NASCAR Barometer: Kenseth Gasses to Victory at Pocono

NASCAR Barometer: Kenseth Gasses to Victory at Pocono

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Matt Kenseth leveraged fuel mileage to power home to victory after Joey Logano and Kyle Busch both ran out of gas ahead of him last weekend at Pocono Raceway. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was one of the faster competitors all weekend, but didn't get his taste of the lead until the final two laps of the race. First it was Joey Logano who ran out of fuel while in the lead, and then Kyle Busch ceded his spot at the front just a lap later. Kenseth was there to scoop the spoils, leading two very important laps and taking his second win of the season.

Sunday's race was punctuated by plenty of trouble throughout the field. The fuel stints at the beginning of the race were fast and short. The lack of green-flag racing favored those drivers that were able to get off sequence after the competition caution on lap 15. Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick were the first two big names to suffer trouble, but they wouldn't be the only ones. The odd yellow sequences throughout the afternoon turned the race into a fuel-mileage event where a few drivers came up just a lap or two short.

UPGRADE

Matt Kenseth - Kenseth outlasted the competition on Sunday, using fuel mileage to come home first. It was Kenseth's first win at Pocono Speedway and came as a result of the cars ahead of him running out of fuel in the final segment. Kenseth's car was among the fastest throughout

Matt Kenseth leveraged fuel mileage to power home to victory after Joey Logano and Kyle Busch both ran out of gas ahead of him last weekend at Pocono Raceway. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was one of the faster competitors all weekend, but didn't get his taste of the lead until the final two laps of the race. First it was Joey Logano who ran out of fuel while in the lead, and then Kyle Busch ceded his spot at the front just a lap later. Kenseth was there to scoop the spoils, leading two very important laps and taking his second win of the season.

Sunday's race was punctuated by plenty of trouble throughout the field. The fuel stints at the beginning of the race were fast and short. The lack of green-flag racing favored those drivers that were able to get off sequence after the competition caution on lap 15. Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick were the first two big names to suffer trouble, but they wouldn't be the only ones. The odd yellow sequences throughout the afternoon turned the race into a fuel-mileage event where a few drivers came up just a lap or two short.

UPGRADE

Matt Kenseth - Kenseth outlasted the competition on Sunday, using fuel mileage to come home first. It was Kenseth's first win at Pocono Speedway and came as a result of the cars ahead of him running out of fuel in the final segment. Kenseth's car was among the fastest throughout the weekend practice sessions, and his ability to save fuel and come home in front was good enough to earn him his second win of the season and his first at the track. Kenseth has five top-10 finishes from 15 career starts at Watkins Glen. He has two of those top-10 finishes in his last three outings at the track, so look for a boost of confidence for the team this week.

Kyle Busch -
Despite finishing 21st, Busch put himself in contention to win yet again last week in Pocono. The driver only needs to finish in the top 24 in each of the remaining races to claim a spot in the Chase, but he was leading the race with just a lap remaining on Sunday. Not many cars looked as strong as Busch, and that should scare the rest of the garage. To make things even scarier for the rest of the field, Busch has two wins at Watkins Glen. His most recent was in 2013, and before last season's 40th-place finish he had eight-consecutive top-10 finishes at the New York track. Busch is on a roll, and last week's finish shouldn't stall that.

Joey Logano -
Another driver that came up just a little short was Logano. The driver was leading with three laps remaining when he fell short of fuel and was forced to coast. He lost the lead when his car lost power and he coasted to a 20th-place finish despite dominating the closing laps of the race. Logano has finished in the top 10 in three of the last four Watkins Glen races. Fantasy players shouldn't be worried about Logano's finish last week. Fuel mileage races tend to mask the competitiveness of some drivers and Logano is one. He has been one of the more consistent drivers at Watkins Glen in recent seasons, and should be so again this week.

