POCONO, Pa. - Kevin Harvick made a bid for sweeping the two Pocono Cup races, but came up one spot short to winner Denny Hamlin.
The same two drivers that contested for Saturday’s win found themselves in the same position on Sunday, but this time the roles reversed themselves. Harvick had the lead when he came down pit road for two tires and fuel with 35 laps to go. Hamlin opted to stay out and used a clean race track to put down some consistent lap times that, combined with Harvick having to maneuver lap traffic, enabled him to get a comfortable lead and pit with 20 laps remaining. Harvick was never able to threaten in the closing laps and ended up second.
Aric Almirola had another strong day as he scored his fourth straight top-five finish, finishing fifth overall. Matt DiBenedetto ran sixth while Clint Bowyer was eighth, giving Ford four top 10 finishers in a race that was once again dogged by rain and lightning delays.
Ryan Blaney was a strong contender early in the race, leading a Ford-best 21 laps, but he made contact with Kyle Busch that damaged the right-front corner of his Mustang enough to take him out of contention. Brad Keselowski won the second stage, and had a Mustang that was reeling in Harvick and Hamlin, but he was forced to pit with only a handful of laps remaining and finished 11th.
The series will continue next Sunday with the Brickyard 400 at 4 p.m. Eastern. The race will can be seen live on NBC as that network begins its 2020 season coverage.
SUNDAY MENCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st - Denny Hamlin
2nd -- Kevin Harvick
3rd -- Erik Jones
4th -- Chase Elliott
5th -- Aric Almirola
6th -- Matt DiBenedetto
7th -- William Byron
8th -- Clint Bowyer
9th -- Alex Bowman
10th -- Martin Truex Jr.
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
11th -- Brad Keselowski
17th -- Cole Custer
18th -- Ryan Newman
19th -- John Hunter Nemechek
21st -- Corey LaJoie
22nd -- Ryan Blaney
24th -- Joey Logano
28th -- J.J. Yeley
33rd -- Joey Gase
36th -- Chris Buescher
40th -- Michael McDowell
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Busch Head for the Mountans Ford Mustang
“I think for us our Head for the Mountains Busch Beer Ford was actually better than yesterday. We had a really good car. He just did the opposite of what we did. We didn’t want to get caught with a caution and then wind up losing a little bit too much time in lap traffic with all the cars that hadn’t pitted and he was out there running clean laps and waited until right to the very end and wound up in front of us. I’m proud of everybody on our team. Yesterday that won us the race and today finished second.”
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Vote For Bacon Ford Mustang
“Another top five. I’m so proud of Buga and al the guys on this 10 team. That’s four top fives in a row. What a weekend we had here in Pocono, got a lot of stage points and finished third yesterday and fifth today. We’re riding a wave of momentum and I’m just so happy and thankful for all of our partners -- Smithfield, Ford, Mobil 1, Go Bowling, everybody that helps this whole program out and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. I know you guys have been working so many hours trying to keep up with the pace of all these races, so just really proud. We’ll go to Indy, a place that’s very similar to the tunnel turn at Pocono and felt like we were really good there this weekend. I’m excited about Indy and another top five.”
MATT DIBENEDETTO, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang
HOW WAS YOUR DAY?
“It wouldn’t be a NASCAR race without some rain here lately. It was a long weekend. Two races back-to-back was pretty cool. Knocked them both out in one weekend, but we got stage points in all four stages between the two races, so that’s good and I felt like we finished solid yesterday and today we had a good day. We got stage points in both and the second stage we were actually anticipating possibly giving up the stage points for our strategy to have a good finishing position, but it worked out to where we still had some solid restarts and got up there to get at least a couple points, so everything helps. That was big and today was just pretty much real smooth from start to finish, just was up there in that top 10 for most part start to finish for the day, so Greg and the team did a real solid job keeping us up there and having a real good strategy.”
