It was another strong day for Joe Gibbs Racing with all three teams earning a top ten finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.
Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, who ran first and second most of the day would each have to relinquish those spots late in the race for a final splash of fuel in order to make it to finish. Busch, who led an incredible 302 laps on the day, and Hamlin, who led 39, would have to settle for seventh and eighth-places respectively, while Joey Logano battled through an unfortunately timed early caution that left him a lap down in tenth.
Busch started his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota in fifth, but proved from the drop of the green flag to have a race winning capable car as he drove to the front of the field. Busch would overtake Hamlin on lap 35 for the lead and would lead the next 111 laps. The Interstate Batteries Camry would only relinquish the lead momentarily on a cycle of green flag pit stops 150 laps into the race. Busch would continue to hold the lead through the next two cycles of pit stops as he continued to prove he had the dominant car of the day. A fifth and final caution would result in Busch restarting second behind the 48 car on lap 322 and he would regain the top spot a final time on lap 354, but with no final cautions he had to come down pit road for a splash of gas with 10 to go. The result left him the first car one lap down and with a frustrating seventh place finish for the car that led more than ¾ of the race.
Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota from the pole and was able to lead the first 34 laps of the race before eventually giving way to his teammate Kyle Busch. The two dominated much of the race as they ran first and second for the first 145 laps and managed to put all but seven cars one lap down in the process. Hamlin would regain the lead with a two-tire stop on lap 182 that allowed him to leapfrog over his teammate Busch, who took four tires on the stop. Busch would get the better of the restart to regain the lead, but the two would once again settle in as the top duo of the race over the next run. The FedEx Camry would race in fourth following a couple quick restarts with about 80 laps to go and once again he would climb up to second behind his teammate on the final run. But with no cautions to help save fuel, crew chief Darian Grubb made the call to bring him down pit road for a splash of gas to ensure they could make it to the end. The result left the No. 11 FedEx Camry one lap down in eighth where he would finish. It was another strong performance for FedEx team and left Hamlin in third place in the current point standing, just 16 points behind leader Brad Keselowski and 11 points out of second-place Jimmie Johnson.
Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in 14th and was able to improve on that position by a couple of spots as the car’s handling appeared to improve on the longer green flag run. Logano would catch a tough break on the first round of pit stops as the team came in early in the green flag cycle only to see a caution come out just a couple laps later. The Home Depot team was able to use the wave around to make up a lap prior to the restart, but still found themselves a lap off the pace. With the leaders running fast laps in the clean air at the front of the field much of the field would fall victim and indeed, only seven cars ran on the lead lap when the race reached the halfway point. A great restart just prior to the midpoint of the race moved Logano from 14th into the top ten. Logano would remain in the top ten while fighting for the lucky dog position in an effort to get back on the lead lap. Unfortunately the cautions did not fall for the 20 team as they raced most of the final run in that spot, but were forced to settle for a 10th-place finish.
Brad Keselowski won the race, while Jeff Gordon was second, Mark Martin third, Jimmie Johnson fourth and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five. There were five cautions for a total of 28 laps with 11 lead changes among six different drivers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to the Superspeedway of Talladega for the fourth race in The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. The race will be held Sunday, October 7 with coverage on ESPN beginning at 1 PM ET (race begins at 2 PM ET).
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