LONG POND, Pa.—Kurt Busch felt like a game show contestant who had to beat the clock to win a prize.
Told his Chevrolet was two laps shy of having enough fuel for the finishing push, Busch did all he could to save, scrimp, and stretch over the final five laps to give himself a shot at the win.
He coasted, he kept his foot off the gas, and he even turned off his engine when he headed into the turns at Pocono Raceway.
“I kept finding ways to think I was saving fuel,” he remarked.
“The way the fuel mileage played out, I didn’t know if we’d have enough.”
With an interim crew chief calling the shots, Busch found enough ways to make his gas last and won the Sprint Cup race yesterday—his first victory of the season and a welcome dose of good news for Stewart-Haas Racing.
The 2004 champion, urged by his team to step on it hard for the final lap, somehow made it work on a track with the longest frontstretch in motorsports.
There was no pain at the pump. Busch not only had enough fuel left to win, but enough for victory burnouts and a celebratory lap around the track.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second, with Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, and Joey Logano rounding out the top five in a race postponed one day because of rain.
Busch won with interim crew chief Johnny Klausmeier, the lead engineer, calling the shots as Tony Gibson served a one-race suspension.
Busch led 32 laps in winning his 28th career Cup race—moving him into a tie with Hall-of-Famer Rex White for 25th on NASCAR’s career wins list.
He also has three wins at Pocono with three different teams.
Elliott led 51 laps and seemed poised for most of the race to earn his first career win.
But the Hendrick Motorsports rookie, who replaced Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevy, stumbled off late restarts.
“I wish I had been a little more patient and given ourselves a better chance,” Elliott said.
It was the first Monday race at Pocono since 2009 and the first postponed Cup race of the season.