ARE STAGE POINTS MORE OF A FOCUS BEING PAST THE HALFWAY POINT OF THE REGULAR SEASON?
“That’s definitely a big deal and a way to rack up some points because we’ve had some unfortunate luck and some bad races recently, so we fell back in points further back than we feel like we are as a team, for sure. So it’s time to start climbing back up there and this weekend was an example. Stage points can just make such a huge difference, especially this point in the year when the point stuff is really starting to settle out a little bit. People are settling in place, so you’ve got to take everything you can get because that makes a big difference as far as securing a solid spot in the playoffs and, for us, really climbing back up in the points to where we think we are running weekly. Our cars have real good speed, so the stage points are a big deal.”
ARE THERE ANY SIMILARITIES BETWEEN POCONO AND INDY?
“If you asked me that a couple years ago when we ran the low downforce stuff, I would say the two tracks were completely different, but now that we have the high downforce and less horsepower, they’re actually pretty similar in the fact that it’s real strategy-oriented, extremely track position-oriented. You can catch someone. Today, I caught the 10 at the end for fifth by about four to five tenths of a second a lap, so real fast and you just get stuck in their dirty air now. I’m no stranger. I’m surprised Steve O’Donnell hasn’t hit me yet because I give him a hard time because the high downforce just makes it so tough to pass, so I hope we can reverse that direction in the future. A, it just makes it really tough on the teams and the pit crews and the strategy because you just have to have track position or else you can’t make your way up there.”
IT’S BEEN A WHILE SINCE YOU RAN THE NXS CAR ON THE ROAD COURSE AT INDY. WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED TO SEE NEXT WEEK?
“I’m super-jealous of those guys, extremely jealous. They’re gonna have a blast. That course is awesome. It’s so much fun, has really good passing zones, so I’m gonna be watching really closely. I’ve had a lot of guys come to me for advice, too, since I was the only one that got to run that track in an XFINITY car, which was really neat. I have no doubt it’s gonna put on a tremendous race. I’m really jealous. I wish the Cup cars were running that, but I’m gonna be looking at that for the future because I know it’s such a special, really good track, so I’m gonna be watching and knowing it’s gonna put on a good show, and then I’m sure I’ll be bugging everyone at NASCAR and saying, and everyone at Indy saying, ‘Let’s run the road course next year’ because it’s gonna be a cool layout.”
WHAT HAS THE TEAM DONE WELL IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS AND WHAT DOES THE TEAM STILL NEED TO WORK ON?
“I think today addressed some of our, we’ve had some races where we’ve kind of been up and down and this run we’re fast and this run we get a little off, so we do very well with communication – me, my crew chief Greg Erwin and our team – we talk a lot, our engineers, multiple, multiple times a week on team calls, so we do an excellent job of communicating to iron those things out and I think this weekend was an example of what we’ve been working on and knowing that we’re capable of doing is addressing that and just having solid days like we did today being in the top 10 from the start to the finish of the day, getting stage points and finishing up there, so we’ve done a good job at working on that and I think we can do a lot more of this moving forward.”
DO YOU FEEL YOU’RE GETTING CLOSER TO BEING A CONSISTENT TOP-10, TOP-15 FINISHER WITH THE OTHER TEAM PENSKE GUYS?
“Yeah, 100 percent. I think when you’re with a new team working with new guys it always takes a little time to typically figure each other out. We’re really trying to get this 21 car where it’s up front every week and I think we’re stepping in that direction. To be honest, every single racetrack we’ve been to, aside from Darlington, we’ve had top 10 speed at every track, so that’s like unbelievable. I’ve never had equipment or an opportunity like that much in the past, so that’s the encouraging part and so I knew once we got on track together, I think we can do this very consistently.”
HOW WAS THE VISIBILITY LATE IN THE RACE?
