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Race Report: New Hampshire

The second race of the first round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship certainly proved eventful for all three Joe Gibbs Racing entries in today’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Despite being involved in an accident nearly two-thirds of the way into the race, Kyle Busch would lead JGR with an eighth-place finish. Unfortunately Matt Kenseth was caught up in accident with only 30 laps to go and didn’t have time to execute a similar late-race charge back to a top ten. He would finish 21st. Denny Hamlin was extremely fast through the early portion of the race, but a mechanical failure in the fuel apparatus put him several laps down and an accident followed that sent him to the garage for repairs leaving him to finish the day back in 37th.

Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in fifth and patiently raced inside the top ten during the opening green flag run before a competition caution on lap 35 brought the leaders down pit road for the first time. A quick two-tire stop would allow Busch to gain a couple of spots on pit road and he restarted fourth on lap 41. He would race as high as third before sliding back a few spots on the long green flag run. A four-tire stop under the next caution would put Busch back outside the top ten on the next restart but he quickly drove back up and was running eighth on lap 125. He continued to run eighth as the race went past the halfway mark. Busch would restart seventh on lap 177. The M&Ms Camry would be fighting for a spot in the top five on a lap 187 restart when his teammate Kenseth got loose in front of him and Busch got into the back of his No. 20 Camry causing him to spin and damage to the hood of his car. Busch would also have contact from behind by the 5 car of Kasey Kahne and he would come down pit road for extensive repairs. The M&Ms crew would keep him on the lead lap and Busch would restart 20th. Busch would struggle with the handling the remainder of the race and fought hard over the final 100-plus laps to remain on the lead lap. He would restart 20th with five to go and managed to jump eight positions to run 12th when yet another caution came out to set up a green white checkered finish. He would get yet another strong restart to get back into the top ten and earn an eighth-place finish.

Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in 16th and patiently raced just outside the top 15 over the course of the first 35 laps prior to a competition caution. A quick two-tire stop would allow Kenseth to restart in 10th on lap 41. He would hold that spot until he passed the 48 to move into ninth at lap 100. The Dollar General Camry would gain another spot on pit road under the next caution and then moved into seventh on lap 124. Kenseth would become stronger over the course of the next green flag run and was into the top five by lap 160. He would restart sixth on lap 177 and jumped back into the top five. Kenseth would fight for a spot in the top five following a lap 187 restart and the Dollar General Camry would get loose under the 1 car and slide up the track. Unfortunately he would slide up in front of his teammate Busch who made contact with Kenseth. The No. 20 Toyota would not receive significant damage but the 18 car of Busch would have to go to pit road for extensive repairs to the hood of his car. Kenseth would restart seventh and this time the 2 car would get loose under him and slide up into the wall bringing out yet another caution. Amazingly the Dollar General Camry would seem to come through it all and Kenseth restarted sixth on lap 198. A two-tire stop on lap 213 would allow Kenseth to line up fifth on the ensuing restart and he would gain two spots into third. The Dollar General Camry would suffer from loose handling conditions on the short turn and drop back to seventh, but a caution for debris on lap 246 would allow him to restart fourth with 50 to go. He would line up third for another restart with 40 to go but the inside lane proved problematic all afternoon and he lost a few positions to run sixth. He would restart sixth with just over 30 laps remaining and was spun by the 27 car causing him to spin into the outside fence. He would come down pit road for repairs and fresh tires but would lose a lap in the process and restarted back in 26th. He would gain the necessary spot for the lucky dog position and the caution would finally come with nine laps to go when the 24 car lost a tire and was sent into the outside wall. Yet another caution would follow to set up a green white checkered finish and Kenseth would line up 24th for a final two lap run to the end. He would end up 21st at the finish.

Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota from the fourth position and quickly settled into second-place for the opening green flag run. A competition caution on lap 35 would bring the leaders down pit road for the first time and a quick two-tire change by the FedEx pit crew allowed Hamlin to restart first on lap 41. He would go on to lead the next 32 laps. He would pit from the second position on lap 95 and was trapped a lap down when a caution came out a few laps later. An apparent problem with the fuel probe was not allowing the FedEx team to fill the No. 11 Camry and Hamlin would come back down pit road under the caution as the team made the decision to trouble shoot the issue rather than staying on the track for the wave around. They would make repairs to the fuel probe which was keeping the fuel from flowing, but the extended caution would cost Hamlin another couple of laps to the field. He would restart 41st and four laps down. Hamlin would remain four laps down but began to gain several positions on the track to improve his position in the Chase standings. Unfortunately Hamlin would get caught up in an accident on lap 181 that sent the FedEx Camry to the garage. He would come back to the track and managed to pick up another couple of spots before finishing 37th.

Joey Logano won the race followed by Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five. There were a record 15 cautions for a total of 63 laps and 10 lead changes among six different drivers.

With today’s results, Busch, Kenseth and Hamlin currently sit fifth, eighth and 13th respectively in the point standings. Four drivers face elimination following the third race of the Chase which will be held at Dover International Speedway next weekend. The top 12 advance to the Contender round before the field is narrowed to the Eliminator 8 round and ultimately a final Championship 4 at the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Only 12 points currently separate eighth place from 16th with Hamlin just six points out of 12th. Kenseth is eight points in front of 13th currently.

Race Report: Bristol

Matt Kenseth led Joe Gibbs Racing in tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race from Bristol Motor Speedway with a third-place finish, while separate accidents would leave Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin to finish 36th and 40th respectively.

Matt Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota from the 16th position and worked his way into the top 10 over the course of the opening green flag run prior to a competition caution on lap 60. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make the call for a two-tire change on the opening round of pit stops and Kenseth came out in second and became the leader for the ensuing restart after teammate Kyle Busch was ruled too fast entering pit road. The Dollar General Toyota would lead for 40 laps before lapped traffic forced him to give way. He would make a four-tire stop on the next round of stops and restarted eighth. The No. 20 Camry was running seventh at the 300 lap mark. Great work on pit road by the Dollar General crew would allow Kenseth to line up fourth for a restart with 135 laps remaining. He would jump into second a few laps later before the next caution flew. He would restart from the bottom of the track in the second position on lap 382. Kenseth would close in on the leader with 90 laps remaining but lapped traffic would again cut his momentum short allowing the 22 car to get around him as he went to third. The Dollar General team would elect track position following the next caution and Kenseth would restart first with 63 laps to go. He would hold the lead following the drop of the green flag to restart the race, but fresh tires on the 22 and 2 cars proved too strong as he relinquished the lead with 44 to go. He would battle to the checkered flag and go on to finish third.

Kyle Busch started his No. 18 Doublemint Toyota from the fourth position and was strong through the early going as he maneuvered to the front of the field. Busch would take the lead on lap 55 and held it through the opening round of pit stops following a competition caution on lap 60. Although the Doublemint Camry left pit road in the first position NASCAR ruled he was too fast entering pit road. That would force Busch to restart at the back of the field. He would get caught up in the night’s first accident on lap 126 which resulted in heavy damage to the left rear of his car. The No. 18 Camry was able to remain on the track but he would restart the race following repairs two laps down. An extended caution following a lap 160 accident allowed the Doublemint crew to make additional repairs but Busch was now in 35th and three laps off the pace. He would manage to battle before having to take it to the garage to just over 50 to go. He would finish 36th.

Hamlin took the green flag for the start of tonight’s race in the 13th position and patiently worked his way into the top 10 over the course of the opening green flag run prior to a lap 60 competition caution. Hamlin had the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota in the sixth position at lap 100. An accident would bring out a caution followed by a second round of pit stops and a quick two-tire change by the FedEx crew put Hamlin out as the leader for the lap 137 restart. He would hold the lead until lap 160 when the 4 car attempted to slide up the track behind Hamlin and instead caught the left rear of the FedEx Camry causing him to spin down into the inside wall. The contact caused him to ricochet back up the track and into the path of the 88. The final result was heavy damage and a disappointing early end to a promising night. He would go on to finish 40th.

Joey Logano of Penske Racing won the race, followed by Brad Keselowski, Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. There were nine cautions for a total of 64 laps and 16 lead changes among nine different drivers.

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.

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.