It was a strong night for Joe Gibbs Racing with all three teams earning a top-ten finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 from Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Denny Hamlin would lead the way with a strong second-place finish, while Kyle Busch earned fifth and Joey Logano crossed the finish line in ninth.
Hamlin qualified the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota ninth and it was clear from the drop of the green flag to start the race that he had one of the fastest cars on the track. Hamlin immediately drove up into the top five and was inside the top three within the first 50 laps while battling the other two cars that make up the top three spots in the Chase standings. Hamlin would move into the lead for the first time on the night on lap 135 and he would lead the next 33 laps before settling into second on the next green flag run. A caution would come out just after a round of green flag pits stops and crew chief Darian Grubb would call for Hamlin to bring his No. 11 Camry back down pit road under caution for a short, fuel only stop in hopes of putting them in their fuel window to make it to the end on one final stop. Hamlin would restart 10th on lap 228 and was able to jump up into the eighth position on the restart and was into seventh with 85 laps to go and sixth with 75 laps remaining. Hamlin stretched his next fuel run until 54 laps to go in hopes of being able to make it to the finish should the race remain green to the end. He would race in seventh with 40 laps to go and was up to sixth with 30 laps remaining. Hamlin would continue his climb passing cars on the track, while others had to pull down pit road for a final splash of gas, all while saving enough fuel to get his No. 11 Camry to the finish. Although he closed the gap on leader Clint Bowyer late, Hamlin would ultimately settle for an impressive second-place finish that allowed him to reduce his deficit to current Chase leader Brad Keselowski to just 15 points.
Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota 8th and was able to move into the top five shortly after the drop of the green flag. Busch was able to remain in the top five for most of the night and at times proved to be the fastest car on the track. Busch restarted second on lap 228 and settled in behind race leader Brad Keselowski. Busch would continue to hold onto the second spot as the race reached the 300 lap mark, but the 18 team was on a slightly different fuel cycle than many of the other leaders and would have to pit one final time before the end. That would come with about 30 laps to go and once back on the track he would race his way back around the leader to get back on the lead lap and earn a fifth-place finish.
Logano qualified the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota 12th and battled handling conditions through the first third of the race. With each stop crew chief Jason Ratcliff would call for adjustments to help the No. 20 Camry turn better and indeed the car responded as Logano worked his way into the top 10 and would restart eighth on a lap 228 restart. Logano would run inside the top ten through the next fuel run, but the 20 team operated on a slightly different fuel cycle than the other leaders and would need one final stop to make it to the end. The Home Depot Toyota would come down pit road with about 20 laps to go, but still managed to finish strong over the final few laps to earn ninth-place.
Clint Bowyer captured the victory, with Hamlin second, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle fourth, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five. There were five cautions for a total of 23 laps with 20 lead changes among eight different drivers.
With The Chase at its midpoint, Hamlin is third in the current point standings, just eight points out of second-place Jimmie Johnson and 15 points behind leader Keselowski.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Kansas for the sixth of 10 races in The Chase for the Championship. Coverage of the race from Kansas will be broadcast live by ESPN starting at 2 PM ET (pre-race show starts at 1 PM ET). You can also keep track of all the action by following @joegibbsracing on Twitter.