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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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Erik Jones Claims First-Career XFINITY Series Win From the Pole at Texas Motor Speedway in Just His Ninth Series Start

Post-Race Highlights:

  • Making just his ninth-career NASCAR XFINITY Series start, Erik Jones earned his first series victory in dominating fashion under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway.
  • Sweeping all three qualifying sessions, Jones earned his second-career NASCAR XFINITY Series pole and led the field to green for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 behind the wheel of the No. 20 GameStop Mortal Kombat X Toyota Camry. With the race under way for 200 laps, Jones settled into his positon at the front of the field with spotter Tony Hirschman coaching the 18-year-old around the 1.5-mile track.
  • Happy with his Toyota Camry the entire race, Jones visited pit road for four routine pit stops, including one green-flag stop, taking on four fresh tires, fuel and making small adjustments throughout the 200-lap event. With solid stops each time, Jones was the first car off pit road after every pit stop.
  • With great coaching from crew chief Mike Wheeler and Hirschman, Jones was able to remain in the top five for the entire race and battle for the lead with Cup Series regulars Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Brad Keselowski.
  • At the end of the night, Jones prevailed to claim his first victory in the series and Toyota’s 99th-career NASCAR XFINITY Series victory since joining the series in 2007.
  • Jones crossed the finish line 1.624 seconds in front of second-place finisher Keselowski. Earnhardt, Jr. finished third followed by Regan Smith and Austin Dillon.
  • The win also marked Crew Chief Mike Wheeler’s first win as a crew chief.
  • The No. 20 Toyota Camry team gained three positions in the NASCAR XFINITY Series point standings and now sits sixth, 42 points out of the lead.

Erik Jones’ Post-Race Thoughts:

“It’s just surreal. It’s going to take a minute for this one to sink in. This has got to be one of the biggest wins in my career by far, to race against these Cup guys and being able to go out and get a win. I knew we had a fast Camry, I never go into a race thinking we can’t win, but it’s still far-fetched to think – man, it’s amazing, I watched the other guys do it, win races as young guys, and I wanted to be that guy. Now we’re here in victory lane and taking it all in and honestly can’t wait to get to the race track again.”

Race Report: Texas Motor Speedway

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Carl Edwards led Joe Gibbs Racing with a 10th-place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Meanwhile teammates Denny Hamlin finished 11th, David Ragan was 13th and late-race issues left Matt Kenseth to finish 23rd.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 STANLEY Racing for a Miracle Toyota in 16th and patiently worked his way into the top 15 and was running 11th at lap 125. He would work his way into the top ten and following a tremendous pit stop by his STANLEY crew he would restart fifth on lap 179. Edwards would hold the sixth position at lap 200. A caution on lap 228 would bring them back down pit road and Edwards would line up fifth for the ensuing restart with 100 laps to go. He was running seventh when another caution came out with 86 laps to go and the STANLEY Racing for a Miracle Camry held seventh for the restart with 80 to go. Another caution quickly followed and Edwards would bring the 19 back down pit road for four fresh tires. With several teams making the decision to remain out on the track he would restart 13th with 65 to go. The decision proved a good one for the 19 team as Edwards quickly climbed up to eighth and was sixth with 54 laps to go. He continued to climb forward and was fourth when a caution came out with 41 laps to go. Another great stop allowed the 19 to line up fourth for a restart with 36 laps to go. Edwards would get pushed up high on the restart and dropped back to run eighth before eventually taking the checkered flag in 10th.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota from the 18th position and struggled with tight conditions early on as he dropped back outside the top 20 on the opening green flag run. Hamlin would work his way back toward the top 15 and was set to line up 16th after a round of pit stops following a lap 109 caution, but NASCAR ruled he had driven through too many pit boxes forcing him to drop to the rear of the field. He would work his way back to 21st with 200 laps remaining. A caution would keep Hamlin on the lead lap and he was able to drive up to 15th at lap 200. A caution on lap 228 would bring the FedEx Camry down pit road and a great stop allowed Hamlin to restart ninth with 100 laps to go. He would hold that spot until another caution with 86 laps to go brought the 11 down pit road yet again. Hamlin would get boxed in his pit stall during the round of stops causing him to lose several spots and he would restart 13th with 80 to go. A quick caution followed and the FedEx team made the call to gain track position by not pitting. Hamlin would restart fifth with 65 laps to go. Despite having older tires he would hold onto the eighth position with 50 laps to go. Another great stop by the 11 team allowed him to restart eighth with 35 laps to go and Hamlin would go on to finish 11th.

