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Race Report: Phoenix International Raceway

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Carl Edwards led Joe Gibbs Racing with a 13th-place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Campingworld.com 400k at Phoenix International Raceway. Meanwhile Matt Kenseth finished 16th while David Ragan and Denny Hamlin finished 21st and 23rd respectively.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota from the seventh position and was able hold that spot through the opening caution. He would battle a lack of grip on the next green flag run and fell back outside the top 10. Edwards was running 13th on lap 164. From there the 19 team would fight for a spot inside the top ten over the final 100 laps. Despite contact on pit road from the 48 car that caused damage to the right rear quarter panel on the STANLEY Camry, Edwards managed to run seventh with 78 laps to go. He would report that the car had moved to being tight in the center of the turns however and would fall once again outside the top ten. He would come down pit road for fresh tires on the final pit stop of the day and lined up 17th with 19 laps remaining. He would go on to finish 13th.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the fourth position and managed to run as high as second early on. He would battle tight conditions but a strong first pit stop would put him back in the top five and he was fourth at lap 145. The Dollar General Camry’s handling would continue to prove problematic especially in turns 3 and 4 of the one-mile track. A pit road speeding penalty would cost Kenseth additional track position and he would have to fight his way back into the top 20. The poor track position would prove costly to all teams on this warm afternoon in Phoenix although Kenseth would slowly climb back toward the top ten. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would call for Kenseth to remain out on the track to gain valuable track position and he would restart seventh with about 20 laps to go. Unfortunately a quick caution would follow and the older tires would cost him additional spots as he took the checkered flag in 16th.

David Ragan qualified the No. 18 Snicker’s Xtreme Toyota in 13th and dropped back to just outside the top 15 through the early going. He would race near the top 15 for the next portion of the race while battling handling issues on his Snicker’s Xtreme Camry. Ragan ran 18th with 71 laps remaining. He would come down pit road for fresh tires on the final round of pit stops on the day leaving him to restart 25th with 19 laps to go. He would gain four stops over the final run to finish 21st.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota from the 25th position and was able to climb his way into the top 20 early in the race. He would pit under the afternoon’s first caution for fresh tires which put him back to 28th with the majority of cars remaining out. The FedEx crew would get a penalty on the next round of stops for going over the wall dropping him back to 30th for the next restart. Hamlin would slowly work his way back toward the top 20 and was running 21st on lap 146. The No. 11 Camry would continue its climb and was running 14th with just over 100 laps remaining. Hamlin would drop back once again on the longer green flag run and was running 20th with 30 laps to go. He would go on to finish 23rd.

Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing captured the win, followed by Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. There were 10 cautions for a total of 53 laps and eight lead changes among four different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will conclude its three-week west coast swing next Sunday in California. Live coverage from Fontana will be on Fox starting Sunday, March 22 at 3 PM ET (race starts at 3:30 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

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Race Report: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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Denny Hamlin led Joe Gibbs Racing with a fifth-place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Speedway. Meanwhile teammate Matt Kenseth joined Hamlin in the top ten with a ninth-place run while David Ragan took the checkered flag in 22nd and an accident left Carl Edwards back in 42nd.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota from the 19th position and was able to climb his way quickly through the field and into the top ten prior to a competition caution following lap 25. Quick work by the FedEx crew on the opening stop put him in the top five for the initial restart of the race. Hamlin would remain in the top ten all day while battling mostly for a spot in the top five throughout the race. He would manage to avoid any major damage when his teammate Edwards drew contact with the No. 5 car and slid down into Hamlin on lap 195. The FedEx Camry would prove just fine as he drove into the third on the ensuring restart. Hamlin would go on to finish with a strong fifth-place effort.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 DEWALT Toyota in the sixth position but dropped back outside the top ten on the opening green flag run of the race prior to a competition caution after 25 laps. Kenseth would run outside the top 15 over the course of the next green flag run although he would eventually lead a lap on lap 79 during a round of green flag stops. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make adjustments to help his loose handling Camry turn better and the DEWALT car would return to the top ten by lap 100. Kenseth would struggle much of the day on restarts but was able to regain any lost position over the course of each green flag run. He would battle to remain in the top ten and managed to finish with a strong ninth-place effort.

