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Race Report: Pocono, August

Denny Hamlin led Joe Gibbs Racing in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 from Pocono Raceway with a ninth-place finish. Meanwhile an accident and engine failure left his teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch to finish 34th and 42nd respectively.

Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota in the 13th position and with several early cautions fuel strategy would quickly become a factor on this Sunday afternoon. Hamlin would battle his way into the top ten and battled much of the first half of the race to remain in the top ten while battling mostly loose handling conditions. Hamlin would get caught in the middle of a three wide situation on lap 117 causing his No. 11 Camry to get loose and up into the wall. He would manage to save the FedEx Toyota from major damage however, while many others wrecked behind him in what was the day’s big one. For a moment it appeared fuel strategy was going to play out perfectly for Hamlin who was running third with under 30 laps to go, but an untimely caution would allow the rest of the field to catch the leaders with fresher tires. Hamlin would battle to remain inside the top ten over the course of the final two restarts and took the checkered flag in ninth.

Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the 18th position and was patient through the early going battling his way inside the top 15. With several early cautions fuel mileage would become a factor early this afternoon with many in the field utilizing a number of different pit strategies. Kenseth would enter the top five several times over the course of each fuel cycle and took his first lead of the day on lap 103. He was running just outside the top 15 when his teammate Hamlin got loose while running in the middle of a three wide situation. Although Hamlin didn’t spin and was able to save his car from significant damage many others would wreck behind him including Kenseth who was pushed hard into the outside wall on lap 117. The damage to the Dollar General Camry would be too great to continue and Kenseth would be scored in 38th.

Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota from the seventh position and as he had done all weekend showed he had a car capable of battling for a spot among the leaders. Unfortunately Busch would never have the opportunity to display whether or not his No. 18 Camry could win the battle on the tricky triangle. He would radio in after 23 laps that something was wrong with his engine. Busch would bring the M&Ms Toyota down pit road and ultimately into the garage. His day was over early and he would be scored in 42nd place.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the race, followed by Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions for a total of 35 laps and 15 lead changes among 10 different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will take to the road course of Watkins Glen International next week. ESPN will have live coverage from Watkins Glen, NY on Sunday, August 10 at Noon ET (race begins 1 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

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