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Denny Hamlin Wins the Richmond XFINITY Race and Earns Toyota’s 100th Series Victory

  • In front of his hometown crowd, Denny Hamlin climbed into the No. 20 Hisense Toyota Camry for the Toyota Care 250 at Richmond International Raceway and claimed Toyota’s 100th NASCAR XFINITY Series victory.
  • With a fast car from the start of the day in practice, Hamlin carried the momentum over and claimed his first NASCAR XFINITY Series pole of the season, and the fourth consecutive pole for the No. 20 team led by crew chief Mike Wheeler.
  • Rolling off the grid for 250 laps under the lights at the Virginia short track, Hamlin immediately showed he had speed and a solid Toyota Camry.
  • Dominating from the start, Hamlin pitted for the first time during the lap 49 caution period for four fresh tires and Sunoco racing fuel. Winning the race off of pit road, Hamlin led the field back to green on lap 55.
  • Continuing to show he had the car to beat, Hamlin began to pull away from the field and had a four-second lead over the second-place car when the caution flag waved on lap 109. With concerns of a tire going down, the team took advantage of the caution and pitted for four tires and fuel. With a fast stop by the No. 20 Hisense crew, the race restarted on lap 121 with Hamlin at the front of the field.
  • The third and final caution of the 250-lap event waved on lap 144 and Wheeler made the call for Hamlin to stay on track. Hamlin maintained the lead, and led the field back to green on lap 152.
  • As the race continued under green-flag conditions, teams began pitting for the final time around lap 210.
  • With almost a seven-second lead, Hamlin made his final stop of the race on lap 225 under green for four tires and fuel. After pit stops cycled through the field, Hamlin resumed the lead until the checkered flag waved on lap 250.
  • In dominating fashion, Hamlin won the Toyota Care 250 after leading the lone practice session Friday morning, leading all three qualifying rounds Friday afternoon and leading 248 of 250 laps Friday night.
  • Following the win at Richmond International Raceway, the No. 20 Toyota Camry team gained two positions in the NASCAR XFINITY Series owner point standings and now sit third, 44 points out of the lead.

Denny Hamlin’s Post-Race Thoughts:

How strong was the race car?
“It was a great day – right from the very start I knew I had some great speed. That’s the key to victory. It’s no tricks or anything like that – it’s just you have to have a fast car. Mike (Wheeler, crew chief) and these guys, they gave me something special tonight and we were able to dominate with it. You don’t get these cars that often – almost never. Me and him and a car with Mike Ford (former crew chief) like this in the Cup Series a few years ago and then we had a flat with 15 (laps) to go. Of course, that runs through your mind with how you can mess this up, but luckily everything worked out for us and obviously it was a dominating victory.”

Are you proud to have claimed Toyota’s 100th NXS victory?
“It’s really big. Wheels (Mike Wheeler, crew chief) was actually with us when we won 100 for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Cup program in Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway) and it was a great day and really Toyota has – their unwavered support and what they’ve done, it’s just big when you have the Toyota weekend here at Richmond, you’re able to sweep these practices and win the race in dominating fashion. It’s such a big weekend for everyone at Toyota and I didn’t know that they had 99 wins and they told me before the race, ‘Hey, if things go well, it’s 100.’ I’m like, ‘Whoa, whoa. Don’t.’ I’m very superstitious when it comes to that kind of stuff. I didn’t know when it was 99 on the Cup side for JGR. I’m just happy I was able to do it for them because they’ve been a huge supporter of mine since 2008 when they came over to Joe Gibbs Racing and really they’ve taken both our Cup and our XFINITY program to the next level. It’s good to see Ed (Laukes, vice president of marketing, performance and guest experience, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A) and a lot of these executives here that don’t get to travel every weekend and it’s obviously big for that reason. By the way, it’s also Hisense’s first race – a new partner for Joe Gibbs Racing – and hopefully we’ll have them back. If you don’t mind, I’d like to run this race in the fall. We’ve got a pretty good setup I’d like to run again. I’m not sure if I’m slated to do that or not. The seat’s taken? Oh well. I’ll work on that.”

Race Report: Richmond International Raceway

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Rain postponed the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota 400 from its scheduled Saturday night start to a day race this afternoon at Richmond International Raceway.