“It was actually better when it started getting darker when the sun went down. The sun getting in the tunnel turn, I mean the tunnel turn makes you white-knuckle it already and it’s one of the most hairy corners in all of NASCAR when you can see, so when you have sun in your eyes it was pretty much one of the most petrifying experiences I’ve had to deal with. But it was good. I’m just glad we were able to get the race in and glad to see the sun at at NASCAR race, but when it got dark it actually started getting dark it was actually better and easier to see.”
HOW DOES IT FEEL HAVING A DOUBLEHEADER WITH INDY CAR NEXT WEEK? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE MEANING FOR THE SPORT?
“Even just being on that track on the road course and being the first guy was special, like I said. The race weekend is gonna be one to remember. These are things that go down in history and even just racing at the Brickyard, every time you go in there is a check mark, a bucket list item in itself, so that’s gonna be a special weekend that I’ll always remember. I’ll be like a race fan, just watching these races as excited as any fan that you’ll see because it’s gonna be so cool on such a history weekend, the July Fourth Weekend, you name it. All of that is so cool and then obviously excited for us to be on track there and be watching some good racing.”
THOUGHTS ON NO FANS BEING AT INDY?
“That will be awkward. It’s definiltey awkward, especially going to the Brickyard 400 that weekend, which is one of the coolest and one of the coolest places we go, period. It’s definitely awkward. People have asked if I’ve gotten used to it and I don’t think we’ll ever get used to it. We miss that element, but hopefully we’ll get back to normal in the future and just glad everyone can tune in and at least watch and see a good show on TV.”
KEVIN HARVICK POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE
Yeah, car was actually better today than it was yesterday. Just the way that the end worked out. We had to run in a lot of traffic there. Denny kept clicking off laps. They did what they had to do, did the opposite of what we did as far as when we pitted. We lost time going through that traffic, just came out behind him, wound up second today.
Just really proud of my Busch Beer Ford Mustang guys. They did a great job all weekend of giving me fast cars and chances to win both races. In the end we were 50%. Just really proud of everybody.
NOW THAT WE'VE DONE THE TWO RACES IN ONE WEEKEND, HOW DO YOU FEEL THIS WILL WORK IN THE FUTURE? WAS IT A WINNING FORMAT? WOULD YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT?
I think the format was great. I think for everybody in the garage it went well. I think obviously it's the hardest on the guys on the team. I'm sure the teams will have a little bit to say about the start time of the first race, trying to give the guys a little bit more time instead of getting them here early in the morning, sending them home early in the morning. That would be better.
I think overall everybody would be super happy with a much shorter season and multiple doubleheaders. Yeah, I think it went well.
FOR A WEEKEND YOU FINISHED FIRST AND SECOND, CAN'T REALLY GET MUCH MORE THAN THAT. ARE YOU COMPLETELY SATISFIED WITH THAT?
I think we had a better car today than we did yesterday. That's kind of the way it goes, right? You win the one that you don't think you have the better car. You finish second in the one you think you have the best car.
I think overall you can't be dissatisfied with a first and a second. I'd feel childish if I sat her and nitpicked that apart.
YOU TALKED YESTERDAY ABOUT MISSING THE FANS. DID YOU MISS THE FIREWORKS HERE THIS WEEKEND?
I didn't. The fans did. I'm old, usually asleep by the time the fireworks go off. If they're not racing in Iowa or somewhere that's not here, I'm usually in bed.
Between the fire engines and the fireworks, I don't miss the fireworks.
HOW DIFFERENT IS THE WHOLE WEEKEND VIBE FOR YOU WITHOUT FANS?
Well, there's really not a full weekend. Our race day, you show up, you check in, spend a couple hours, then you go get in the car. Race day winds up being pretty busy actually.
The whole vibe is just different because of that exact fact. You don't have a whole race weekend. You don't have that interaction with the fans.
Yesterday and all the races that we've won have just been really strange because you have all that emotion and there's nobody there to share it. It's definitely a much different vibe. Very lonely out there.
