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Xfinity Race Report: Mid-Ohio

NASCAR’s XFINITY Series entered week 21 of the 2016 season at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington for a humid and rain soaked Saturday afternoon race event. Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) support driver Owen Kelly and the No. 18 Tunity Toyota team started from row one, in second place after a 84.784 sec lap at 95.877 mph in qualifying on Friday. While the No. 18 Tunity Toyota took the front of the field two times over the 75-lap race, poor weather conditions caused extremely bad visibility issues that hindered Kelly’s performance through the afternoon. While the No. 18 drove off course a few times, Kelly was able to steer his Toyota back on track and regain positions to finish the race in 16th place.

Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished 23rd, which is only his fourth finish outside the top 15 this season. During first NXS practice Friday morning, Suárez ran off the track and suffered major cosmetic damage to the right-rear of the No. 19 Toyota Camry. Instead of bringing out the backup car, the ARRIS team worked hard to repair the damage on the primary car. Hard work paid off and Suárez was able to make laps during final practice on Friday afternoon. Suárez qualified his No 19 ARRIS Toyota fifth for the 75-lap event, turning a lap time of 85.018 seconds at 95.613 MPH around the 13-turn Lexington, Ohio road course. Following the drop of the green flag under cloudy skies, Suárez was able to move up the scoring pylon to third before the caution flag flew for light rain on lap four. The No. 19 team hit pit road for four rain tires and fuel. He was listed eighth for the lap nine restart. During a caution flag on lap 20 while running ninth, Suárez radioed to his crew that he was lacking grip on his No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry. Since they were not in a fuel window crew chief Scott Graves opted to keep his driver on the race track. On the lap 23 restart, Suárez lost several positions and was listed 16th two laps later. Unfortunately, on lap 27, Suárez lost control of his ARRIS Toyota and slide into the gravel pit in turn four. The No. 19 machine did not have much damage but Suárez would go one lap down waiting on the track crew to pull him from the gravel. The No. 19 ARRIS team spend the remainder of the 75-lap race trying to get back on the lead lap. However, the caution flags did not fall in their favor and Suárez crossed the finish line 23rd one lap down to the leaders.

Qualifying in the sixth position for the Mid-Ohio Challenge, Erik Jones and the No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Toyota Camry team survived the-rain soaked race to finish in the same position, sixth after 75 laps around the 13-turn track. With the green flag in the air Saturday afternoon and the radar showing rain in the area, teams were prepared in the pits with both rain tires and normal race tires. As anticipated, the race was halted on lap two for rain and crew chief Chris Gabehart made the call to bring Jones to pit road to switch to rain tires. Jones returned to the track with the team reminding him to keep the car on track and be patient while adapting to the wet conditions. The race restarted on lap nine with Jones in the sixth position. Jones was able to advance as high as fourth before dropping back to sixth when the second caution waved on lap 13 for a spin on the track. Gabehart made the call to leave Jones on the track and again reminded him that running cautious laps was good and to focus on making it to the end of the 75-lap race. The race restarted on lap 18 with Jones sixth. With several cars getting together on the restart, Jones too got in the back of a competitor, leaving the No. 20 Camry with damage to the right-side nose of the car. The race continued until lap 20 when another full course caution was displayed. Jones was scored in fifth place for the lap 23 restart. The caution was waved again on lap 27 with Jones in the seventh position. The team opted to leave Jones on the track and the race restarted on lap 31. As the field got up to speed to make their way around the 13 turn course, Jones spun and several competitors made contact with the No. 20 Camry causing damage to the right-rear quarter panel. With a full course caution displayed, Jones was able to pit two times under the caution to repair the damage and change tires. The race restarted on lap 33 with Jones in the 30th position, still on the lead lap. Picking off one car at a time, Jones cracked the top 20 on lap 38 and returned to the top 15 on lap 41. On lap 42 under green-flag conditions, Gabehart called Jones to pit road for fresh tires, switching from rain tires to normal race tires, and packed the No. 20 Camry with fuel. Over the next 10 laps, Jones moved from 18th to 12th before the caution was displayed for debris on lap 52. Before the race returned to green-flag conditions, rain started to fall again and teams opted to return to pit to switch back to rain tires. The race restarted on lap 55 with Jones in the 10th spot. With several cautions over the final laps, Jones was able to stay focused on the leaders and gain several positions to cross the finish line solidly in the sixth position.