Brad Keselowski -
Keselowski took advantage of other drivers' bad luck last week in Pocono. The No. 2 was a fast car throughout the weekend, but didn't have one of the machines that looked destined to win on Sunday. The Penske Racing driver did enough to remaining contention, though. That effort was enough to allow him to move forward as the cars ahead of him started to run out of fuel in the final miles on Sunday. As a result, the No. 2 finished second for his fourth consecutive top-10 finish. Things are looking brighter for this team; especially considering he has three top-10 finishes in his last three Watkins Glen races. Keselowski is building momentum at what could be the ideal time.

Greg Biffle -
Although Sunday's result may have been a bit unexpected, Biffle still claimed his second top-5 finish of the season. In fact, the finish was Biffle's first top-10 finish since Charlotte earlier this season. Roush Fenway Racing has been off of the pace for much of the season, and Biffle hasn't been immune to the effects. Biffle has to get a win in order to claim a spot in the Chase, which seems far-fetched at this point in the year. The team should take the positives from last week's Pocono result and build on it to take a step forward. Biffle has never won at Watkins Glen, but he does have two top-10 finishes in the last three races at the track.

DOWNGRADE

Kasey Kahne - Before Sunday's race was even five laps old Kahne found his car out of control off of turn 3. The No. 5 car slammed the pit wall and took Kahne completely out of competition for the day. That incident dealt a painful blow to Kahne's Chase hopes, and he needs a win now even more than prior. Winning will be a tall order this week, too. In 11 Watkins Glen starts Kahne has never finished in the top 10. His best finish came last season when he finished 12th, leading three laps. Things haven't gone as well this season as the team would have hoped, but luckily there are still some races for the No. 5 team to turn the situation around.

Kevin Harvick -
Harvick suffered a very rare mechanical failure early in Sunday's race. The No. 4 started strongly and seemed to be the main challenger to Kyle Busch in the opening miles. Unfortunately, the No. 4's engine expired in a plume of smoke shortly thereafter. The car coasted to the pits and behind the wall to be packed away for the day to record his worst finish since Daytona in July. Harvick has been one of the most reliable fantasy options for the past two seasons, so Sunday's failure shouldn't be taken as a signal of anything too terrible. He won at Watkins Glen in 2006 and has two top-10 finishes in the last five starts at the New York road course.

Kurt Busch -
Busch was another driver that had more incidents than he would have liked last week in Pocono. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver seemed to be caught up in many of the mid-race wrecks that ended other competitors' days. Busch ultimately was forced behind the wall to repair a damaged track bar, and that ended the chances he had of turning in another top finish. Busch is confidently in the Chase, but hasn't won yet at Watkins Glen. He started from pole at the track in 2006 and has two top-10 finishes in his last two visits there along with a Sonoma win. Busch could be a top option to bounce back to good form next week at the road course.

Denny Hamlin -
Hamlin had a good afternoon going last week in Pocono before mistakes put him down a lap, a deficit he was unable to recover from. The No. 11 seemed to be one of the better horses in the Gibbs stable, but wasn't able to avoid the missteps that can easily erase chances of victory. He finished 22nd in the race. Unlike Pocono, Watkins Glen hasn't been a top track for the No. 11. He hasn't finished in the top 10 in any of the last five races at the track, and had three consecutive DNFs from 2010 to 2012. Hamlin is securely in the Chase field, but needs to turn up his results a notch if he wants to advance deep into the knockout rounds.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

A.J. Allmendinger - Sunday's top-10 run at Pocono has to be a shot in the arm for Allmendinger. His only previous top-10 finish at the track came all the way back in 2010. The result is especially good considering he heads to Watkins Glen next week. The top result will boost his confidence at a track where he is already one of the top drivers to consider. Allmendinger's main competition in 2014 at Watkins Glen was Marcs Ambrose, who is not in the series this year. The No. 47 also hadn't tasted the top 10 since Las Vegas in March. Sunday's result should give this driver and team boost at the perfect opportunity for them to capitalize next week.

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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.
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