The change from night to day and a track that was washed cleaned of all the tire rubber build up from previous racing the past couple of days, would result in major changes to how all the cars would handle on the ¾-mile track. When it was over Matt Kenseth would lead Joe Gibbs Racing’s efforts with a seventh-place finish, while Carl Edwards was 19th, Denny Hamlin 22nd and David Ragan took the checkered flag in 23rd.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota from the eighth position and was able to gain a couple of spots during the opening green flag run prior to a competition caution on lap 50. He would hold the sixth position for the restart and drove his way into the top five by lap 70, before taking over fourth at lap 100 and third just a couple of laps later. Kenseth would continue to run third but would lose several spots on pit road when a right rear tire got stuck during the stop. The No. 20 Camry would have to restart back in 12th on lap 171. Kenseth would work his way back into the top ten over the course of the next green flag run. He would hold steady in the top ten for the remainder of the race and restarted eighth with 26 laps remaining. He would go on to pass the 24 car over the final laps to finish seventh.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota in the 18th position and like much of the field he would battle a tight handling race car over the opening green flag run. Edwards would drop back outside the top 25 prior to a competition caution on lap 50. He would continue to run 25th over the course of the next green flag run. The handling issues would continue to plague the 19 team much of the afternoon especially without track position and running back in traffic. He would fall a lap down to the leaders. Edwards would fight hard to get back on the lead lap and he would get that opportunity with a late caution. He would go on to drive the ARRIS Camry to a 19th-place finish.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota on the outside pole during Friday’s qualifying session, but found the handling on his race car had changed with all the rain washing the tire rubber off the race track. The Richmond area native who dominated the XFINITY Series race Friday night would enter the pits 14th following a competition caution on lap 50. He would restart 10th but began to drop over the course of the longer green flag run and was running 15th at lap 115. Hamlin would continue to fight the handling on his FedEx machine and eventually went a lap down to the leaders. He would run 25th on lap 300. Hamlin would go on to finish two laps off the pace in 22nd.

David Ragan qualified the No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota in 10th but battled a tight handling race car over the opening green flag run and was 15th when a competition caution waved on lap 50. He would restart 12th but handling continued to be an issue and he would fall back outside the top 25 and ultimately a lap down by lap 110. The M&Ms Crispy Camry would continue to struggle with handling much of the afternoon and Ragan was two laps down in 28th on lap 300. The 18 team would fight to the finish and took the checkered flag in 23rd.

Kurt Busch captured the win, followed by Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, and Joey Logano rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions for a total of 53 laps and 12 lead changes among five different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday on May 3. Fox will broadcast the race live with coverage starting at 12:30 PM (race begins at 1 PM ET).

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Cody Coughlin Turns Adversity Into a Test & Tune at Anderson

Cody Coughlin had high hopes for Sunday’s running of the ARCA/CRA Super Series powered by JEGS Madison County Community Health Care Center 125. Sadly, a cut tire ended his hopes for a win at the fast quarter-mile oval.

The Joe Gibbs Racing Development driver was running third when he had a right front tire go down on his number-one Super Late Model on lap 16. The Team JEGS crew quickly changed the tire and Coughlin returned to the track several laps down.

Coughlin and his team continued to run and gather valuable data for them to use in future events.

“We were taking our time and settling down for the long race and the tire going down took the chance for the win away,”explained Coughlin. “But, we went back out and it was a great opportunity for us to work on our setup for the next time we come here.”

On lap 77, Coughlin received some damage from a minor on-track incident and at that point the team had accumulated the notes it needed so they asked the Delaware, Ohio native to save the car for another day.

“My crew did an excellent job trying to get us back on the track after the tire went down,”exclaimed Coughlin. “I really have to thank Kevin (Hamlin, Team Manager), Nick (Easton, Crew Chief), Scott (Wimmer, Spotter) and Dave (Holt, crew member) for their hard work all weekend. It would have been fun to celebrate a victory with them, but we will get them next time.”

Along with his crew, Coughlin also had the support of his family, which included his parents, John & Di, and his sister Kennedi.

“It was great to have them at the track today, and I really appreciated their love and support after the race.

“I also want to thank God for a safe race and giving all of us a safe travel home this Sunday night.”

Coughlin will now transition from the smallest track he will race on this year to the biggest track this Friday, as he will return the ARCA Racing Series for the running of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

For more information on Cody Coughlin and Team JEGS, visit www.teamjegs.com and follow Cody on Twitter, @cody_coughlin. You can also follow Team JEGS on Twitter, @TeamJEGS and “Like” JEGS Performance on Facebook.

