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Race Report: New Hampshire

Joe Gibbs Racing brought three extremely fast race cars to Loudon, New Hampshire this weekend, with each taking a turn at the front of the field during today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway. All three spent the majority of the race inside the top five and when it was over Kyle Busch would lead the team with a second-place finish, while Matt Kenseth came home fourth and Denny Hamlin eighth.

Busch set a new track record during Friday’s qualifying session to place his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota on the pole for the start of today’s race. Busch was fast from the outset leading the opening 62 laps before giving way to his teammate Denny Hamlin. Busch would spend the majority of the day inside the top five and was running fifth when the race reached 200 laps. He would pit for four tires on lap 214 and lined up 15th for the restart a few laps later after many chose to take only two or fuel only. Busch would race his way into 11th by lap 245. The Interstate Batteries team would make the call to stay out under caution on lap 251 allowing him to restart third with 45 laps to go. He would drop a couple spots on the next run while attempting to save enough fuel to ensure he would make it to the end. He would run sixth with 20 to go and continued to hold that spot when a caution came out with four to go setting up a green-white-checker finish. Crew chief Dave Rogers would make the call to remain on the track and attempt to stretch their fuel run into overtime. He would take the green flag with two to go from the fourth position and managed an impressive second-place finish. It was Busch’s third consecutive second-place finish in New Hampshire.

Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the 15th position but wasted no time in moving into the top ten to race eighth by lap 25. He would move into the top five for the first time on lap 61 and continued his climb toward the lead. Kenseth, who won in New Hampshire last September, took the top spot on lap 127. He would hold the lead for 12 laps before giving way to the 2 car. The No. 20 Dollar General team would elect to take four tires during a round of stops under caution shortly after the midpoint of the race and he would restart 11th after many others on the lead lap made the decision for just two tires. Kenseth would work his way back inside the top 10 and into sixth over the course of the next run and continued to hold that spot at the 200 lap mark. He would pit on lap 214 for four tires while many others elected just two tires or no tires and he would line up 17th for a restart on lap 219. He would race his way back into the top 10 by lap 245. He would take fuel only on his next stop with 51 laps remaining and lined up eighth for the restart when several others elected not to pit. He would run seventh with 20 to go and held that position when a caution came out with four laps remaining to set up a green-white-checker finish. He restarted fifth with two to go and took the checkered flag in fourth.

Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota in the third position and immediately moved into second. He would settle into that position for the first 62 laps before finally tracking down his teammate Kyle Busch and claiming the lead. Hamlin would lead twice for a total of 20 laps through the first round of green flag pit stops. He would continue to run inside the top five much of the afternoon and was in fourth when the race reached the 200 lap mark. The FedEx Freight Camry would pit under caution on lap 214 for four tires and lined up 13th for a lap 219 restart after many others elected to take only two tires or fuel only. Hamlin would climb his way back into the top 10 in less than 10 laps and was running seventh on lap 245. He would remain out on the track during the next caution which allowed him to restart second with 45 to go. He would drop to third, but eventually earned the second spot back with 19 laps to go despite having to save enough fuel to make it to the finish. A caution with four to go would hurt the FedEx team’s fuel strategy and crew chief Darian Grubb called the 11 car down pit road for tires and fuel. He would restart 20th but managed an impressive drive back into the top ten and earned an eighth-place finish.

Brad Keselowski won the race, followed by Busch, Kyle Larson, Kenseth and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five. There were seven cautions for a total of 35 laps and 18 lead changes among nine different drivers. The race was extended four laps for a green-white-checker finish.

Race Report: Daytona

Rain managed to delay the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway from its scheduled Saturday night start to this morning. The wet weather also shortened the scheduled length of the race today, but it did nothing to dampen the overall excitement with two large accidents taking its toll on many of the cars in the field.

Joe Gibbs Racing was certainly not immune from the accidents with Matt Kenseth involved in the day’s first wreck on lap 21 and Kyle Busch being knocked from the race on lap 98. They would finish 20th and 28th respectively. Meanwhile Denny Hamlin also picked up damage from the lap 98 accident but managed to remain on the track and on the lead lap to earn a sixth-place finish.

Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota in the 37th position and slowly climbed his way toward the front of the field. He was into the top 15 when the day’s first accident struck on lap 21 and somehow he was able to steer the No. 11 Camry through a field of damaged cars. Hamlin was inside the top five at the halfway mark and hoping to survive and be in a position to win at the end. The FedEx Toyota would take a ride through the infield during a lap 98 accident, but once again Hamlin managed to avoid any major damage and lined up sixth for the restart. He would remain sixth when the rain began to fall again and the race was red flagged once again on lap 112. NASCAR would eventually call the race and Hamlin would officially be scored at the finish in sixth.

Kenseth started his No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Toyota in sixth and took the lead early on lap five and held the top spot for the next 12 laps. He remained toward the front of the field when the day’s first big accident struck on lap 21. Kenseth was forced to bring the No. 20 Camry down pit road for repairs and although he managed to remain on the lead lap his temperatures ran high and he was forced to bring it down pit road for more extensive repairs under the next caution. Kenseth would eventually fall a lap off the pace. He would continue to run a lap down hoping to pick up the lucky dog position when another big wreck on lap 98 would result in further damage to the Home Depot/Husky Toyota. The team was able to keep the car on the track however and Kenseth restarted 20th. Rain would quickly follow and the race was red flagged on lap 112 with Kenseth in 20th, which is where he would officially be scored when NASCAR called the race due to continuous storms.

Busch started his No. 18 Interstate All Battery Center Toyota in the 39th position and was content through the early laps to race near the back of the field. He would slide into the top ten following a caution for the day’s first accident on lap 21. Kyle would remain near the front of the field but was caught in the day’s big one on lap 98 when the 5 car was hit from behind and spun down in front of the 18. Kyle nearly managed to avoid major damage when he steered the Interstate All Battery Center Camry down into the infield grass, but the heavy rains over the previous 24 hours left the No. 18 to sink down in the mud and ultimately spin back up the track where it picked up additional contact and ended up on its roof. Busch would be fine but his day was over. He would be scored in 28th.

Aric Almirola won the rain shortened race after just 112 of the 160 scheduled laps. He was followed by Brian Vickers, Kurt Busch, Casey Mears, and Austin Dillon to round out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 29 laps and 21 lead changes among 14 different drivers.

Race Report: Kentucky

Joe Gibbs Racing secured two top-five finishes tonight with Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth finishing second and fourth respectively in tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Denny Hamlin was running third and hopeful of joining his teammates in the top five but a blown right front tire early in the race sent him hard into the wall and left him back in 42nd.

Busch qualified his No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in the 18th position and was quick through the opening green flag run gaining eight positions and moving into the top ten over the first 28 laps before the day’s first caution came out. He would continue his climb to the front on the next run and was running sixth by lap 60 and entered the top five for the first time just a few laps later. The M&Ms team would do a great job on pit road under caution on lap 78 allowing Busch to restart third on lap 81. He would take over the second position on lap 114. Busch ran third at the halfway point and lined up in the same spot for a restart on lap 161. He would fight loose handling conditions on the next run but still managed to hold a spot in the top five and was running fourth at lap 200. He would come down pit road on lap 214 when a caution came out while he was on pit road. Great work by the M&Ms pit crew got Busch off pit road before the leaders reached the line which allowed him to restart as the leader on lap 220. He would continue to hold the lead for 31 laps before giving way to the 2 car. He would go on to finish second.

Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in 14th and was able to hold that position through the opening run before the night’s first caution on lap 29. He would climb into the top ten following the opening round of pit stops and was running 10th on lap 50 and eighth on lap 75. He would restart seventh on lap 84. He was running sixth on lap 120 when he came on the radio to report a right front tire going down. Kenseth was able to keep the car on the track and make it down pit road to change his right side tires. The unscheduled stop would put the 20 car a lap behind and when a caution came out just a few laps later Kenseth would take the wave around to get back on the lead lap. He would have to restart at the back of the lead lap cars in 26th on lap 132. He would battle tight conditions on the ensuing run and was running 25th when the next caution came out on lap 154. Kenseth would restart 24th on lap 161 and gained two spots to run 22nd with 100 to go. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make the call to remain out on the track allowing him to restart ninth on lap 182 and he was running eighth at lap 200. A caution on lap 214 would bring the Dollar General Camry back down pit road and the pit crew delivered gaining several spots and allowing him to restart fifth on lap 220. He would continue to run in the fifth position and passed the 4 car with six laps to go to earn an impressive fourth-place run.

Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota in the fourth position and moved into third over the course of the opening laps, but a blown right front tire sent him hard into the outside wall on lap 29 ending his night early. It was a disappointing finish for Hamlin and the No. 11 team who had a proven fast car all weekend and was just a couple laps away from would have been a competition caution following an afternoon rain storm that washed all the rubber from the track. The car would be beyond repair and Hamlin was scored in 42nd.

Brad Keselowski won the race followed by Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Kenseth, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 34 laps and 12 lead changes among three different drivers.

Race Report: Sonoma

The road course of Sonoma Raceway didn’t prove hospitable to Joe Gibbs Racing this afternoon with all three cars getting contact from other competitors to spoil any hopes of competing for a win. When the checkered flag waved Kyle Busch’s 25th-place finish led JGR, while Denny Hamlin was one spot behind in 26th and bad wreck left Matt Kenseth back in 42nd.

Busch qualified his No. 18 M&Ms Pretzel Toyota in the 20th position and battled tight handling conditions for much of the afternoon on the tricky road course. With various pit strategies at play throughout the afternoon Busch would ultimately fall a lap down but he got the lucky dog and was back on the lead lap for a restart on lap 75. From there the M&Ms Pretzel Camry patiently worked his way toward the front managing to climb all the way back into the top ten. Busch was battling for a top ten finish late when he was spun by the 41 car. He would recover to take the checkered flag but was left with a disappointing 25th-place finish.

Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota in the 16th position and like his teammates he would battle a race car that was tight through this 10-turn road course. Hamlin would come down pit road and benefited from a timely caution that helped his track position. The FedEx Freight Camry would line up sixth for a restart on lap 75. Hamlin would manage to maintain a position in the top ten despite running on older tires, but contact from behind by the 31 car would send the No. 11 Camry spinning. Hamlin was able to keep the car on the track, but the loss of track position late in the race proved costly and he would go on to finish 26th.

Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in 14th and was able to battle through tight handling conditions to race for a spot in the top ten through the first half of the race. He was running 10th when a caution came out on lap 72. Kenseth brought his Dollar General Camry down pit road and with various pit stops at play he restarted 20th on lap 75. He was hit in the right rear by the No. 88 car sending him hard into the tire barrier and resulting in major damage to the front of his car. The damage to the Dollar General Camry would be too great for repairs and Kenseth’s afternoon was over. He would be scored in 42nd.

Carl Edwards won the race followed by Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jamie McMurray, and Paul Menard rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 19 laps and 11 lead changes among nine different drivers.

Darrell Wallace, Jr. Wins Inaugural Drivin’ for Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park

RACE: Drivin’ for Linemen 200
TRACK: Gateway Motorsports Park
DRIVER: Darrell Wallace, Jr.
TRUCK: No. 54 Made In America Toyota Tundra
START: 2nd
FINISH: 1st
LAPS: 160/160
LAPS LED: 3 Times for 85 Laps
POINTS POSITION: 8th (43 points out of 1st)

Post-Race Highlights:

  • Darrell Wallace, Jr. and the No. 54 Made In America Toyota Tundra team earned their first win of the 2014 season Saturday night under the lights at Gateway Motorsports Park in the inaugural Drivin’ for Linemen 200.
  • Starting the race from the second position behind rookie Cole Custer, Wallace quickly took the lead on lap one and with a strong Toyota Tundra, led the next 62 laps before making a green-flag pit stop on lap 63. Giving up the lead to make a scheduled stop, Wallace entered pit road for a routine stop, but issues on pit road extended the stop and dropped the team through the field and ultimately, one lap down to the leaders. The caution was displayed immediately after Wallace’s pit stop for an on-track incident and the team made the decision to take the wave around and return to the lead lap. Wallace restarted the race on lap 72 from the 12th position.
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