David Ragan qualified the No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota in 13th but a wreck during Saturday’s final practice forced the team to bring out the backup car for the race resulting in having to take the green flag for the start at the back of the field. He would climb to 34th prior to a competition caution following lap 25. The handling on the M&Ms Crispy Camry would struggle back in traffic and Ragan would eventually lose a lap to the leaders. Unfortunately the cautions would not fall when needed for the 18 team and Ragan would go on to finish two laps down in 22nd.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 Comcast Business Toyota from the 14th position and was able to drive into the top ten on the opening green flag run prior to a competition caution following lap 25. He would remain in the top ten and eventually managed to lead during a round of green flag stops on lap 78. Edwards would battle for a spot inside the top five for much of the afternoon. The Comcast Business Camry was running third when he would draw contact with the No. 5 car on lap 195 causing him to spin down the track and into his teammate Hamlin and eventually making contact with the inside wall. The damage would force Edwards to the garage for repairs and although the No. 19 crew was able to get him back to the track he would finish 40 laps down to the leaders in 42nd.

Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing captured the win, followed by Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Hamlin rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 28 laps and 18 lead changes among nine different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series remains out west next week with a trip to Phoenix. Live coverage on Fox will start Sunday, March 15 at 3 PM ET (race starts at 3:30 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

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Atlanta Race Report

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Matt Kenseth led Joe Gibbs Racing with a fifth-place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Carl Edwards rebounded from a flat tire to finish 12th, while David Ragan finished 18th and an accident left Denny Hamlin back in 38th despite running in the top five most of the day.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the 36th position but quickly climbed through the field and was running 11th when a competition caution waved on lap 25. After a great stop on pit road Kenseth would find himself in the top ten restarting eighth on lap 32. The Dollar General Camry would remain inside the top ten and race as high as third in the opening 100 laps. He would pit from the fourth position on lap 138 when he felt there might be a problem with a rear tire. Kenseth was correct as the tire showed that it was beginning to unravel, but the move initially paid off as he set off a cycle of green flag stops which resulted in the No. 20 Camry taking the lead on lap 142. He would battle a loose handling race car and eventually fell back outside the top five during the green flag run. Kenseth came back down pit road with more tire issues on lap 168 and a caution about five laps later would catch him a lap down forcing him to take the wave around. Fortunately a caution would quickly follow allowing the 20 to come back down pit road for fresh tires and remain on the lead lap. The handling on the Dollar General Camry would continue to struggle back in traffic however and he would run 18th with 100 laps remaining. He would line up 16th for a restart with 70 to go and drove his way back into the top ten and was running eighth with 50 laps to go. Kenseth and crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make the decision to remain out under caution while the other leaders pitted with 25 laps to go allowing him to restart as the leader. He would relinquish the top spot on the restart when another accident triggered a red flag situation. The race restarted with 15 laps to go and Kenseth battled to earn a fifth-place finish.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota from the fifth position and would enter the pits from sixth following a competition caution on lap 25. He would restart in fourth on lap 32. Edwards would race inside the top ten over the course of the first 100 laps and was seventh at lap 125. The ARRIS Camry was running sixth on lap 142 following a round of green flag pit stops. He would continue to fight for a spot inside the top five and was running fourth with 80 laps remaining. He would line up fifth for a restart with 70 to go and managed to drive into third before another quick caution for a wreck just behind him. Edwards was running fifth with just over 50 laps remaining when a flat left rear tire would force him to pit road. The ARRIS team would give him fresh tires but the process would cost Edwards two laps to the leaders. He would get one lap back when the leaders pitted under green and then Edwards received the lucky dog to get back on the lead lap. He would restart 12th with just over 20 laps to go. He would go on to finish 12th.

David Ragan started his first race for JGR, filling in for an injured Kyle Busch, who was hurt last weekend following an accident at Daytona International Speedway. Busch is now resting at his home in the Charlotte area. Ragan started the No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota from the 17th position and was able to gain five positions on the opening 25-lap run before NASCAR displayed a competition caution. He would restart from the fifth position on lap 32. The M&Ms Crispy Camry would drop back outside the top ten and was running 16th on lap 125. He would drop back to run 20th at the halfway mark and would ultimately fall two laps off the pace. He would go on to finish 18th.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Ground Camry from the fourth position and used a great start to jump two spots into second where he raced over the course of the opening 25 laps before a NASCAR threw a competition caution following overnight rain that washed the track clean. Hamlin would race near the top five for most of the opening 100 laps and drove his way up to second on lap 115. He would lead during a round of green flag pit stops on lap 140 and once the field cycled through stops he was racing in third. He would climb into second on that run and the FedEx crew would put Hamlin out of the pits as the leader on lap 175. He would hold the lead for several laps before sliding back into third. He would line up seventh for a restart with 70 to go but would spin down across the track and then back up into the outside wall. The damage would force Hamlin to take the FedEx Camry back to the garage for repairs. He would return to finish the race but was left with a disappointing 38th-place finish despite leading twice and running in the top five most of the day.

Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports captured the win, followed by Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Logano and Kenseth was fifth. There were 10 cautions for a total of 54 laps and 28 lead changes among 12 different drivers.

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