Cody Coughlin Ready to Challenge Anderson’s High Banks

The high banks of Anderson Speedway in Anderson, Indiana can be challenging and fun at the same time for any driver. It is one of the tracks that Cody Coughlin looks forward to competing at every year. In fact, he made his Super Late Model debut at the high-banked, quarter-mile oval in 2013.

This Saturday, April 25th, the Joe Gibbs Racing Development driver will return to Anderson Speedway and compete in the ARCA/CRA Super Series powered by JEGS 125-lap event.

“I am eager to return to Anderson Speedway,”exclaimed Coughlin. “That is one of the most fun places to race, I think, as far from a driver’s standpoint. It is a great short, high-banked track.”

The track is known as one of the fastest quarter-mile ovals in the world. It will be tough to pass and quick reaction will be important to get the victory.

Coughlin’s strategy is going to be simple.

“The key will be to get up front and keep the fenders on the car,”the 19-year-old from Delaware, Ohio explained. “Sometimes races like these are strategy and survival.”

Coughlin will be going into this event with his Team JEGS crew that consists of Kevin Hamlin, Team Manager; Nick Easton, Crew Chief; Scott Wimmer, Spotter, and Dave Holt, crewmember.

“This team has worked real well preparing the car after our top-ten finish at Toledo Speedway,”Coughlin said. “We continue to get stronger at each event and it would be awesome to get a victory this weekend.”

Joining Cody and the Team JEGS crew this weekend will be his family that includes his parents, John & Di, and his sister, Kennedi.

“I am very blessed to have their continued love and support at all of the races,”expressed Coughlin. “When we do well, it is great to celebrate our efforts together as a family.

“Also, I continue to be blessed by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He has kept a watchful eye over everyone this year and I am very grateful for his love and kindness.”

Coughlin raced with a scratched cornea a couple weeks ago at Toledo Speedway, but through some medicated eye drops and some rest, the third-generation racers is feeling much better.

Cody will be on track this Saturday with a one-hour practice session starting at 3pm ET with qualifying at 5:30pm. The 125-lap event will get underway at 7pm ET.

For more information on Cody Coughlin and Team JEGS, visit www.teamjegs.com and follow Cody on Twitter, @cody_coughlin. You can also follow Team JEGS on Twitter, @TeamJEGS and “Like” JEGS Performance on Facebook.

Matt Kenseth Wins at Bristol!

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It was worth the wait for Matt Kenseth and the Dollar General team today in Thunder Valley.

A long day at the famed short track of Bristol Motor Speedway had it all, with several big wrecks and rain delays of more than five hours turning the 1 PM scheduled NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Standup to Cancer into a night race.

