Race Report: New Hampshire
Joe Gibbs Racing brought three extremely fast race cars to Loudon, New Hampshire this weekend, with each taking a turn at the front of the field during today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway. All three spent the majority of the race inside the top five and when it was over Kyle Busch would lead the team with a second-place finish, while Matt Kenseth came home fourth and Denny Hamlin eighth.
Busch set a new track record during Friday’s qualifying session to place his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota on the pole for the start of today’s race. Busch was fast from the outset leading the opening 62 laps before giving way to his teammate Denny Hamlin. Busch would spend the majority of the day inside the top five and was running fifth when the race reached 200 laps. He would pit for four tires on lap 214 and lined up 15th for the restart a few laps later after many chose to take only two or fuel only. Busch would race his way into 11th by lap 245. The Interstate Batteries team would make the call to stay out under caution on lap 251 allowing him to restart third with 45 laps to go. He would drop a couple spots on the next run while attempting to save enough fuel to ensure he would make it to the end. He would run sixth with 20 to go and continued to hold that spot when a caution came out with four to go setting up a green-white-checker finish. Crew chief Dave Rogers would make the call to remain on the track and attempt to stretch their fuel run into overtime. He would take the green flag with two to go from the fourth position and managed an impressive second-place finish. It was Busch’s third consecutive second-place finish in New Hampshire.
Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the 15th position but wasted no time in moving into the top ten to race eighth by lap 25. He would move into the top five for the first time on lap 61 and continued his climb toward the lead. Kenseth, who won in New Hampshire last September, took the top spot on lap 127. He would hold the lead for 12 laps before giving way to the 2 car. The No. 20 Dollar General team would elect to take four tires during a round of stops under caution shortly after the midpoint of the race and he would restart 11th after many others on the lead lap made the decision for just two tires. Kenseth would work his way back inside the top 10 and into sixth over the course of the next run and continued to hold that spot at the 200 lap mark. He would pit on lap 214 for four tires while many others elected just two tires or no tires and he would line up 17th for a restart on lap 219. He would race his way back into the top 10 by lap 245. He would take fuel only on his next stop with 51 laps remaining and lined up eighth for the restart when several others elected not to pit. He would run seventh with 20 to go and held that position when a caution came out with four laps remaining to set up a green-white-checker finish. He restarted fifth with two to go and took the checkered flag in fourth.
Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota in the third position and immediately moved into second. He would settle into that position for the first 62 laps before finally tracking down his teammate Kyle Busch and claiming the lead. Hamlin would lead twice for a total of 20 laps through the first round of green flag pit stops. He would continue to run inside the top five much of the afternoon and was in fourth when the race reached the 200 lap mark. The FedEx Freight Camry would pit under caution on lap 214 for four tires and lined up 13th for a lap 219 restart after many others elected to take only two tires or fuel only. Hamlin would climb his way back into the top 10 in less than 10 laps and was running seventh on lap 245. He would remain out on the track during the next caution which allowed him to restart second with 45 to go. He would drop to third, but eventually earned the second spot back with 19 laps to go despite having to save enough fuel to make it to the finish. A caution with four to go would hurt the FedEx team’s fuel strategy and crew chief Darian Grubb called the 11 car down pit road for tires and fuel. He would restart 20th but managed an impressive drive back into the top ten and earned an eighth-place finish.
Brad Keselowski won the race, followed by Busch, Kyle Larson, Kenseth and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five. There were seven cautions for a total of 35 laps and 18 lead changes among nine different drivers. The race was extended four laps for a green-white-checker finish.