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Denny Hamlin Wins the All-Star Race!

A tremendous final four-tire pit stop by the FedEx team vaulted Denny Hamlin from sixth to first for the final restart and he would drive away over the last 10-lap sprint to the finish for Joe Gibbs Racing’s first NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race victory. Meanwhile Matt Kenseth finished fifth, while Kyle Busch earned a solid sixth-place finish in his first start of the season after recovering from injuries suffered at the season opening XFINITY Series race at Daytona, and Carl Edwards took the checkered flag in 17th.

With no points at stake to impact the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, the annual Sprint All-Star Race is a winner take all event showcasing the sport’s best in a unique 110-lap format.

The evening started with a qualifying session that is unique only to the All-Star Race with drivers making three laps that includes a four-tire pit stop. Hamlin would earn the pole thanks to quick laps, the ability to get in and out of his pit box without any issues and of course a great four-tire stop by his FedEx crew. Edwards was able to earn the 10th starting position, while Kenseth was 17th and Busch slid through his pit box causing a delay that left him to start 19th.

This year’s format for the race included five total segments and 110 total laps. The first three segments each included 25 laps with optional pit stops following each segment. A mandatory pit stop followed a fourth 25-lap segment. Order before those pit stops was determined by the average finish from each of the first four segments. Then all teams entered the pits in that order and how they returned to the track after a four-tire stop will determine how they line up for the final 10-lap dash to the finish.

Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Camry on the pole and jumped out to the lead before giving way to the 5 car and settling for an opening segment run of second. He would earn an average finish of sixth following the first four 25-lap segments and that is how he came down pit road for that final mandatory four-tire stop. FedEx delivered again with incredible speed allowing Hamlin to restart in the top spot for the final 10-lap run to the finish. Hamlin would use a tremendous restart to clear the field and then held off the competition to give JGR its first-ever All-Star Race win.

Certainly the biggest storyline entering the race was Kyle Busch, who returned to the track for the first time since suffering an injury in the season-opening XFINITY Race in Daytona. Busch, who missed the first 11 Sprint Cup races of the season, announced earlier this week that he would return to run the All-Star Race and he would not disappoint behind the wheel of the No. 18 M&Ms Red Nose Day Camry. Busch would start 19th but managed to finish 14th in the opening segment, followed with a seventh-place finish in segment two. He would receive a speeding penalty on pit road prior to the third segment and an unscheduled stop for a loose wheel would leave him back in 19th. He would recover to finish ninth in the final segment however leaving him with an average finish of 13th. That is how the Red Nose Day Toyota would enter the pits for a mandatory four-tire stop and his M&Ms crew delivered by gaining five positions. Busch would gain two more spots over the final ten lap run to finish sixth.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in 17th and would earn an average finish of eighth prior to the mandatory four-tire stop after the fourth segment. The Dollar General crew would gain him another spot on pit road and Kenseth would earn two more over the final 10-lap run to the checkered flag claiming a solid fifth-place run.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota in the 10th position and was seeking to earn the best possible average finish and it appeared that he was going to line up in the top five for the final 10-lap run to the checkered flag, but NASCAR ruled he was too fast exiting pit road. That left Edwards to restart back in 18th and he would go on to finish the night in 17th.

Hamlin captured the win and was followed by Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, and Kenseth rounded out the top five. The only four cautions of the night occurred at the scheduled time following each 25-lap segment.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will remain in Charlotte another week for Coca-Cola 600 next Sunday, May 24. Fox will broadcast the race live with coverage starting at 6 PM (race begins at 6:15 PM ET).

JGR Driver Cody Coughlin Scores First ARCA Pole & Best Finish at Dega

Cody Coughlin is so close to his first victory in the ARCA Racing Series that he can taste it. The 19-year-old made people stand up and take notice in his maiden voyage to Talladega Superspeedway Saturday in Alabama. He scored the pole award, led a several laps and finished second in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 at the famed 2.66-mile oval.

The runner-up effort was Coughlin’s best ARCA performance to date. In fact, the Joe Gibbs Racing Development driver now has four-straight top-five finishes in series competition.

Coughlin led he race on three different occasions and was running third when a caution flew right before the white flag was presented. That resulted in a one-lap shootout to the finish.

On the restart, Tom Hessert ran out of fuel while leading and right in front of Coughlin. The Delaware, Ohio native was forced to check up, but coming to the checker, Coughlin was involved in a three-wide fight for second. He just inched his Sport Clips Toyota Camry in front of the challengers for the runner-up spot.

“A green-white-checkered is hectic enough, especially here, but then when we have just one lap, it’s really hectic,”said Coughlin after the race. “We tried to go out there and push as hard as we could to get the best finish for the 55. That’s what we did and we came home with second.

“There was some hope that a win was in the making, but it didn’t line up that way due to what happened on the restart. We couldn’t control that, but we did the best that we could and I’m proud of our second place effort.”

Coughlin also started the day by winning his first career pole in ARCA competition with a speed of 187.883 mph. That feat put a Venturini Motorsports car on the pole at Talladega since 2013.

The second place finish ends his streak of fourth place finishes in his last three ARCA Racing Series events that came at Kentucky Speedway, Kansas Speedway at the end of last season and Daytona International Speedway earlier this season.

Coughlin, his crew chief Dave Leiner and the Venturini Motorsports team continue to improve each time they hit the track, and the teen is grateful for the preparation they put into each event.

“We are definitely knocking on the door to get that win. We as a team get better every week,”added Coughlin. “I’m really excited to get to some of the mile-and-a-half tracks where you don’t have to rely on other competitors in the draft to run well. We have what it takes and that win is coming soon.

He is also grateful to the Team JEGS crew that was there to assist him, including Kevin Hamlin (Team JEGS Manager), Scott Wimmer (Spotter) and Dave Holt (crewmember).

Along with the support his race teams, he is proud of the loving support that he receives from his family that includes his parents, John & Di, and his sister Kennedi.

“Today would not be possible without the support of everyone on the race team and my family,”Coughlin expressed. “Kennedi and my mom couldn’t be here today because Kennedi was performing in a play, but I always feel their support. And my dad was my biggest cheerleader today for sure at the track.

“I also have to thank God for protecting us out there today. Talladega Superspeedway is a fast track and things can happen in a hurry. I am grateful for his blessing over all of us today.”

Cody’s next race will be his first road course race on Sunday, May 24th at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey.

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.

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

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).

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.