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LONG POND, PA - JUNE 11: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Axalta presents the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 11, 2017 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Pocono Thumbs up/Thumbs down: Just tap on the roof

NASCAR’s first of two annual visits to the most triangular race course on the Monster Energy Cup Series circuit, Pocono Raceway, left fans with a nail-biting finish and a first-time winner.

THUMBS UP to Ryan Blaney for winning the race despite being unable to communicate with his team through radio.

It was beautifully appropriate that the oldest active team in NASCAR had to rely on some old-school communication when Ryan Blaney wasn’t able to communicate with his team throughout the race Sunday.

That meant communicating in a way that would make the old-school Wood Brothers proud: Telling their driver to place his hand on the roof of the car if he’s battling a loose condition, or outside the window, on the door of the car, if the car was tight.

It was baffling to team members that the technique worked at all. Typically, crews rely heavily on detailed driver feedback to make the car faster.

Maybe Ryan Blaney will return next week with some more old-school hand signals. Hey, it worked at Pocono.

THUMBS DOWN to animals interrupting on-track activity throughout the weekend.

A fox — no, not Pocono Raceway’s track mascot, Tricky the Fox — interrupted XFINITY Series qualifying.

Then, the fox (or a friend) made another appearance in Cup Series practice on Saturday.

Animals scampering around the track at Pocono is nothing new. Just ask Stephen Leicht.

At least it wasn’t the bear spotted by Matt Tifft on the way to the track.

Whatever the case, animals, please take heed: it’s best to stay away from the parts of a motorsports facility where loud, fast race cars congregate.

THUMBS UP to Bubba Wallace celebrating his friend’s win.

Darrell Wallace Jr. made his much anticipated Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut at Pocono Sunday—and when his good friend Ryan Blaney took the checkered flag, he was naturally there to partake in post-race celebrations.

Celebrations that took place well into the night, that is.

Thumbs up to friendship—especially at 3:44 AM.

THUMBS DOWN for fans having a collective heart attack when Mike Joy shouted out “CAUTION!” with two laps to go, in the midst of a heated battle for a victory—while there wasn’t really a caution.

I know, I know. Running a race broadcast is no easy feat. You’ve got to keep an eye on action all over the track, stay calm while producers are shouting things in your ear, and help quash nostalgic conversations when Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip get carried away reminiscing about the good old days—all while keeping millions of TV viewers informed and entertained.

In the tense closing laps, Kevin Harvick trailed Ryan Blaney closely. Everyone was focused on the battle between the veteran champion and the Cup Series newcomer—one false move could have changed the outcome of the race.

Suddenly, while the two leaders approached the white flag, lead announcer Mike Joy shouted, “Caution!” when Cole Whitt’s car went up in smoke.

But the yellow flag never actually came out as Whitt’s car made it off track safely. It turns out Mike Joy had some bad intel. The cars raced to the finish and Ryan Blaney held on for his first victory.


(Mike Joy, of course, apologized for the mix-up, and we won’t really hold it against him. Mostly.)

BIGGEST THUMBS UP OF THE WEEK goes to Brad Keselowski performing the Victory Lane interview with Ryan Blaney. This was too cool.

The day before his big win, Blaney was part of FOX’s all-driver TV broadcast of the XFINITY Series race at Pocono, acting as a pit reporter for the day—which, of course, included the duty of interviewing eventual race winner (and Blaney’s quasi-teammate), Brad Keselowski.

The next day, of course, Blaney scored his first victory, and the roles were reversed—Brad Keselowski performed an impromptu Victory Lane interview with Ryan Blaney.

Nobody expected Keselowski to put on his reporter’s hat, but it was the cherry on top of an exciting weekend of racing.

(And Brad did a heck of a job, too.)