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The Art of Racing - Harvick, Busch on top again

After both practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander Outdoors 400 race in Pocono, all the talk was about a Kevin Harvick runaway. He was extremely fast and showed it by winning the pole position for the race. Kyle Busch started second, giving the front row to two of the “big three.”

Then everyone had to go through post-qualifying and 13 teams had their times disqualified for various reasons. Harvick and Kyle Busch, along with seven other playoff-eligible teams were among the 13, and all had to start in the back of the field. This is just a good indication all the teams are doing everything possible to either win, or get more valuable points, as the regular season nears its conclusion.

Harvick and Busch are both in the playoffs, and the two of them have the most playoff points, but the winner of the regular season is awarded an additional 15 playoff points.

The race started with Daniel Suarez and Denny Hamlin taking over the front row. Everyone was keeping an eye on Harvick and Busch to see how long it would take them to get into the top 10. Harvick passed 11 cars on just the first lap with Busch right on his heels. By lap 13, Harvick was running ninth and Busch 12th. They finished the first stage second and fourth, respectively.

Harvick took the lead on lap 112, early in the second stage, and eventually won Stage 2. Midway through the final stage, Harvick made contact on pit road with his teammate Aric Almirola, and after several stops for repairs, he was put back to 25th. He eventually made his way back to finish fourth.

Busch seemed well on his way to victory when a crash with six laps to go put the field under caution. The leaders stayed on the track while others pitted for new tires. The race went into overtime and Busch managed to scoot away while Suarez and Eric Jones were battling for second.

The race was exciting at the beginning as Harvick and Busch threaded their way through traffic to get to the front. Once they were there, the race turned a bit hum-drum until the last 30 or so laps when drivers started jockeying for the finish.

The win for Busch was his sixth of the year, once again tying him with Harvick for top honors. Busch still leads the point race, but Harvick gained more points because of his stage win and now trails Busch by 48 points. Martin Truex Jr., the third member of the “big three,” and Joey Logano trail Busch by 129 and 201 points, respectively.

Sunday’s race is in Watkins Glen, a road course, so a specialist like A.J. Almindinger is hoping to break into the win column.