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Race Report: Michigan

Separate early race accidents spoiled the day for teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, while Denny Hamlin managed to avoid the trouble and led Joe Gibbs Racing with a seventh-place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 from Michigan International Speedway.

Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota in the 21st position and was able to avoid the early wrecks that plagued his teammates. He remained patient and worked his way into the top 15 and was running 12th as the race went past the halfway mark. He would work his way back into the top ten and was running 10th on lap 135. Hamlin would make a scheduled stop on lap 138 and once the field cycled through he was running 11th with 50 laps to go. Hamlin benefited for well-timed caution when he pitted with just over 30 laps remaining and the yellow flag came out. The FedEx Camry was able to restart seventh and raced as high as fifth following two quick restarts that followed. He would go to finish in seventh.

Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the 18th position and was patient through the early going racing just outside the top 20 after being shuffled back on the initial green flag for the start of the race. Unfortunately Kenseth would not have the opportunity to make his way toward the front over the course of the 200-lap race because of an accident on lap 22. The 10 car spun in front of the Dollar General Camry forcing Kenseth to check up and that set off a chain reaction and contact from behind caused rear suspension damage that forced the team to make repairs in the garage. He would return 27 laps down to the leader and went on to finish 38th.

Busch started the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota from the 24th position but his day took a turn for the worse early on when he got loose on lap 4 and made hard contact into the outside wall. The damage was significant to the Interstate Batteries Camry and Busch immediately drove it straight to the garage. Kyle worked alongside his 18 teammates to make repairs and he would return to the track to complete the race, but was many laps off the pace. He would go on to finish 39th.

The best news of the day is that both Busch and Hamlin officially earned a spot in the Chase, while Kenseth remains in good position as the points leader among those that have yet to win a race thus far this season.

Jeff Gordon won the race, followed by Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Paul Menard and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions for a total of 37 laps and 20 lead changes among eight different drivers.

Mars Sweetens its NASCAR Sponsorships

Announces Multiyear Renewals with Joe Gibbs Racing, Kyle Busch and NASCAR®

Mars announced today that it has signed new multi-year deals with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. (NASCAR), further anchoring its presence in the sport. The new agreement with JGR will extend the winning partnership that has brought the No. 18 M&M’S® Toyota to victory lane 20 times since 2008 and continue with the popular M&M’S® brand as the primary paint scheme in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™.

The renewed contract with the sanctioning body will designate Mars as the Official Chocolate of NASCAR. Mars will continue to leverage its Official status to ensure its various chocolate brands remain a race day staple for millions of racing fans.

“Mars and its iconic brands have been part of NASCAR for decades, and we’re excited to keep that winning tradition going,” said Roy Benin, Chief Consumer Officer at Mars Chocolate North America. “As the sport has grown throughout the years, so has our involvement in it and we’re incredibly proud of the strong partnership we’ve forged with Joe Gibbs Racing and the league.”

“From connecting with fans to engaging our retail partners and creating passion among our associates, our alliances with Joe Gibbs Racing and NASCAR are tremendously successful,” explained William Clements, Vice President Sponsorships and Sports Marketing at Mars Chocolate North America. “We’re thrilled to extend our partnerships and look forward to celebrating more wins both on and off the track.”

“Mars has been a big part of the Joe Gibbs Racing family and we’re excited to continue what has become a winning relationship,” added Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. “Mars has been such an important partner to us throughout the past six plus seasons, and to have them continue their support inspires us as a team to work even harder every day. Everyone at JGR is committed to ensuring they experience the type of success on and off the track deserving of such a great company.”

“Being the M&M’S® driver and representing Mars on and off the track has been one of the proudest accomplishments in my racing career,” said Kyle Busch, driver of the No. M&M’S® 18 Toyota for JGR. “This is great news for everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and our fans, but also shows how dedicated Mars is to our sport. With this news, any trip to Victory Lane will be even sweeter.”

“Mars is one of the most recognizable brands in NASCAR and is among the best-in-class marketers in all of sports,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR Chief Operating Officer. “More than two decades after entering NASCAR, Mars continues to help make race day more fun and we couldn’t be more proud to see the company continue to re-invest in our sport.”

To learn more about M&M’S® Racing, visit them on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/MMSRacing.

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.

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.