Hamlin Delivers at Pocono for NASCAR

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Published August 10, 2020
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The Montclarion
NASCAR is one of the sports to come back amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of nascar.com

The first NASCAR tripleheader happened at Pocono Raceway, where three races occurred on the same day in June. Denny Hamlin seized the opportunity to claim his 41st series race. Driving the number 11 FedEx Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, Hamlin started the race in 14th position in the very delayed race.

The day before the tripleheader on June 28, the field of cars was inverted in the top 20. This meant if a driver finished 20th on Saturday they would start this race first.

Ryan Preece was going to lead the field, but was forced to the back of the grid due to an engine change in the 47 car. The front row would be started by the one, Kurt Busch, and the three, Austin Dillon.

The race started and went under caution by lap four due to inclement weather, where NASCAR held the race under a red flag.

Approximately an hour later, racing resumed as Busch, and now Ryan Blaney, took the green flag. By lap 15, the 34 car Micheal McDowell, slammed into the wall due to mechanical issues. The racing resumed green with three laps to go in stage number one as several drivers decided to head to the pit lane for tires and fuel. The drivers included Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and race winner Hamlin.

Busch was the winner of stage number one, as Blaney (12) took second, Christopher Bell (95) took third, Kevin Harvick (4) took fourth, Matt DiBenedetto (21) took fifth, Brad Keselowski (2) took sixth, Chris Buescher (17) was seventh, Martin Truex Jr. (19) took ninth and Cole Custer (41) rounded out the final 10th spot in stage one.

Busch decided to stay out with some others as DiBenedetto won the race off pit road and restarted 16th. On lap 39, Bell crashed his ride into the wall, bringing out another caution. During the green flag run, Blaney was contested for the lead by Truex Jr., but Blaney held on to the lead.

On lap 45, Buescher spun out, bringing out another yellow flag. After the yellow flag and when the green waved again on lap 57, Blaney decided to pit, handing the lead to Busch. Hamlin, however, was all over Blaney’s bumper and on lap 60 decided to pit and hand over his lead to Hamlin.

With 11 laps left in stage two, Hamlin led over Harvick. With 10 laps to go, Busch crashed after contact was made with Blaney and Garett Smithley, ending Busch’s day. Hamlin led everyone to pit road, but Aric Almirola restarted first. Four laps before the stage end, Preece was around and Bubba Wallace threaded the needle, somehow getting past Preece in a Tom Cruise-style stunt. Keselowski would end up winning stage two, and Hamlin would receive the last point, finishing the stage 10th.

Keselowski and Newman would end up on the front row on this restart. Harvick slid to P2 as he passed both Newman and Busch. Around 46 laps left in the race, Keselowski pitted for fuel, and Harvick was gifted the lead. Hamlin, who had been very fast all day, sat in P2 tailing Harvick.

Unfortunately, some drivers during the last pit stops had issues on pit road. Joey Logano (22), drove through too many pit boxes and Johnson had an uncontrolled tire. Both suffered a drive-through penalty under green. Harvick pitted around lap 36, and Hamlin, who now had the race lead, pitted at 21 laps to go, giving the lead to Truex Jr. With 16 laps to go, Truex Jr. pitted, handing the lead to Hamlin. Hamlin then ran away with the lead and won Pocono.

Hamlin maximized his efforts to get the win. Five cars did not finish and Hamlin scored his fourth victory of the season with the Pocono win.

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