Race Report: Watkins Glen
Matt Kenseth led Joe Gibbs Racing with a ninth-place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 from Watkins Glen International. Meanwhile a late race spin left teammate Denny Hamlin to finish 24th and an early accident resulted in a 40th-place finish for Kyle Busch.
Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the eighth position and was able to gain a spot through the early going, but contact from the No. 2 car cost him several positions and left him back in 10th prior to his first pit stop of the day on lap 30. Once the field cycled through Kenseth would run re-enter the top 10 and was running seventh on lap 40. The Dollar General Camry was running fifth when a caution on lap 51 came out for the 24 car that lost power on the track. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make the call to bring him down pit road and with several lead lap cars electing not to pit he would restart the race in ninth on lap 55. A couple laps later the race would be red flagged for a big wreck involving the 31 and 95 cars. Racing would resume after nearly an hour and a half delay and the Dollar General Toyota would come down pit road for fuel only on the next round of stops and was running 8th at lap 60. Contact from the 42 car late in the race would force Kenseth into the 48 and collect the 14 in the process. Fortunately Kenseth was okay and restarted eighth with five laps to go. Another caution would set up a green white checkered finish and Kenseth would battle to a ninth-place finish.
Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota in the 17th position and was able to drive his way into the top 15 before his first trip down pit road on lap 29. Once the field had cycled through stops Hamlin would run in 16th. Crew chief Darian Grubb would elect track position and had Hamlin remain on the track when a caution came out on lap 51. That allowed Hamlin to restart third with 35 laps remaining. A couple laps later the race would be red flagged for a big wreck involving the 31 and 95 cars. Racing would resume after nearly an hour and a half delay and the 11 car would get two tires and fuel on the next round of stops and was running 18th at lap 60. Hamlin would come down pit road again following a lap 77 caution for two tires and fuel and adjustments in an effort to tighten up a loose handling FedEx Camry. He would work his way inside the top 15 but then was spun following a restart with just a few laps remaining. That would leave Hamlin back in 30th for the final restart with two to go and he would manage to gain several spots to finish 24th.
Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota from the 19th position and was able to work his way up to 12th prior to making his first trip down pit road on lap 24. Unfortunately the fuel can stuck in the car as Busch pulled out of his pit stall resulting in a stop and go penalty and leaving him a lap down. A few laps later he would receive significant damage to the left front of his M&Ms Camry while trying to make a pass on the inside of the No. 78 car. The damage to the area around the left front tire was severe enough that Busch would have to bring the car to the garage for repairs. He would return to the track 20 laps behind and would go on to finish 40th.
A.J. Allmendinger won the race, followed by Marcos Ambrose, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 17 laps and five lead changes among six different drivers.