LONG POND, PA - JULY 29: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Caramel Toyota, celebrates winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 29, 2018 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

The big three found a way to do it again.

As they have in all but five of the 22 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series races this season, one of Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch have crossed the finish line in first place. Busch just happened to be the one that did it on Sunday at the Gander Outdoors 400 in Pocono.

Kyle Busch sweeps Pocono, JGR & Hendrick have all-around days

Thanks to strong restarts on two late cautions, one of which was an overtime attempt, Busch easily pulled away from the field, showing off just how strong his car is. Daniel Suarez, who finished second, had no chance of catching the M&M’s Toyota in what was his best chance to make the playoffs all season.

Instead, Busch moves up the record books. A day after becoming the record holder for most career truck series wins, Busch tied NASCAR legend Tony Stewart with his 49th cup series win. That’s good enough to put him 13th in the books, and one win behind Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett for 11th place.

The Restart

Though Busch’s teammates had pleasant days as well. On the final restart of the day, Busch lined up on the front row next to teammate Suarez. Behind him was Erik Jones, who was P4 and in the outside lane. Denny Hamlin didn’t lurk too far behind, either, and each of the JGR cars finished in the top 10.

Beside Jones in the second row was Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, and seemingly the rest of the HMS roster. Each of William Byron, Alex Bowman, and Jimmie Johnson were in the top 10 with two laps to go. If it wasn’t for Johnson’s misfortunes on the restart, the entire team would have finished in the top 10 as well.

Each car seemed to get stronger throughout the day during a season where the Chevrolets have lacked in speed, and Elliott was the class of the field for the struggling manufacturer. The No. 9 overtook the pole sitter in Suarez and also Brad Keselowski on his way to winning the first stage. The stage victory was Elliott’s second in as many races, in what has been a critical stretch in trying to secure his spot in the playoffs.

Playoff Grid

With how dominant the big three have been this season, it looks like Elliott will have no issue with that. The current playoff grid features nine wild-card spots and even though Elliott is two physical spots above the cutoff, his 129-point separation resembles two races.

Even the final spot is nearly out of reach in terms of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. being within striking distance. Though that could all change next week. The series heads to Watkins Glen International, and if that brings a surprise winner, that cutoff will move down a spot. With such a few number of different winners this season, the next five races promise to be exciting.

Playoff Grid
Five races until the Playoffs
1. Kyle Busch (6 wins, 35 playoff points)
2. Kevin Harvick (6 wins, 33)
3. Martin Truex Jr. (4 wins, 26)
4. Clint Bowyer (2 wins, 10)
5. Joey Logano (1 win, 7)
6. Austin Dillon (1 win, 5)
7. Erik Jones (1 win, 5)
8. Kurt Busch +237
9. Brad Keselowski +204
10. Kyle Larson +186
11. Denny Hamlin +178
12. Ryan Blaney +172
13. Aric Almirola +147
14. Chase Elliott +129
15. Jimmie Johnson +107
16. Alex Bowman +56
Playoff Cutoff
17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -56
18. Paul Menard -56
19. Ryan Newman -88
20. Daniel Suarez -96
21. William Byron -106
22. Jamie McMurray -117
23. A.J. Allmendinger -154
24. Chris Buescher -167
25. Bubba Wallace -173

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