first car out of the race and would be scored last. Like Pocono, Wallace has one Cup start at Michigan. He raced to 19th there last spring.

Kasey Kahne – Kahne's woes continued Sunday at Pocono. The track has been the site of much success for the veteran driver, but demonstrated just how much of a step behind he and his team are to the competition this season. Kahne did well to use strategy to cycle near the front of the field through pit stops showing some promise, but couldn't avoid falling a lap behind the leaders once he finally made his stop. The fight was all for naught when he was forced to retire with a mechanical failure with less than 50 laps remaining. Despite Kahne having a relatively recent win at Michigan fantasy players will still likely want to avoid selecting him this week if possible.

Erik Jones – Pocono should have been on stop where Jones could come to life and score a top finish. He was tremendous in both races at the track last season, and expectations for another top finish were high again last week. That did not transpire, though. For much of Sunday's race Jones was mired in the middle of the pack, and that ultimately doomed his afternoon after contact on a late restart sent him into the wall. Being with Joe Gibbs Racing this season should give Jones more opportunity to win, but it seems like he was more of a factor last year. He finished 13th and third at Michigan last season, but a top-15 this week would probably be considered a success.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Aric Almirola – Almirola hasn't seen his best results coming from Pocono Raceway, but he put that past history on its ear last week. He drove a confident race throughout the afternoon, and cycled forward for the final laps of the race. With less than 15 laps remaining he was fighting for a top-five finish at a track that has given him little of anything in the past. Almirola continues to drive the No. 10 team to better results, and that should continue throughout the rest of this season. Michigan is another track where Almirola has faltered in the past, but he is rewriting his history at virtually every track this season.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Ambetter Health 400
NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Ambetter Health 400
NASCAR DFS:  Ambetter Health 400
NASCAR DFS: Ambetter Health 400
NASCAR DFS Trucks: Fr8 208
NASCAR DFS Trucks: Fr8 208
Ambetter Health 400 Preview: New Slot for Atlanta
Ambetter Health 400 Preview: New Slot for Atlanta