David Ragan qualified the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota in 30th and proved fast from the outset as he climbed into the top 20 over the opening 20 laps. He would continue to climb his way toward the top 10 and was running 14th at lap 125. Ragan would crack the top ten and was into ninth with 150 laps remaining and gained another spot to run eighth at lap 200. A caution on lap 228 would bring the leaders down pit road and Ragan would line up 10th for a restart with 100 laps to go. He would report that the car had become loose and he dropped back to 16th prior to the next caution with 86 laps remaining. He would restart from 16th with 80 to go. Crew chief Adam Stevens would make the call not to pit following a quick caution and Ragan lined up sixth for the restart with 65 to go. Despite having older tires than those that pitted and battling a loose handling race car he was able to hold the 10th position with 40 to go. He would restart 10th with 35 laps remaining and went on to finish 13th.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in 17th and was able to gain five spots on the opening green flag run. He would race 10th at lap 100 despite battling tight handling conditions throughout the evening. Kenseth was running 11th at lap 200. A caution on lap 228 would bring the Dollar General Camry back down pit road and he would restart 11th with 100 laps to go. He would continue to hold that spot for another restart with 80 to go. A quick caution followed and the Dollar General team made the call to remain on the track and lined up fourth for a restart with 65 to go. The older tires would give way to some who pitted for fresher tires but Kenseth was able to hold the ninth spot with 50 laps to go. Kenseth would continue to battle the handling on his Dollar General Camry which was loose entering the turns and tight in the center. He would get loose and make contact with the outside wall bringing out a caution with 41 laps to go. Quick work by his Dollar General crew allowed him to still restart 11th with 35 to go. The damage would impact the handling even further however and Kenseth was forced to drop back in the field. He would finish 23rd.

Jimmie Johnson captured the win, followed by Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Logano and Brad Keselowki rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions for a total of 40 laps and 29 lead changes among nine different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will come back to the east coast next week for a race on the small track confines of Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday April 19. Fox will broadcast the race live with coverage starting at 12:30 PM (race begins at 1 PM ET).

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Race Report: Martinsville Speedway

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Denny Hamlin wins Martinsville

Joe Gibbs Racing brought four strong cars to battle at the famed short track of Martinsville Speedway in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500.

Denny Hamlin would win and it appeared his teammates would join the celebration in the top ten with the team running first, second, fifth and sixth and just 75 laps remaining. Matt Kenseth and David Ragan finished strong days with fourth- and fifth-place finishes respectively and only two late-race flat tires kept Carl Edwards for joining them up front as he finished 17th.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota from the 15th position but as is often the case at the famed short track, the now five-time Martinsville winner showed great speed as he worked his way through the field to take his first lead of the day on lap 148. Hamlin would lead the next 17 laps before a caution brought the leaders down pit road. A penalty for an uncontrolled tire during the ensuing stop would force him toward the back of the lead lap cars and he would restart 27th on lap 172. Following a caution Hamlin would restart back inside the top-20 in 19th on lap 188 and was up to 14th by lap 200. He would re-enter to top 10 at the halfway mark of the 500-lap race. Hamlin would restart fifth on lap 283 following a round of pit stops. He would continue his march forward as he took over third on lap 308 and second-place just two laps later. The run would be completed on lap 317 when he passed the 2 car to take the lead once again. He would restart third following another round of stops on lap 363 and found the lead once again with 100 laps remaining. A caution would bring the field down pit road again and Hamlin would restart fifth with 61 laps to go. Hamlin would make his way back to the front passing his teammate Kenseth with 28 laps remaining. He would hold off the 2 car over the final laps to earn his first win of the 2015 season and fifth career victory at Martinsville Speedway. The win essentially clinches his spot in the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Championship.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in eighth. The outside lane proved problematic all day on restarts and Kenseth would drop several position outside the top 15 on an early restart, but he would manage to recover and was back inside the top ten again for a restart on lap 188. He ran sixth at lap 200 and was seventh at the halfway mark. Kenseth would restart fourth on lap 283 following a round of green flag stops and lined up second for a restart on lap 363 following another great stop by the Dollar General crew. A great pit stop again put Kenseth on point for the restart with 61 laps to go. Kenseth would hold the lead with less than 30 laps to go, but was unable to hold off his teammate Hamlin. The Dollar General Camry would finish a strong day with a fourth-place finish.

David Ragan qualified the No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota in 20th and was able to fight his way through the tight field to race in 15th. Ragan would continue to battle in that spot and was running 13th at lap 200 and continued to hold that position at the midpoint of the race. The M&Ms Crispy would restart the race inside the top ten from eighth on lap 283 following a round of pit stops. Ragan held his spot inside the top five throughout the next green flag run and lined up seventh for restart on lap 363 following another great stop by the M&Ms Crispy crew. A caution would bring the field down pit road once again and Ragan would restart seventh with 61 laps to go. He would gain two more spots to deliver a fifth-place finish.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota in 11th and was able to drive his way inside the top five to run fourth on lap 75. Edwards would remain racing in the top ten and restarted eighth on lap 188 and held that spot at lap 200. He would run third at the midpoint of the race. Edwards would have the ARRIS Camry out front to restart the race 283 on lap following a round of pit stops. Edwards would restart fifth on lap 363 following another strong pit stop by the ARRIS crew. He was running fifth when he right rear tire went flat causing him to slow and ultimately spin with 68 laps remaining. He would restart back outside the top 20 with 61 laps remaining. Edwards would suffer another flat, this time on the left rear tire coming out of the pits following a final round of stops. He would have to come back down pit road for new tires and battled back from the setbacks to finish 17th.

Hamlin captured the win, followed by Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kenseth, and Ragan rounded out the top five. There were 16 cautions for a total of 112 laps and 31 lead changes among 13 different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will take a week off for the Easter holiday next week before returning for a Saturday night race at Texas Motor Speedway on April 11.

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Race Report: Auto Club Speedway

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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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