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It was a day of great promise with all four Joe Gibbs Racing Camry’s starting inside the top 15 and two teammates taking a turn at the lead in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
Unfortunately misfortune would hit JGR late and in the end Carl Edwards would lead the team with a 13th-place finish, while David Ragan took the checkered flag in 18th, Denny Hamlin in 28th and Matt Kenseth in 31st.
Carl Edwards started the No. 19 Subway Toyota in 15th and raced to hold that spot through the early going this afternoon. He would restart in 11th following a round of pit stops after the day’s first caution. Edwards continued to race much of the day just outside the top ten as he battled handling issues on his Subway Camry. A late pit road speeding penalty would shuffle him back in the field but he would manage to climb his way back toward the top ten once again. He would restart 12th on the final green white checkered finish before crossing the line in 13th.
David Ragan qualified the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota in fourth and was able to gain a spot to race third through the early laps of this 400 mile race. He would get loose and spin on lap 24 bringing out the day’s first caution. Fortunately he didn’t hit anything but he did fall a lap off the pace and eventually was two laps down to the leaders. Ragan would work his way back on the lead lap with 42 laps to go and managed to race back into the top 20 to finish 18th.
Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota from the sixth position and was able to race inside the top five through the opening green flag run of the day. His Sport Clips crew would allow him to restart second on lap 26. He would make his move to the front on lap 31 and went on to lead the next 30 laps. He would retake the lead for another 26 laps on lap 60 as he proved to have a fast race car all afternoon. A caution with 15 laps to go would bring Hamlin and the other leaders down pit road for fuel and fresh tires. The No. 11 Camry would gain several spots on pit road and appeared set to restart third with a chance to win but the Sport Clips team would be hit with a pit road penalty for an uncontrolled tire. That would put Hamlin back at the end of the longest line. He managed to work his way back to finish a disappointing 28th.
Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 DEWALT Toyota in third. He would remain up front and took his first lead following the first round of pit stops on the day on lap 26. He would lead three times for a total of 43 laps on the afternoon. Kenseth was running point in front of the field late hoping to extend his fuel run to the finish over the final 15 laps. A caution for debris on lap 186 would bring all the leaders down pit road for tires and fuel and the DEWALT crew would turn an impressive stop with the hope of keeping Kenseth on the lead. As Kenseth would make his move to leave his pit stall the No. 20 Toyota would suffer a broken left rear axle forcing him to return to pit road for repairs. He would go down a lap which he managed to recover with some late cautions but was left at the back of the field and finished a disappointing 31st.
Brad Keselowski captured the win, followed by Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five. There were seven cautions for a total of 31 laps and 19 lead changes among nine different drivers. The race was extended nine laps which included two green white checker attempts.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will come back east to the short track known as the paper clip next week. Live coverage from Martinsville Speedway will be on Fox Sports 1 starting Sunday, March 29 at 12:30 PM ET (race starts at 1 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.
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