By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Harrison Burton capitalized to close in on potential NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoff berth.
As the second stage ended, teams opted for differing strategies for the Gander RV 150 at Pocono Raceway. Burton and his crew chief, Mike Hillman, Jr., kept the No. 18 Morton Buildings Toyota Tundra on track. The decision netted the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender a stage win.
The strategy also put Burton seventh on the restart for the final stage. While the 18-year-old made quick work of most of his competitor, he was over seven seconds behind eventual winner Ross Chastain by the time he entered third. Over the final 10 laps, Burton closed the gap to over two seconds, but settled for third when the checkered waved.
“We had a really good truck,” Burton explained. “We were really, really fast. It was fun. We had to charge through the field there. We started ninth on the last restart and just had to go. I just ran out of time there in the end. It’s frustrating. There are guys that had good strategy.”
The with the differing strategies, Chastain, and second-place finish Tyler Ankrum were both close on fuel. Burton’s team was closer on fuel mileage. However, with the size of the track and its’ unique layout, both Chastain and Ankrum had plenty of time to save fuel.
“We were cutting it close on fuel,” Burton admitted. “I knew they were riding around there a little bit. I thought maybe I could get to them, so I was driving as hard as I could there at the end, but it just didn’t come our way.”
The stage two victory wasn’t the only opportunity that Burton capitalized on at ‘The Tricky Triangle.’ On the opening lap, Burton, who started sixth narrowly avoided the spinning truck of third-place qualifier Stewart Friesen. With Friesen’s day over after just one corner, Pocono quickly turned into a ‘points day’ for many.
Friesen was just one of three drivers currently in the playoffs on points. Burton entered Pocono as the first driver behind the cut line, 44-points behind Matt Crafton. He was 60-points behind the Halmar Friesen Racing driver. Burton gained 47-points on Friesen, cutting the gap down to 13-points.
The Toyota Racing Development driver remains fifth in the championship standings, 82-points behind points leader Grant Enfinger. With two races remaining before the playoffs, the chance for a playoff berth increased for Burton.
Burton’s third-place finish is his seventh top-five finish this season, and the 11th in his truck series career.