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Sprint Cup Race Report: Bristol

The night race at Bristol ended nearly 24 hours after it was scheduled to start.

What was supposed to be a night race suddenly became a day race again as rain became the dominating story line at NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The start of the race was delayed an hour from its scheduled start time on Saturday night and then the field would race for less than 50 laps before the rain returned forcing a red flag. After another lengthy delay the field began to roll again, but before the green flag could drop a heavy downpour would follow once again and NASCAR officials made the call to suspend the race until Sunday afternoon. The wet story line would continue into Sunday afternoon delaying the restart of the race nearly four hours until just before 5 PM.

When it was over Denny Hamlin would lead Joe Gibbs Racing with a third-place finish after rebounding from being two-laps down, while Carl Edwards finished sixth and separate accidents left Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch back in 37th and 39th respectively.

Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota from the second position and was able to jump to the lead for the opening eight laps. He would run fourth when the rain ended racing for Saturday night. When racing finally restarted late Sunday afternoon, Hamlin would restart fourth but quickly jumped into second. He would drop back again a bit during the ensuing green flag run and restarted fifth following a lap 86 competition caution. Hamlin would drop back to 10th battling a tight handling FedEx Camry when a caution on a lap 158 brought the field back down pit road once again. He would restart sixth on lap 165 and made his way into third behind only his teammates Edwards and Busch. Hamlin would continue to battle tight handling conditions but was able to get a good restart on lap 262 to run third at lap 275. He was running sixth when a caution came out on lap 308 bringing the leaders down pit road. NASCAR would rule that Hamlin was speeding on pit road resulting in a penalty and leaving the FedEx Camry to restart 22nd on lap 317. He would report a loose wheel a few laps into the next green flag run forcing him to come to pit road under the green flag for an unscheduled stop. That would drop the 11 two laps down back in 25th. A series of cautions would allow Hamlin to get back to the lead lap and crew chief Mike Wheeler would make the call for a two-tire stop on the final trip down pit road that allowed him restart first on lap 423. The strategy would prove a success as Hamlin would manage to remain in the top three over the final green flag run to the finish.

Edwards started the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota on the pole position but dropped outside the top five during the opening green flag laps of the race. He was running seventh when the rain returned to end racing for Saturday night. He would restart seventh when the race resumed late Sunday afternoon but would drop back just outside the top ten. He would restart ninth following a competition caution and quickly maneuvered his way back to the front of the field. Edwards was funning second at lap 150. He would restart first on lap 165 following a round of pit stops under caution. Edwards continued to run second and lined up for a restart on the inside of his teammate Busch on lap 262. The inside lane was not the preferred lane however once the top of the track had enough tire rubber built up and the 19 would fall back to run fifth. Edwards was running eighth at lap 300 and would restart seventh on lap 317. He would restart fifth on lap 372. Edwards would race inside the top ten over the course of the final 100 laps before taking the checkered flag in sixth.

Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the fifth position and was able to hold that spot when rain ended the racing for Saturday night. He would restart fifth when the race resumed on lap 49 late Sunday afternoon. The Dollar General Camry was loose into the turns and tight coming out of them over the next portion of the race and Kenseth dropped back outside the top ten prior to a caution on lap 158. He would restart 10th on lap 165 but the handling conditions would continue and the No. 20 dropped back to run 15th. Kenseth would line up 20th for a restart on lap 317 following a round of pit stops and climbed back up into the top 15 on the next green flag run. He was running 13th with 150 laps to go. Kenseth would be collected in a multi-car accident on lap 373 that caused major damage forcing the Dollar General Camry to the garage. He would officially finish 37th.