Justin Marks won the Mid-Ohio Challenge followed by Sam Hornish, Jr., Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier. Up next for the NASCAR XFINITY Series is the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday, August 19. The race can be viewed on USA Network at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Denny Hamlin Wins at Watkins Glen!

Denny Hamlin captured his second win of the season and claimed his first ever road course victory in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth joined Hamlin in the top ten with sixth and 10th-place finishes, while pole-sitter Carl Edwards took the checkered flag in 15th.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota from the sixth position and held steady in the top ten prior to his first round of pit stops. With various pit strategies at play Hamlin would drop back outside the top 15 and was running 18th at lap 30. He would race his way back to 14th by lap 42 and found himself in seventh at the halfway mark of the race. Crew chief Mike Wheeler would make the call to remain out on the track and attempt to save enough fuel to make it to the end. Several late cautions would help that cause. Hamlin lined up third for a restart with 10 laps to go and he took advantage of the battle between the 18 and 2 to move to the lead before a caution came out. He would manage to maintain the lead through two more late restarts and several late challenges to earn his first career win at Watkins Glen International.

Kyle Busch started the No. 18 Snickers Crisper Toyota from fifth position and raced his way into second early on behind his teammate and pole-sitter Carl Edwards. There are always a number of pit strategies at road course races and today was no different. The 18 Camry would pit for the first time on lap 26 leaving him to run eighth at lap 30, but Busch would maneuver his way back to second just six laps later. He would take the lead on lap 45. Busch would pit and lined up ninth for a restart with 34 laps remaining. The Snickers Crisper Camry would make its way back into the top five and lined up second for a restart with 10 laps to go. Busch would make a strong move in an attempt to wrestle the lead from the 2 car, but the two would get loose with the 18 getting the worse end of it and dropping back outside the top five. He would go on to finish sixth.

Matt Kenseth made his 600th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start this weekend at Watkins Glen International. He started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the fourth position, moved up to second over the opening ten laps of the race and battled inside the top five for much of the first third of the race. He would pit for the first time on lap 26 and with various pit strategies at play he would shuffle back outside the top ten. Kenseth would race his way back into the top five at the halfway mark. The 83 car would run Kenseth off the track on a lap 60 restart costing the Dollar General Camry several spots. He would manage to battle his way back over the course of a few late restarts to finish 10th. The top-ten finish was the 300th of Kenseth’s career.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota from the pole position after earning the top spot in yesterday’s qualifying session. He would lead the opening 25 laps of the race. A pit road penalty would drop Edwards back in the field and the loss of track position would prove difficult to battle back from. Pit strategy would help put the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota back inside the top five just halfway through the race. He would run second when the race was red flagged on lap 53. Edwards would have to pit once the red flag was lifted dropping him back to 23rd. He would get caught up in an accident on the ensuing restart, but fortunately the damage wasn’t too severe. He would restart 29th on lap 59. Edwards would and the STANLEY team would battle back to finish 15th.

Hamlin captured the win, followed by Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, AJ Almendinger, and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions for a total of 20 laps and nine lead changes among eight different drivers. There were also two red flag stoppages for a total of 30 minutes.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will take its final week off of the 2016 season before returning at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, August 20.

Coughlin Scores Another Top 10 as Marathon Week Continues

The penultimate event of Cody Coughlin’s marathon week saw him score another top 10 and extend his points lead in the ARCA/CRA Super Series. Coughlin started 11th and finished seventh in the ARCA/CRA Super Series Circle City 100 at Indianapolis, Indiana’s Lucas Oil Raceway.

Coughlin battled a loose race car, a greasy race track, and extremely hot temperatures on his way to his seventh top 10 finish of the season.

The Delaware, Ohio native’s seventh-place finish also was better than that of the driver chasing him the points, which helped Coughlin widen points lead.

