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. He coasted, he kept his foot off the gas and turned his engine off when he headed into the turns at Pocono Raceway.
"I kept finding ways to think I was saving fuel," he said. "I didn't know if we'd have enough."
With an interim crew chief calling the shots, Busch made his gas last and won the Sprint Cup Axalta 400 on Monday, his first victory of the season and a welcome dose of good news for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Urged by his team to step on it hard for the final lap, he made it work on a track with the longest frontstretch in motorsports. Busch had enough fuel for victory burnouts and a celebratory lap around the track.
"I was like, whoa, how many laps shy are we?" he said. "These are really long straightaways at Pocono. So many thoughts can go through your head, but I just stuck with the checklist."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second, and Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, and Joey Logano rounded 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 had quietly been having a solid season for SHR, posting four top-five finishes and 11 top 10s in 13 starts entering the race. He had reeled off seven straight top 10s — he graded his season an A-minus — but didn't have the win.
Busch led 32 laps in winning his 28th career Cup race, tying Hall of Famer Rex White for 25th on NASCAR's career list.
Elliott led 51 laps and seemed poised for most of the race to earn his first career win. The Hendrick Motorsports rookie stumbled off late restarts and was short at the end. "I wish I had been a little more patient and given ourselves a better chance," Elliott said.
Keselowski, the pole sitter, ran into early trouble when he was called back to the pits because of unapproved body modifications on his No. 2 Ford. A crew member threw a shoulder block into a side panel, which caused a dent that could have given Keselowski an advantage.
NHRA: Antron Brown raced to his second Top Fuel victory of the season at the rain-delayed NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, N.H. Brown beat Steve Torrence in the final round, finishing in 3.769 seconds at 314.61 mph, with Torrence finishing in 3.778 at 325.30.