Busch started the No. 18 M&M’S 75th Anniversary Toyota from the third position and was able to work his way to the lead on lap 23 before the rains would officially ended the racing for Saturday night. When the race restarted late Sunday afternoon he remained on point. He held the lead until a competition caution on lap 86. Busch would restart third after two cars made the decision to remain out on the track, but the M&M’s Camry was back on point just a few laps later. He would restart second on lap 165 to his teammate Edwards, but once again put the 18 back in the lead at lap 191. He would continue to lead when a lap 256 caution would bring the leaders back down pit road. He would restart first alongside his teammate Edwards on lap 262 and held the lead until giving way to the 4 car on lap 290. The M&M’s crew would put him back on point with a great pit stop Busch lined up first for the restart on lap 317. Busch would report that he felt something had broken shortly after the restart but still managed to lead for the next 30 laps. He was in second when something in the back of the car finally gave way causing the 18 to spin across the track. As the M&M’S Camry came to a stop in the center of the track the 46 car would make contact with the right front causing major damage to the 18. Busch would take his car to the garage and his day would be over. Despite leading a race-high 256 laps he would finish 39th.
Kevin Harvick captured the win, followed by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in second, Hamlin third, Austin Dillon fourth and Chris Buescher rounded out the top five. There were nine cautions for a total of 106 laps and 20 lead changes among eight different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway next Sunday for an afternoon race. Live coverage on NBCSN will start Sunday, August 28 at 1:30 PM (race starts at 2 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

Xfinity Race Report: Bristol

The NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) returned to action on Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) for their second and final stop of the 2016 season at the half-mile speedway. Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished 30th during the 300-lap event after a late-race accident severely damaged his ARRIS Camry.

Earning his seventh pole of the season, Erik Jones and the No. 20 Reser’s Main St. Bistro team led the field to green on Friday night under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 300. Jones led 31 laps and looked poised for a solid finish before a late-race accident relegated the team to a 33rd-place finish.

Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Tunity Toyota team, qualified in row one, intended to be a second-place start when a post qualifying part failed, and with repair, the team would start from the back of the 40-person field. Busch grabbed spots quickly and drove towards the front of the field, despite a few hindered pit stops. After aggressively passing frontrunners, the No. 18 team did see the race lead at one point, before a late-race pass caused the Tunity Toyota to be involved in a an accident, and forced veteran Busch to drive back to the garage early. The nine-time JGR XFINITY Series team’s hopes of grabbing another 2016 season victory ended early with a 24th-place result.

Austin Dillon won the race followed by Justin Allgaier, Kyle Larson, Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan.

The NASCAR XFINITY Series now heads to Road America on Saturday, August 27, for the Road America 180. The race can be viewed on NBCSN at 3:00 p.m. ET.

Rain Washes Out Coughlin’s Last Race at Columbus

Cody Coughlin went to his home track on Saturday knowing it would be his last chance to score a win at Columbus Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, Coughlin never even got the chance to go for the victory on Saturday night because Mother Nature spoiled the party once again.

Coughlin proved that he’d definitely be a contender for the win in the 30 minutes of practice he and his fellow drivers were given. Coughlin shot to second on the speed charts before the first rain shower came and brought a premature end to the practice session.

With this race being the makeup date for the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Memorial 100 from its originally scheduled Memorial Day weekend slot, Coughlin and his team had an abbreviated schedule for the event. Qualifying was completed back in May, so all he had was practice and the race.

The track was eventually dried after the first shower, but a second storm came through and soaked the track once again. The decision to cancel the event was made soon after.

“It’s a real shame, because I know we had a car that could win,” Coughlin said. “We qualified well back in May and we were fast in practice today. I know we could have moved from our seventh starting spot (due to an invert) to the front of the field fast, but unfortunately we won’t get a chance to prove that. I would have loved to score a win here at Columbus, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.

“Even though we didn’t get to race, I have to thank my team for all of their hard work and for giving me another fast car. Jack (Smith, crew chief), Kevin (Hamlin, team manager), Scott (Wimmer, spotter) and Dave (Holt, crew member) work so hard to give me race winning cars and I appreciate that so much. I also have to thank my family for always supporting me; God has blessed me with a terrific family.”