WHEN YOU SAID 'ALL THE RACES WE'VE WON,' YOU'VE WON TO LOT, AND SO HAS DENNY. WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON HOW THEY'RE RUNNING AND WHETHER OR NOT HE MIGHT BE YOUR GREATEST THREAT PROGRESSING THROUGH THE SEASON?
I think as we go through these styles of racetracks with Pocono, and obviously he does really good at Homestead, Martinsville, we go to Michigan. There's a lot of the racetracks that both of us and our teams do a really good job at.
As you look at last year and this year, I know Kyle hasn't really put it all together yet, but those guys, the Gibbs guys, even Martin, do a really good job.
Denny has been consistent over the last couple years with Chris. That's what it takes. It takes that chemistry between crew chief and driver and team. You just never know when it's going to be like that.
Those guys are really good. I know Rodney and Gabehart, they're good acquaintances, I guess you could say. Both of our crew chiefs are just really old school racers that do a good job in the engineering era of being able to look at the car, come at it from a driver's perspective.
Yeah, they've definitely got their stuff together right now.
YOU'RE BOTH CHAMPIONSHIP CALIBER, RIGHT?
I think so. We're winning races, doing the things we need to do right now, running up front. I think obviously when you look at the win column, as long as you're winning races, that's what it takes to win championships.
THIS IS THE LATEST I CAN RECALL A RACE FINISHING HERE AT POCONO. DID THE TRACK DRIVE DIFFERENTLY AS IT COOLED OFF? VISIBILITY ANY DIFFERENT? DID THE DARKNESS PLAY A FACTOR IN THE STRATEGY AT THE END?
No, not really. It wasn't terribly dark. I've run around some racetracks with people shining headlights on the racetrack so you could make the last couple laps at tests and things like that. I think everybody did a great job getting the whole race in. We've been in a lot of circumstances like that.
I can remember a race at Indy where we kept wrecking, finally got dark, ended everybody's misery. Definitely not the first time we've been in this situation.
WHEN THE SEASON STARTED OUT, THEN YOU CAME BACK, EVERY WEEK WE'RE TALKING ABOUT CHASE ELLIOTT, BOWMAN, HENDRICK HAS THE SPEED, CHEVY HAD SOME SORT OF ADVANTAGE. NOW IT SEEMS EVEN. DO YOU SEE ALL THREE MANUFACTURERS WITH THE PARITY THERE RIGHT NOW?
I think a lot of that just depends on the racetracks that we go to. I think they didn't run as well as I thought they would this particular weekend. I think when you look back at the last couple weekends, it's kind of come and gone, right?
Chase has kind of been the most consistent Chevy. Alex has won a race, done okay here and there. But I think for the most part it seems pretty even. Hopefully we can keep making our cars better, keep up with everybody.
THE WHOLE SEASON HAS BEEN WEIRD. NOW YOU'RE GOING TO INDIANAPOLIS FOR A DOUBLEHEADER. DO YOU THINK EVEN UNDER THESE STRANGE CIRCUMSTANCES THIS RACE COULD STILL HAVE A POTENTIAL POSITIVE IMPACT FOR THE MOTORSPORTS COMMUNITY?
I think our races have had a positive impact on the motorsports community every week. When you look at our sport, you look at being back on the racetrack, I think this was our 11th race since we've come back. Our industry has just done a great job, really been the leader in trying to help other sports figure out how they're going to get back on track.
I think when you look at the Indy doubleheader, you hear guys from both sides, we had Tony Kanaan on my radio show talking about this particular weekend, and INDYCARS, NASCAR running together.
We're all racers. We want racing to be successful. I know it's kind of had that stigma for a number of years there's the INDYCAR guys and there's the NASCAR guys.
One thing I learned over the winter doing iRacing, racers are racers. If you race on a computer, in INDYCAR, everybody wants to see a good race and be part of a cool event. I think it's going to be a cool event.
With Roger Penske owning the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you're going to see different things. I think this is the first step of many that will bring exciting shows to the racetrack.