If you thought the Pocono 350 would make it to halfway, let alone the advertised distance, put your hand down because you’re lying.
With the lightning hold before the NASCAR Cup Series went green and the 50-minute red flag for rain, combined with the lack of lights, it was all but certain that making it to the halfway mark would be a Herculean task.
I even tweeted as much.
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But then the final 50 laps ran caution-free. As the run went on, running to the end became an actual possibility.
Working against that, however, was the diminishing sunlight. The sky turned darker shades of orange and red, as the race edged towards the 8:38 p.m. sunset.
Kevin Harvick sat in the lead but pitted on Lap 94 for fuel. Denny Hamlin cycled to the lead.
He built up a large enough gap that he pitted for four tires and fuel on Lap 119, and rejoined the race ahead of Harvick.
Martin Truex Jr. pitted from the lead with 16 laps to go and the lead cycled back to Hamlin.
Whether the new tires, lap traffic or high-downforce package made the difference, ultimately, while Harvick closed in on Hamlin, he ran out of laps to catch him.
“I was just hoping for no cautions, I knew we had the car,” he said. “I was just maintaining my gap right there and didn’t want to make any mistakes like I did at Bristol and threw that win away. I just tried to work through the traffic as best I could and obviously Chris (Gabehart) is paying attention to strategy there and made the right call.”
Hamlin crossed the finish line to win for the 41st time in his NASCAR Cup Series career, breaking a tie with NASCAR Hall of Fame member, Mark Martin, for 19th on NASCAR’s all-time wins list.
It was his sixth career victory at Pocono Raceway, which ties NASCAR Hall of Fame member, Jeff Gordon, for most all-time wins at the Tricky Triangle. It’s also his fourth victory of the 2020 season.
Hamlin leaves sixth in points, 69 back of Harvick.
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