Coughlin’s next race weekend is a busy one. He will be back in the Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra for next week’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the Michigan International Speedway. Right after that race ends he will hustle over to Flat Rock Speedway for the ARCA/CRA Super Series race where he will look to extend his points lead.

Xfinity Race Report: Mid-Ohio

NASCAR’s XFINITY Series entered week 21 of the 2016 season at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington for a humid and rain soaked Saturday afternoon race event. Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) support driver Owen Kelly and the No. 18 Tunity Toyota team started from row one, in second place after a 84.784 sec lap at 95.877 mph in qualifying on Friday. While the No. 18 Tunity Toyota took the front of the field two times over the 75-lap race, poor weather conditions caused extremely bad visibility issues that hindered Kelly’s performance through the afternoon. While the No. 18 drove off course a few times, Kelly was able to steer his Toyota back on track and regain positions to finish the race in 16th place.

Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished 23rd, which is only his fourth finish outside the top 15 this season. During first NXS practice Friday morning, Suárez ran off the track and suffered major cosmetic damage to the right-rear of the No. 19 Toyota Camry. Instead of bringing out the backup car, the ARRIS team worked hard to repair the damage on the primary car. Hard work paid off and Suárez was able to make laps during final practice on Friday afternoon. Suárez qualified his No 19 ARRIS Toyota fifth for the 75-lap event, turning a lap time of 85.018 seconds at 95.613 MPH around the 13-turn Lexington, Ohio road course. Following the drop of the green flag under cloudy skies, Suárez was able to move up the scoring pylon to third before the caution flag flew for light rain on lap four. The No. 19 team hit pit road for four rain tires and fuel. He was listed eighth for the lap nine restart. During a caution flag on lap 20 while running ninth, Suárez radioed to his crew that he was lacking grip on his No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry. Since they were not in a fuel window crew chief Scott Graves opted to keep his driver on the race track. On the lap 23 restart, Suárez lost several positions and was listed 16th two laps later. Unfortunately, on lap 27, Suárez lost control of his ARRIS Toyota and slide into the gravel pit in turn four. The No. 19 machine did not have much damage but Suárez would go one lap down waiting on the track crew to pull him from the gravel. The No. 19 ARRIS team spend the remainder of the 75-lap race trying to get back on the lead lap. However, the caution flags did not fall in their favor and Suárez crossed the finish line 23rd one lap down to the leaders.

Qualifying in the sixth position for the Mid-Ohio Challenge, Erik Jones and the No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Toyota Camry team survived the-rain soaked race to finish in the same position, sixth after 75 laps around the 13-turn track. With the green flag in the air Saturday afternoon and the radar showing rain in the area, teams were prepared in the pits with both rain tires and normal race tires. As anticipated, the race was halted on lap two for rain and crew chief Chris Gabehart made the call to bring Jones to pit road to switch to rain tires. Jones returned to the track with the team reminding him to keep the car on track and be patient while adapting to the wet conditions. The race restarted on lap nine with Jones in the sixth position. Jones was able to advance as high as fourth before dropping back to sixth when the second caution waved on lap 13 for a spin on the track. Gabehart made the call to leave Jones on the track and again reminded him that running cautious laps was good and to focus on making it to the end of the 75-lap race. The race restarted on lap 18 with Jones sixth. With several cars getting together on the restart, Jones too got in the back of a competitor, leaving the No. 20 Camry with damage to the right-side nose of the car. The race continued until lap 20 when another full course caution was displayed. Jones was scored in fifth place for the lap 23 restart. The caution was waved again on lap 27 with Jones in the seventh position. The team opted to leave Jones on the track and the race restarted on lap 31. As the field got up to speed to make their way around the 13 turn course, Jones spun and several competitors made contact with the No. 20 Camry causing damage to the right-rear quarter panel. With a full course caution displayed, Jones was able to pit two times under the caution to repair the damage and change tires. The race restarted on lap 33 with Jones in the 30th position, still on the lead lap. Picking off one car at a time, Jones cracked the top 20 on lap 38 and returned to the top 15 on lap 41. On lap 42 under green-flag conditions, Gabehart called Jones to pit road for fresh tires, switching from rain tires to normal race tires, and packed the No. 20 Camry with fuel. Over the next 10 laps, Jones moved from 18th to 12th before the caution was displayed for debris on lap 52. Before the race returned to green-flag conditions, rain started to fall again and teams opted to return to pit to switch back to rain tires. The race restarted on lap 55 with Jones in the 10th spot. With several cautions over the final laps, Jones was able to stay focused on the leaders and gain several positions to cross the finish line solidly in the sixth position.