“Another top-10 is good, and increasing the points gap is even better,” Coughlin said. “The goal this year is to win the championship and a run like this helps us do that. We made some good passes, even while battling a loose car and the bright sun, so it was still a good day.”

Coughlin’s marathon week of four races in seven days is coming to an end on Saturday, July 22 with the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Pro Late Model feature at Anderson Speedway in Indiana, the same place his week began.

The Joe Gibbs Racing Development driver scored a win in the Super Late Model at Anderson back in May, and is now searching for a second win on the high-banked quarter-mile, but this time in the Pro Late Model.

“I really want to add Anderson to the list of tracks that I’ve won at multiple times, and I know that we’ll have a great chance to do it on Saturday,” said Coughlin. “I know that Jack (Smith, crew chief), Kevin (Hamlin, team manager), Scott (Wimmer, spotter), and Dave (Holt, crew member) will give me another great race car. Hopefully my mom and dad (Di and John), Kennedi (sister) and all of us can take a picture in victory lane.”

Coughlin will hit the track on Saturday for practice beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET. Qualifying will take place at 6:30 with the Pic-A-Part 100 to begin at approximately 9 p.m. ET.

Kyle Busch Wins at Indianapolis!

Kyle Busch led a record 149 laps and dominated today’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to repeat as Brickyard 400 champion and in the process swept the weekend of NASCAR racing. It was a strong day across Joe Gibbs Racing as well with teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin joining Busch in the top five with second and fourth-place finishes respectively. Meanwhile a late-race accident took Carl Edwards out of the top five to finish back in 35th.

Kyle Busch started the No. 18 Skittles Toyota on the pole and was fast from the outset leading the opening 26 laps before a round of green flag pit stops allowed others to take the point briefly. However once the round of green flag pit stops concluded he would quickly ascend back to the lead where he continued to run through the halfway point of the race. He continued to lead when a caution with 40 laps remaining brought the leaders down pit road. The Skittles crew would keep him on point and Busch restarted as the leader with 33 laps remaining. The defending race champion would hold the lead through the restart when another caution came out with 29 laps to go. He would restart as the leader again with 26 laps to go. Busch would have to battle through several late cautions and restarts including two green-white-checker attempts to earn the hard fought victory. The win is JGR’s fifth Brickyard 400 victory.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in 18th and patiently raced his way toward the top ten which he entered shortly after the opening round of green flag pit stops. He was all the way up to sixth by lap 50. Kenseth continued his climb into the top five and was running fourth before lap 70. Kenseth moved into third just after the halfway mark. He continued to run third when a caution with 40 laps remaining brought the leaders down pit road. The Dollar General Camry would restart fourth with 33 laps to go. He would drop to fifth before another caution but used the ensuing restart to gain back those spots. Kenseth would hold the third position with 25 laps remaining. He would go on through several late restarts to finish second behind only his teammate Busch.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota from the fourth position and was able to race his way up into second where he remained at lap 50. Hamlin continued to run well and was in the sixth position at the halfway mark. A pit road speeding penalty during a round of green flag pit stops on lap 86 would force Hamlin to serve a pass through penalty dropping him back outside of the top 15. He was up to 14th when a caution with 40 laps remaining brought the leaders down pit road. Hamlin would line up 11th for the restart with 33 laps to go. Another caution would set up another restart with Hamlin in 10th with 26 laps remaining. Crew chief Mike Wheeler would bring Hamlin down pit road for four fresh tires following a caution with 10 laps to go and that move would pay off over the course of several late restarts as he managed to drive all the way up to finish fourth.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota from the second position but dealt with tight handling conditions early on and settled in to race just outside the top five on the opening green flag run of the race. He would re-enter the top five following the first round of green flag stops and was running third at lap 50. Edwards was up to second running just behind his teammate Busch at the halfway mark. He continued to run second when a caution with 40 laps remaining brought the leaders down pit road. Edwards would line up second for the restart with 33 laps to go. Another caution would set up another restart with 26 laps remaining. Edwards would get tight on the restart and drop back to run fifth. He was lined up fifth for a restart with six laps to go when contact from behind set off a chain reaction accident that left Edwards with major damage. His day would end back in 35th.

