Denny Hamlin

POCONO, Penn.--Three Toyotas driven by Denny Hamlin, Eric Jones and Martin Truex Jr. swept the top three spots in Sunday’s Cup Series race. The team’s fourth driver Kyle Busch won the first stage of the race and finished 9th.

It was Hamlin’s third win of the season. He passed his teammate Eric Jones during a restart on lap 144 and led for the remaining 19 laps of the 163 lap race.

“When you’re trying to win a championship, people want to know you can win races,” said Hamlin. “I think we showed that today.

“We had an awesome car. The team worked on it throughout the race. The longer it went, the better we could race. We could have kept up with anyone today.”

There were two cautions within the last eleven laps. During a caution on lap 152 several teams pitted for tires and fuel, but Hamlin, who was the leader, along with Truex, Jones, and Kevin Harvick remained on the track.

When green flag racing resumed Harvick, who led the most laps, lost two spots. One lap later, several cars including those driven by Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kurt Busch, and Michael McDowell got together, bringing out the race’s last caution and setting up a green-white-checkered finish.

When the green flag was given, the leaders were Hamlin, Truex, Kyle Larson, and Eric Jones. Larson lost a position to Jones, who was then able to get by his teammate, Truex for second spot.

“Boy, that’s about as hard as I’ve ever raced,” said Jones. “We were hoping it would continue green, because we lost the lead on a restart, but still felt like we could have won. Our car might not have been better that Denny’s, but I wanted to race him for the win.”

Martin Truex Jr. was third, followed by William Byron, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Daniel Hemric, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and Ryan Blaney.

Kyle Busch, the winner of Stage 1 seemed to have a fast car, but after an out-of-sequence pit stop for tires he was never able to regain the lead.

Jimmie Johnson won Stage 2 after Kyle Busch pitted for fresh tires with three laps remaining, but he slipped back to a 15th place finish.

Chase Elliott had a right front tire blow out during lap lap 83. His car careened off the outside wall and his day ended with a DNF.

“All of a sudden there was a pop,” said Elliott. “Unfortunately, I was running too close to the outside to keep it from getting into the wall.”

Top-10 leaders with six races remaining before this year’s Chase For The Championship begins: 1. Logano-824, 2. Kyle Busch-818, 3. Harvick-739, 4. Hamlin-722, 5. Truex-701, 6. Keselowski-695, 7. Kurt Busch-650, 8. Elliott-616, 9. Almirola-614, 10. Blaney-599.

BRISCOE RALLIES FOR XFINITY VICTORY

Chase Briscoe passed Christopher Bell with seven laps to go and won the Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway on Saturday night for his second career victory.

Bell led a race-high 235 out of 250 laps, but old tires allowed Briscoe to take over with five laps left and clinch a playoff berth.

Remaining top-10 finishers: 2. Christopher Bell, 3. John Nemechek, 4. Noah Gragson, 5. Tyler Reddick, 6. Justin Allgaier, 7. Shane Lee, 8. Justin Haley, 9. Zane Smith, 10. Michael Annett.

Top-10 leaders after 19 of 33: 1. Reddick-857, 2. Bell-811, 3. Custer-760, 4. Allgaier-704, 5. Cindric-650, 6. Gragson-629, 7. Briscoe-625, 8. Annett-600, 9. Haley-594, 10. Nemechek-573.

CHASTAIN GETS POCONO TRUCK WIN

Ross Chastain earned his third Truck Series win of the season on Saturday afternoon at Pocono Raceway, leading 54 of 60 laps.

“We stomped them in the dirt,” said Chastain. “We pressed the attack. I’m so dang excited.”

Tyler Ankrum, Harrison Burton, Christian Eckes, Brett Moffitt, Matt Crafton, Todd Gilliland, Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes, and Grant Enfinger were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Top-10 leaders after 14 of 23: 1. Enfinger-582. 2. Moffitt-548, 3. Crafton-529, 4. Friesen-513, 5. H. Burton-500, 6. Rhodes-479, 7. Gilliland-428, 8. Hill-426, 9. Creed-408, 10. Sauter-402.

GRALA HOPING TO MOVE UP

Richard Childress Racing is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It is one of the oldest and most successful teams in racing, fielding cars for many drivers, including Dale Earnhart Sr.

Currently there are two Xfinity drivers, Tyler Reddick of Corning, Calif. and Kaz Grala of Westboro, Mass., that hope to move up to one of RCR’s Cup cars.

Reddick is in first place in the Xfinity driver standings that includes three wins, 12 finishes in the top five and 14 in the top 10. Sharing the garage with an ambitious and seasoned driver such as Reddick has been crucial to Grala’s development.

“I’ve gotten to know Tyler quite well over this season,” Grala told the Boston Herald. “We work out together every day at the shop and he’s been great to lean on in my first three races this year.”

Grala, 20, secured a part-time gig with Richard Childress Racing after competing as an independent last year with Fury Race Cars.

“We figured, let’s take this to the best team out there in terms of sponsor relations and that is Richard Childress Racing,” Grala said. “It turned out they have got some pretty good equipment on the race track so it was a match made in heaven.”

Grala caught a huge break when Childress management paired him with veteran crew chief Justin Alexander, a nurturing and knowledgeable pit boss who specializes in young drivers. Grala is hoping their collaboration will result in a meaningful relationship on the track.

“I think we work together excellently,” Grala said. “He is very good at what he does and he has a lot of experience so it’s perfect for me as a rookie to have a veteran crew chief at the top of the box.

“I would say that our chemistry is pretty good and we’ve gotten to know each other quite a bit. By our third race at Dover I felt we were pretty much on the same page. I am really confident we will have a strong showing as long as we have clean race and having nothing go wrong that is out of our control. We need to maximize our own performance and hope that luck will be on our side.”

Racing Joke: Ryan goes to his doctor for a yearly checkup.

“Doctor, how can I live longer than 100 years?” he asks.

Do you smoke? No.

Do you eat too much? No.

Do you go to bed late? No.

Do you think you will still be able to win races? No.

Do you have affairs with loose women? No.

Then why would you want to live more than 100 years?

Weekend Racing: The Cup and Xfinity teams are at the Watkins Glen road course, while the Trucks make their annual stop at the Eldora, Ohio dirt track.

Thurs, Aug. 1; Truck Series race 15 of 23; Starting time: 9:00 pm ET; TV: FoxSports1.

Sat, Aug. 3; Xfinity Series race 20 of 33; Starting time: 3:30 pm ET; TV: NBC.

Sun, Aug. 4; Cup Series race 22 of 36; Starting time: 3:00 pm ET; TV: NBCSN.

Racing Trivia Question: Which Cup team does Ryan Blaney drive for?

Last Week’s Question: Where do the Busch brothers call home? Kurt and Kyle are from Las Vegas.

Gerald Hodges is a syndicated NASCAR writer and author. You may contact him by e-mail at: hodges@race500.com

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