Justin Marks won the Mid-Ohio Challenge followed by Sam Hornish, Jr., Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier. Up next for the NASCAR XFINITY Series is the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday, August 19. The race can be viewed on USA Network at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Denny Hamlin Wins at Watkins Glen!

Denny Hamlin captured his second win of the season and claimed his first ever road course victory in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth joined Hamlin in the top ten with sixth and 10th-place finishes, while pole-sitter Carl Edwards took the checkered flag in 15th.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota from the sixth position and held steady in the top ten prior to his first round of pit stops. With various pit strategies at play Hamlin would drop back outside the top 15 and was running 18th at lap 30. He would race his way back to 14th by lap 42 and found himself in seventh at the halfway mark of the race. Crew chief Mike Wheeler would make the call to remain out on the track and attempt to save enough fuel to make it to the end. Several late cautions would help that cause. Hamlin lined up third for a restart with 10 laps to go and he took advantage of the battle between the 18 and 2 to move to the lead before a caution came out. He would manage to maintain the lead through two more late restarts and several late challenges to earn his first career win at Watkins Glen International.

Kyle Busch started the No. 18 Snickers Crisper Toyota from fifth position and raced his way into second early on behind his teammate and pole-sitter Carl Edwards. There are always a number of pit strategies at road course races and today was no different. The 18 Camry would pit for the first time on lap 26 leaving him to run eighth at lap 30, but Busch would maneuver his way back to second just six laps later. He would take the lead on lap 45. Busch would pit and lined up ninth for a restart with 34 laps remaining. The Snickers Crisper Camry would make its way back into the top five and lined up second for a restart with 10 laps to go. Busch would make a strong move in an attempt to wrestle the lead from the 2 car, but the two would get loose with the 18 getting the worse end of it and dropping back outside the top five. He would go on to finish sixth.

Matt Kenseth made his 600th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start this weekend at Watkins Glen International. He started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the fourth position, moved up to second over the opening ten laps of the race and battled inside the top five for much of the first third of the race. He would pit for the first time on lap 26 and with various pit strategies at play he would shuffle back outside the top ten. Kenseth would race his way back into the top five at the halfway mark. The 83 car would run Kenseth off the track on a lap 60 restart costing the Dollar General Camry several spots. He would manage to battle his way back over the course of a few late restarts to finish 10th. The top-ten finish was the 300th of Kenseth’s career.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota from the pole position after earning the top spot in yesterday’s qualifying session. He would lead the opening 25 laps of the race. A pit road penalty would drop Edwards back in the field and the loss of track position would prove difficult to battle back from. Pit strategy would help put the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota back inside the top five just halfway through the race. He would run second when the race was red flagged on lap 53. Edwards would have to pit once the red flag was lifted dropping him back to 23rd. He would get caught up in an accident on the ensuing restart, but fortunately the damage wasn’t too severe. He would restart 29th on lap 59. Edwards would and the STANLEY team would battle back to finish 15th.

Hamlin captured the win, followed by Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, AJ Almendinger, and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions for a total of 20 laps and nine lead changes among eight different drivers. There were also two red flag stoppages for a total of 30 minutes.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will take its final week off of the 2016 season before returning at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, August 20.