Busch captured the win, followed by Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Hamlin and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions for a total of 34 laps and four lead changes among three different drivers. The race was extended 10 laps for a green-white-checker finish.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Pocono Raceway next Sunday. Live coverage of the Pennsylvania 400 will be carried by NBCSN on Sunday, July 31 starting with its pre-race show at 1 PM ET (race starts at 1:30 PM ET). Live coverage will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

Matt Kenseth Wins New Hampshire!

Matt Kenseth patiently raced his way to the front of the field and led the final 31 laps to capture the win in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin earned top-ten finishes crossing the line in eighth and ninth respectively, while a late-race accident left Carl Edwards back in 20th.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in 18th but showed speed from the outset of today’s race as he began to climb his way into the top 10. Last fall’s New Hampshire race winner was up to eighth by lap 50 and was into the top five by lap 72. Kenseth would remain in the top five for the majority of the afternoon from that point. He would restart third with 75 laps remaining and was able to move into second on the restart and pressured the leader Martin Truex, Jr. for the next 30 laps before finally make the pass for the lead with 44 laps to go. A caution with 37 laps remaining would bring Kenseth down pit road for two tires and he would restart second behind Hamlin who did not pit. Within a couple laps he would have the Dollar General Camry back on point before another caution fell with 29 laps remaining. He would restart in first with 24 laps to go and drove away before another caution just four laps later. Kenseth would hold off his competitors through a couple more late restarts before earning his second win of the season.

Kyle Busch started the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota in second and wasted no time moving around pole sitter Jimmie Johnson for the lead on lap two. He would go on to lead 86 of the next 87 laps. Busch was never far from the front of the field this afternoon and he would take over the point again on lap 172 for 11 laps and then again on lap 185 for another 36 laps. A caution would set up a restart with 75 laps remaining and Busch would line up second for the restart after adjustments made to loosen up his Interstate Batteries Camry for the long run. He would drop back to run third shortly after the restart before a caution with 37 laps remaining. After another couple of cautions, Busch lined up third for a final restart with 11 laps remaining. Contact from several cars on the restart would shuffle the Interstate Batteries back outside the top five. He would finish eighth despite leading a race-high 133 laps this afternoon.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota from the fifth position and was up to third for a lap 40 restart following a two-tire pit stop under the day’s first caution. The 11 would lose a few spots on pit road causing him to restart eighth at lap 108 and he would run 10th at the halfway point. Hamlin would move into sixth on lap 248. A caution would come out with 37 laps remaining and crew chief Mike Wheeler would make the call for the FedEx Camry to remain out on the track while many of the other leaders pitted for fresh tires. That would put Hamlin at the point for the restart with 33 laps remaining. He would hold the lead through the initial lap but he couldn’t hold off his teammate Kenseth for long. Hamlin would restart second with 24 laps to go but this time he couldn’t get going when the green flag dropped and was shuffled back to fifth just a couple laps later. When a caution fell just four laps later Hamlin would bring his Camry down pit road for fresh tires leaving him to restart back in 25th with 17 to go. An accident in front of Hamlin on the restart would allow him to jump all the way into 15th for another restart with 11 to go. He would drive his way back into the top ten to earn a ninth-place finish.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 Sport Clips Toyota from the 13th position but was able to drive his way toward the top ten and an early two-tire pit stop following a competition caution on lap 36 would move him up to fifth for a lap 40 restart. He would continue to battle inside the top ten through most of the first half of the race and was ninth at the midpoint. Edwards would fall outside the top ten for much of the second half of the race, but managed to regain track position toward the end of the race and lined up eighth for a restart with 17 laps remaining. However contact from the 31 sent him up into the 5 car causing a chain reaction accident. The Sport Clips Camry would have to come down pit road for quick repairs and fresh tires. He would line up 25th for another restart with 11 to go before going on to finish 20th.

Kenseth captured the win, followed by Tony Stewart, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle rounded out the top five. There were seven cautions for a total of 36 laps and 13 lead changes among six different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next Sunday. Live coverage of the Brickyard 400 will be carried by NBCSN on Sunday, July 24 starting with its pre-race show at 2 PM ET (race starts at 3 PM ET). Live coverage will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.