NASCAR At Pocono: Penske Racing Refuses To Back Down

At one point during Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway, it appeared Joe Gibbs Racing was set to end the day with all three cars in the top-four while Penske Racing was out of luck at the end of the lead lap.

Rain had halted the Good Sam RV Insurance 500 on Lap 124 of 200 with Joey Logano holding on to the lead, followed by teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch in third and fourth respectively. On the other hand, Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch sat 25th and 26th.

With rain pelting the track and another cell fast approaching, things were looking grim for the Penske duo, but looks can be deceiving.

Taking a gamble prior to the arrival of the weather, both Keselowski and Busch hit pit road in anticipation of the race resuming. While Logano eagerly awaited more rain, the Penske teammates were hoping the track would dry and the approaching cell would miss the track.

After an hour and 40 minutes, that is exactly what happened.

Penske Racing: 1st (No. 2), 3rd (No. 22)

The skies cleared and the track was dried, forcing the leaders to pit road for tires and fuel. Just in for service prior to the caution, the No. 2 and No. 22 stayed on the track and moved into the lead once the race resumed.

"At the time I thought my crew chief was crazy," Busch said. "That would have trapped us 26th if we didn't get it back underway. But luckily we did. And it looked like the Penske guys were the smartest guys when it came to rain delay, because we came out of there 1‑2 after that restart."

"We knew that's what it was going to take," Keselowski's crew chief Paul Wolfe said. "I felt like it was somewhat of a gamble to come down at that point. But at the same time we felt like it was an educated gamble at that. It wasn't just a shot in the dark. And it ended up all working out how they had said it would."

The move paid off for both cars as they gained the ever-valuable track position and were able to do the job from there. When the checkered flag flew, Keselowski surprised many but himself by scoring the win, while Busch held off Jimmie Johnson to finish third.

Knowing it would take calls like that to get Keselowski into the Chase, Wolfe took a chance and it paid off. While he described it as an "educated gamble" Keselowski had another reasoning.

"Just tell them, Paul, you got balls this big," he said with a hand gesture. "Just tell them. Because if it wouldn't have worked out, man it would have been rough, whew."

While Keselowski was busy laughing about his victory, Busch was defending his race with Johnson on the final lap. Refusing to give in to Johnson's late-race aggressiveness, Busch held his ground, beat the No. 48 and caught an earful on pit road from the five-time champion after the race.

"I'm never going to lay down behind the wheel," he said. "When I show frustration, people get excited, ‘Oh wow he's lost focus' (I) just brought home another third place finish."

Joe Gibbs Racing: 2nd (No. 18), 15th (No. 11), 26th (No. 20)

While it may have looked like the JGR cars were going to have a dominant afternoon, that quickly evaporated once the race resumed and the closing laps clicked away.

Although all three cars were able to contend for a top-10 once the race went back to green, Kyle Busch was the only Gibbs cars that truly battled for the lead.

When the final caution of the day slowed the field, Denny Hamlin led a number of cars to pit road in what appeared to be a solid strategy call for fresh tires. However, an uncharacteristic mistake by the 2011 Pit Crew Challenge champion team cost Hamlin a number of spots on the track when a lug nut fell off the right rear tire. After entering the pits fifth, Hamlin emerged mired deep in the pack and with little time to get back to the front. In the end, the four-time Pocono winner finished a disappointing 15th.

For Logano, the day could not have ended much worse. After being so close to victory, a leaking tire in the final 20 laps forced the team back to pit road under green flag conditions. The No. 20 Home Depot Toyota crossed the line in 26th.

The JGR teammates were not without their own bit of controversy, however. Early in the race when Hamlin had the dominant car, Busch asked to lead a lap prior to the race's halfway mark. When told of the request, Hamlin did not appear willing to give up the top spot so easily. After a number of laps, Busch eventually moved around Hamlin to take the lead, but then drove away without giving the spot back.

Roush Fenway Racing: 7th (No. 99), 8th (No. 16), 16th (No. 17), 34th (No. 6)

While things seemed to be working out well for Roush Fenway Racing after Carl Edwards announced his decision to stay with the team, this weekend did little to show team unity among the organization.

First, Edwards' three teammates gave strange responses to questions about his return to the team, then Saturday night's dramatic Nationwide Series race showcased hard racing and frustration amongst teammates Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and then Sunday's race seemed to cap it all off.

Early in the going, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle made contact exiting the third corner, damaging both cars.

Just a handful of laps later, David Ragan dove under David Reutimann to make it three-wide into Turn 3. The move did not work, as Ragan's No. 6 got loose and backed into the outside wall.

Under that caution, Biffle's team took time to fix the damage to the fender, forcing the No. 16 to restart deep in the field. Coming to the green flag, Biffle changed lanes prior to the start-finish line and was issued a pass-through penalty by NASCAR.

Despite the multiple setbacks, Biffle was able stay out on the final caution to gain track position and rally back to an eighth-place finish.

Hendrick Motorsports: 4th (No. 48), 6th (No. 24), 9th (No. 88), 13th (No. 5)

Stewart-Haas Racing: 5th (No. 39), 11th (No. 14)

Richard Childress Racing: 10th (No. 27), 14th (No. 29), 17th (No. 31), 18th (No. 33)

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