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Will Denny Hamlin crush Kyle Busch's playoff dreams at Pocono? Is this rivalry getting too personal?

Being long-standing veterans of NASCAR, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch bring huge anticipation. Hamlin’s 54 Cup victories trail closely behind Busch’s 63 wins. However, the 2024 season is witnessing one driver’s downfall. Busch marked his 41st winless race in Chicago last weekend and stands at dire risk of missing the playoffs.

The upcoming race, though, may be Richard Childress Racing driver Kyle Busch’s savior. Pocono Raceway is a strong point for Rowdy, who has stormed to success there multiple times. Yet Denny Hamlin may prove to be a thorn in his side—the No. 11 driver holds the highest number of wins on the track.

How is Kyle Busch’s former teammate Pocono’s rival?

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Pocono Raceway holds a storied and historic relationship with NASCAR. The Tricky Triangle has conducted 90 races since 1974, with a slew of racers visiting its Victory Lane. However, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin commands the highest authority among them. He holds seven wins on the 2.5-mile oval course, which marks him as the driver with the most wins on the track.

Poll of the day

Do you think Denny Hamlin is intentionally sabotaging Kyle Busch's playoff chances?

Absolutely

No way

Maybe, but it's just racing

Not sure

On the other hand, Kyle Busch holds four wins at Pocono, holding the second-highest rank among active drivers. So the RCR driver may need to strategize against his former JGR teammate to finally win this weekend. Before his long-awaited top-ten finish in Chicago, Rowdy got slapped with four consecutive DNFs. Currently over a hundred points below the cutoff, the No. 8 team’s time is running out with only six regular-season races left.

In contrast to the gloomy present, Kyle Busch’s Pocono history was glittering. From the 2017 season onward, he snagged four Tricky wins, besides securing a pair of podium finishes and leading 499 laps. Busch’s most recent win came in 2021 when he persevered in his fuel mileage strategy. Rowdy congratulated his former team on capturing the win. “Just saving, just riding, playing the strategy the best we could with what was given to us. Just can’t say enough about everybody on my team, everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing.”

USA Today via Reuters

In 2022, former teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch almost secured a 1-2 finish. But NASCAR came down heavily with technical penalties and snatched their glory. But in contrast to his past Pocono luck, Kyle Busch has a glaring difference now: he is no longer at JGR. Ever since he joined RCR, things have acted up. After clinching three early-season wins in 2023, Kyle Busch is nowhere to be seen near the front row.

So Kyle Busch faces two daunting tasks: facing Pocono master Denny Hamlin and reversing his team’s fortunes. His crew chief is determined to make the most of the season, though.

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The No. 8 crew chief is hopeful

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The RCR No. 8 team has been plagued with numerous difficulties since the start of the 2024 season. Ranging from pit crew shuffles to mechanical gremlins, Kyle Busch and Co. have borne the brunt of it all. As the latter part of the season looms large, the team is on a war footing. Hence, crew chief Randall Burnett is fighting hard to reignite the former flame of the two-time NASCAR Cup champion.

Burnett believes Pocono Raceway and Indianapolis can provide a solid springboard for Kyle Busch‘s flight. As Busch holds two wins at Indy’s Brickyard 400 race, his crew chief opined, “I think Pocono and Indy are really strong tracks for Kyle, and we’ve been really fast with the 8 car there the last couple of years, or at least at Pocono we’re pretty good. Indy will be a new one with going back to the oval with this car will be a new deal for everybody.”

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Burnett further added hopefully, “I think there’s plenty of opportunities for this 8 Zone Chevy to get into the playoffs. We just gotta execute and make sure we don’t have any mistakes and put some fast cars out there for Kyle to get the job done with.”

Indeed, Kyle Busch will need to be very cautious from this moment on. With strong rivals like Denny Hamlin looming on the horizon, he would need to make the best of his strong shots in Pocono and Indy. Let us wait and see if the No. 8 driver surprises us.