The start of the 400 at Pocono Raceway. (David Moulthrop Photo)

NASCAR Notes: Pocono’s Chaotic Storylines

LONG POND, Pa. — In years past, Pocono Raceway’s NASCAR Cup Series events have been best known for long green-flag runs and fuel strategy. 

While fuel strategy came into play along the way, the action and chaotic moments that occurred throughout Sunday’s 400 were nothing short of entertaining.

An Enthusiastic Pocono Crowd

Sunday’s race was sold-out as Pocono marked its 50th season of hosting NASCAR. An enthusiastic crowd brought plenty of added elements to the afternoon’s proceedings.

Most notably as Hamlin finished his celebratory burnout on the frontstretch, he was met with a thunderous roar of boos from the fans in the grandstands. 

Multiple Feuds

While short-track racing is better known for altercations among drivers, the 160-lap event at the 2.5-mile track produced plenty of heated tempers. 

The most discussed confrontation featured race-winner Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson, where Hamlin squeezed Larson toward the turn-one wall as the pair battled for the lead with six laps to go.

Larson’s frustration boiled over during his post-race interviews, stating he “got used up” and he “didn’t even get to race him.”

Hamlin’s perspective was vastly different, as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was adamant that his Toyota never touched Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet.

• Earlier in the race, Austin Dillon threw his helmet at Tyler Reddick’s No. 45 Toyota after the two made contact heading into turn one, promptly sending the No. 3 Chevrolet hard into the outside wall.

“I’m pissed about it from my perspective because I couldn’t see him,” Dillon said. “I know I was three-wide, my left-front’s in front of him. That’s the bigger thing.

“I’m in front of him, so I didn’t come down egregiously. He drove in the corner deep enough to try and get me back, like to get his right front in front of my left front. 

“That was not possible with how I drove in the corner, and he wiped me out, at the fastest part of the track.”  

After the checkered flag, Ryan Preece ran to Corey LaJoie’s race car where a confrontation ensued.

The altercation stemmed from LaJoie getting into Preece on the final lap, sending the No. 41 Ford spinning. Preece’s car was stalled on the track before the caution flag waved, promptly ending the race. 

Notable Strong Performances 

While Hamlin surged to his 50th career Cup Series victory, there were a few notable drivers who bagged top-10 results.

• For the first time in his Cup Series career, Ty Gibbs scored a top-five result in fifth. Aboard the No. 54 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, Gibbs had slightly fresher tires at the end of the race, helping the reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion surge to the front.

“Definitely had a great strategy today, my crew chief (Chris Gayle) did a great job. I feel like we kept good track position the whole time,” Gibbs said. “I need to do a better job on my part, maybe we can be contending for wins. 

“I feel like we were just really solid. I just gotta do a better job there. But, just really happy with my team’s efforts, good day.” 

This year’s Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. notched his seventh top-10 finish, placing seventh. It was Stenhouse’s second top-10 result in the past three races.

• Piloting the famed Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford, Harrison Burton earned his best result since Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in May (sixth) with an eighth-place effort. 

Burton and the No. 21 team used strategy to their advantage by stretching their fuel run toward the end of the race, with a caution falling their way. 

• Despite Legacy Motor Club’s massive struggles this season, Erik Jones wheeled his No. 43 Chevrolet to a ninth-place finish.

The No. 43 team has seen an uptick in performance lately with it being the fourth consecutive week Jones has finished 16th or better.