Throughout 2016 we may have way too many quick thoughts for our post-race posts. So consider our Takeaways feature to be the home of our random and sometimes intelligent musings. Sometimes the post may have a theme. Sometimes it may just be a mess of unrelated thoughts. Make sure you tweet us your thoughts after the race or email your post-race rants via the link in the signature line below.
• Chris Buescher’s win at Pocono on Monday is the latest in a string of first-time wins in the Sprint Cup Series under race-shortened circumstances.
Joey Logano won at New Hampshire in 2009 when he waited the longest of anyone to pit before a torrential downpour. David Reutimann won the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 a few weeks earlier doing the same thing.
And two years ago, Aric Almirola made the Chase by virtue of his win in the rain-shortened July race at Daytona. That race had also been pushed back a day because of rain.
Buescher’s path to the Chase isn’t as straightforward as Almirola’s was in 2014. Almirola was in the top 30 in the points standings when he got his win. Buescher still isn’t after winning at Pocono.
• Here’s how the points standings in Buescher’s neighborhood look right now.
28. Casey Mears, 330 points
29. Landon Cassill, 316
30. David Ragan, 287
31. Chris Buescher, 281
32. Regan Smith, 272
33. Brian Scott, 251
At the moment, it’s pretty much a straight-up battle between Ragan, the primary driver of the No. 34 before Buescher took over the seat in 2016, and Buescher for that 30th position.
While he’s with Front Row Motorsports, Buescher is technically a driver for Roush Fenway Racing and Roush supplies Front Row with equipment for Buescher’s team. Cassill, who isn’t in Roush-provided stuff, is Buescher’s teammate. And, as you can see, is 35 points ahead in the standings.
Could there be some Ford politicking if Cassill becomes the driver Buescher needs to pass to get into the top 30? No one at Ford, Roush or Front Row wants to be affiliated with the first full-time driver to win a race but fail to qualify for the Chase under the current format because of a lack of points.
• Buescher’s win overshadows a day of what-ifs for Austin Dillon.
As the race approached halfway, Dillon and Kyle Larson were battling for the lead. And, given that there was mist and rain in the area, possibly for the win as well.
The urgency of the fight between the two was apparent as Larson did all he could to block Dillon from taking the lead. Dillon ultimately got inside of Larson, but was a bit too aggressive. Dillon and Larson made contact, similar to the contact Larson had with Chase Elliott in the All-Star qualifying race.
But that qualifying race contact happened at the end of the race. Dillon and Larson lost so much speed that Joey Logano, who was in third behind the two, easily swept by and took over the lead.
The race (obviously) wasn’t called near the halfway point and Dillon worked his way back towards the front again. But much like his first battle with Larson, he never got the lead before heading to pit road for his final stop of the day.
That stop was a slow one and Dillon exited the pits in 13th, where he finished the race.
“I knew if I downshifted I was going to really break loose, so I just kind of kept in fourth and we got loose together,” Dillon said of his battle with Larson at the midway point. “But, it’s just frustrating. We’ve got to get better on all aspects and the good thing is that we had a fast enough car to win today, and I’m proud of that.”
• You probably noticed Brian Scott’s points position earlier in this post. His Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Aric Almirola is 26th in the points standings after crashing out of Monday’s race. This has been a terrible season for RPM.
• Chase Elliott’s second trip to Pocono in a Cup car ended with another mistake in the tunnel turn.
Elliott got loose inside of Joey Logano and the two cars ended up crashing. Elliott was trailing Denny Hamlin down the backstretch and the two drivers tried to slip past Logano on the inside in the tunnel turn.
“I thought I slowed down enough to not get loose, but got loose and collected Joey,” Elliott said. “So, I apologize to those guys. It was completely my fault. And I apologize to my guys. Man, they gave me a good car. I need to re-think my evaluation of how I’m going to approach these races because it’s not working out right now.”
Elliott has fallen from sixth to 13th over the past six races. He left Michigan, where he finished second, on a run of nine-straight top-12 finishes. Since Michigan, Elliott’s best finish has been 15th and he’s finished worse than 30th four times. The rookie, who’s subjected himself to a lot of public self-examination during interviews following bad finishes, said the last six races were his fault.
“Oh, it’s just poor decisions on my behalf I think, is the biggest thing,” Elliott said. “So, the best way to fix it is obviously to see it at first and notice it and just go to work and like I said, rethink my approach. It’s definitely not working. We’ve had good cars. We had a good car today. I felt like we were a step in the right direction from where we had been the last couple of weeks, which I felt like was a good sign. I just didn’t do my part. I need to rethink things and try to do a better job and put us in a better position. It’s not bad luck. It’s just me putting us in bad spots.”
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