When it finally concluded Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth earned his first victory of the season, while a late-race accident took away a certain top-five finish from Carl Edwards, who finished 24th. Meanwhile Denny Hamlin, suffering from neck spasms, was replaced following nearly a four-hour rain delay by rookie Erik Jones and the No. 11 FedEx Camry would finish 26th. David Ragan would get caught in a mid-race accident and was left to finish 41st.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota from the pole and led the first five laps of the day before dropping back to second on the opening run. A wreck would bring out the first caution of the day and rain quickly turned the yellow flag into a red one for nearly four hours. When the race resumed Kenseth would remain in a fight for a spot in the top five as he found the balance on his No. 20 Camry pretty good, but dealt with tight handling once in traffic. Kenseth would pit under caution just past the halfway mark and crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make the call for a major adjustment pulling a spring rubber out of the right rear of his car. Kenseth would line up seventh for the restart on lap 277, which followed yet another brief red flag for rain. He would manage to avoid a wreck in front of him shortly after the restart and that allowed him to restart fourth on lap 292. Kenseth would jump into second behind just his teammate Edwards following the restart. He would come down pit road on the next caution and restarted ninth on lap 350 when several teams made the decision to remain out on the track. Kenseth would drive up to fourth before another caution on lap 367. He would restart in the fourth position but managed to jump immediately into second and was on the bumper of the leader with 100 to go. Kenseth would show patience while battling for the lead he would claim the top spot when the 42 was forced to pit on lap 437. The 41car would take the top spot from Kenseth with 56 laps to go, but a caution with 27 laps remaining would force the teams to make the decision on whether or not to pit. Ratcliff made the call to remain on the track and the 20 team assumed the lead for the restart with 20 to go. Kenseth would clear his teammate Edwards on the restart when another caution came out for a big wreck with 17 to go. He would restart as the leader gain with eight to go and once again cleared the field on the restart before a caution would bring things to halt. After yet another stoppage for rain Kenseth would line up first with the 24 to his inside for a green-white-checkered finish. He would drive away for his first win of the season and essentially clinched his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 Comcast Business Toyota in the fifth position and held a spot in the top five for the entire first half of the race. Edwards, the defending race winner, moved into second at the halfway mark and took his first lead of the race just a few laps later on lap 257. A caution for light rain would bring the field back down pit road and the 19 team kept Edwards out front with a fast stop. The rain would continue causing NASCAR to throw another red flag on lap 274. Edwards would hold the lead through the lap 277 restart when a wreck just behind him brought out another caution a few laps later. He would continue to hold the lead through the ensuing restart once again. Another caution would come out and Edwards would come to pit road. He would line up 10th for the restart on lap 350 when several teams made the call to remain out on the track. Edwards would lose several spots back in traffic and was running 13th when another caution came out on lap 367. A few of those that stayed out came in allowing Edwards to restart 10th on lap 381. He would run sixth with 100 laps to go and was back into the top five and all the way up to third with 45 laps remaining. A caution with 27 laps left would force teams to make the decision on whether or not to pit and the 19 team remained on the track to restart second with 20 laps remaining. Edwards would fall in behind his teammate to run second following the restart when a big wreck with 17 to go brought out yet another caution. He would hold the second spot for a restart with eight to go and was in a battle with the 24 car when he got loose and ran up into the wall. The 41 car couldn’t stop and hit Edwards hard from behind causing significant damage to the Comcast Business Toyota. He would bring the 19 down pit road for repairs. After a tremendous race that saw him lead a total of 86 laps, the 19 team would be scored with a disappointing 24th-place finish.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota from the fifth position and was able to hold that spot through the short opening green flag run to start the race. A wreck between the 2 and 22 cars on lap 20 would bring out the day’s first caution and just two laps later the yellow flag would move to a red one when the rain moved back in. The race would restart after a nearly four-hour delay, but when it did, the driver of the 11 would be rookie Erik Jones. Hamlin had suffered a neck spasm in the opening laps of the race and when the delay didn’t alleviate the issue, a decision was made to use caution and bring Jones, who had finished fourth in Saturday’s XFINITY race, back to the track to finish the race for Hamlin. Jones would do a fantastic job despite the challenges of the task at hand and jumping into a race car that was set up for another driver and then having to drop to the back of the field when the race restarted. He would manage to gain position on the track despite losing a few laps to the leader. He was running 32nd and was three laps down for a restart on lap 277. Jones would get caught in an accident with 27 laps to go running into the back of the 17 car when it checked up suddenly. All-in-all it was impressive effort from the 18-year-old with a 26th place finish.

David Ragan qualified the No. 18 Snickers Xtreme Toyota in 11th and quickly jumped in the top ten during the brief opening green flag run to start the race. A nearly four-hour red flag for rain would turn this from a day race to a battle under the lights and Ragan continued to prove to have a fast car despite the changing conditions. A competition caution on lap 62 would bring the field down pit road but despite a great stop from the Snickers team, the 18 would be called for speeding on exit and had to go to the back of the longest line. The loss of track position on the short track proved costly as Ragan would drop two laps down. After another brief red flag for rain Ragan would restart a couple laps down in 29th on lap 277. An accident at the front of the field after the restart would bunch the field and the 18 would suffer a little front end damage, but it didn’t prove to be severe. Unfortunately for Ragan the big one was still to come however, as he was collected in a lap 311 wreck when the 48 and 26 cars made contact in front of him and he was unable to avoid the spinning cars. The damage would force the 18 team to the garage for repairs. He would return to finish the race and would be scored in 41st when the checkered flag waved.

Kenseth captured the win, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five. There were 11 cautions for a total of 117 laps and 21 lead changes among six different drivers, including three red flag cautions for rain which combined for more than five hours in delay.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Richmond International Raceway next weekend for a Saturday night battle on April 25. Fox will broadcast the race live with coverage starting at 7 PM (race begins at 7:30 PM ET).

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