The Low-Down on Loudon
Denny Hamlin led Joe Gibbs Racing with a strong second-place effort in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Lenox Industrial Tools 301 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway, while teammates Joey Logano and Kyle Busch finished 14th and 16th respectively.
Hamlin qualified his No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota third and after pacing the field in the weekend’s final practice was considered a favorite in this afternoon’s race. Hamlin certainly backed up his practice times as he moved into second place during the day’s opening laps behind his teammate Kyle Busch. Following a round of green flag pit stops Hamlin would take the lead for the first time on lap 72 and would go on to prove himself as the dominant car through the middle portion of the race. Hamlin would maintain the lead through the next round of green flag pit stops on lap 154. When a caution for debris came out on lap 190, the FedEx team would make the call to come down pit road and he would line up second to his teammate Busch for the restart on lap 197. With two fresh right side tires Hamlin was able to get around his teammate on the restart to take his place at the front of the field yet again. Hamlin would bring his Camry down pit road for what was expected to be a final time during a caution on lap 235. The team made the decision for a four-tire change while many others chose only to change two, which caused Hamlin to lose several positions and line up to restart 13th on lap 239. He would put on a clinic the rest of the way as he quickly climbed his way back into the top 10 to run eighth with 50 laps remaining. Hamlin climbed into fifth with 40 to go and he would put on a thrilling ride to the finish, but with no cautions and not enough laps he was unable to catch the leader and had to settle for second despite leading a race-high 151 laps with the dominate car of the day.
Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in 16th and was able to battle just outside the top ten through much of the first half of the race while fighting mostly tight handling conditions through the center of the turns on the flat mile surface in New Hampshire. Logano would settle into the 14th position through the midpoint of the race. The team would take a bigger swing at changes to get the car to turn better during a pit stop just prior to lap 200. Unfortunately the issue would persist as Logano found he was loose going into the turns and then tight in the center. A great pit stop by the Home Depot team on lap 237 would allow Logano to restart 10th on lap 239. The No. 20 Camry just couldn’t find the proper balance on the final run however and he would have to settle for a 14th-place finish.
Kyle Busch earned his first pole of the season and managed to keep his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota at the front of the field for the first 66 laps of the race. Unfortunately Busch would be caught speeding entering the pits on the day’s first pit stop and the pass through penalty would put him all the way back in 22nd once the field had cycled through the round of green flag stops. Busch managed to gain several positions on the track and when the day’s first caution came out on lap 89 he would stop for fuel only and enabling him to restart 10th on lap 93. He would remain inside the top ten through the midpoint of the race. When a caution for debris came out on lap 190 and with reports of rain close to the track, Busch and the Interstate Batteries team would make the decision to remain out on the track which allowed him to restart as the leader on lap 197. Busch would give the lead on the restart to his teammate Hamlin, who had pitted under the caution for fresh tires but was able to hold on to the second position until he needed to pit again on lap 232. Just after Busch returned to the track a caution would come out for debris leaving him a lap down to the leaders. He was able to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap but would have to restart 18th. Unfortunately the No. 18 Camry would be too loose over the course of the final run to make up any ground, and Busch who led 71 total laps on the day, would have to settle for a 16th-place finish.
Kasey Kahne picked up the win, with Hamlin second, Clint Bowyer third, Dale Earnhardt fourth and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five. There were three cautions for a total of 15 laps with 16 lead changes among eight different drivers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will take a week off before heading to Indianapolis for the Brickyard 400 on July 29. Coverage of the race will be on ESPN beginning at 1 PM ET (pre-race show starts at Noon ET). You can also keep track of all the action every day by following @joegibbsracing on twitter.