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Wild Finish Bites Hamlin, Big for Logano!

The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is the annual test of endurance on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for drivers and their race teams as they try to stay up on the ever changing track conditions with the heat of the day transitioning over to cooler night time temperatures over the course of the 400 laps.

Late on Sunday night the Coca-Cola 600 would come down to fuel conservation and Joey Logano would benefit from having enough in the tank to earn a third-place finish, while Denny Hamlin ran out just before the finish to come home in 10th. An accident late in the race would spoil a solid effort by Kyle Busch who was forced to settle with a 32nd-place finish.

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Joey Logano started the No. The 20 Home Depot Toyota in 23rd position and battled tight conditions early as he battled through the first quarter of the race back in the 27th position. The Home Depot crew would make adjustments with each stop to improve the handle on the car as Logano raced his way to just inside the top 20 with less than 150 laps remaining. A fortunate break with a caution coming out just prior to the team’s scheduled pit stop on lap 282 would help Logano improve his track position as he came down after the yellow flag and would lineup on the restart in the 11th position on lap 286. He would enter the top 10 for the first time just a few laps later and would race as high as the sixth position. Pit strategy would bring Logano down for tires and fuel with just under 100 laps remaining and that would put him back in the 20th position once again. He would manage to move The Home Depot Toyota into the top 20, but it appeared he might have to settle for a finish in the middle of the pack. However, Logano would benefit greatly from having just enough fuel to get to the end when several leaders fell short. He would take advantage by climbing all the way up to third. It was a well earned and well deserved finish for Logano and The Home Depot team after having experienced several late-race misfortunes earlier this season.

After a strong qualifying effort Thursday evening, Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in the fourth position and quickly raced his way forward to claim the top spot by lap 81.  Hamlin would spend much of the night racing inside the top five. Despite the results, Hamlin felt an engine issue that cost him power on the straightaways. Crew chief Mike Ford made the decision to come down pit road to replace the carburetor under caution with just over 100 laps remaining.  The decision cost a great deal of track position, although the FedEx crew was amazing in making the change quick enough to keep the No. 11 Camry on the lead lap. Hamlin would have to restart back in the 26th position, but he finally would have the extra power he had been missing. He climbed into the top 20 with 82 laps to go and raced his way into the top 10 by the time 50 laps remained. The fix would work as suddenly Hamlin’s car was back to race-winning quality as he entered the top-five. But in the closing laps Hamlin would have to back off the throttle in hopes of saving enough fuel to get to the end. It nearly worked, but a late caution extended the race two more laps. Just as it appeared that the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota would win when race leader Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ran out of gas on the final turn of the race, Hamlin found himself on empty as well. He would on to finish 10th.

Kyle Busch started his No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in the 21st position and spent the first quarter of the race working his way into the top ten. Quality driving along with two outstanding pit stops by his M&Ms pit crew put him into the eighth position by lap 100. He would move up into the top five through much of the first half of the race and would finally claim the lead with just over 150 laps remaining.  Busch would hold onto that lead for much of the final third of the race.  Pit strategy with just under 100 laps remaining would take him out of the lead position and shuffle him back into the 20th position. As Busch was racing hard to move back toward the front he would get loose off of turn 4 and took a spin through the grass. Fortunately there was no major damage to the No. 18 Camry and Busch was able to remain on the lead lap and restart in the 21st position. Busch would race hard to try and make up for the lost track position, but unfortunately as he attempted to gain position he would make contact with the wall on lap 343 and the damage would essentially end his night. Busch would have to settle for a disappointing 32nd-place finish despite leading 55 laps on the night.

Kevin Harvick captured the victory, while David Ragan finished second, Logano was third, Kurt Busch was fourth and A.J. Allmendinger rounded out the top five. There were 14 cautions for a total of 64 laps and 38 lead changes among 19 different drivers over the course of the 402-lap race, which was extended two laps for a green-white-checkered finish.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to Kansas next weekend. The race will be televised live by Fox on Sunday, June 5 at 1 PM ET starting with pre-race coverage at Noon ET. The race will also be carried on Sirius Radio NASCAR channel 90.

Gresham: Runner-Up Finish In Iowa

Gresham Rallies For Runner-Up Finish In NASCAR K&N East/West Challenge At Iowa

NEWTON, IA (May 23, 2011) – After winning one of the closest races in NASCAR K&N Pro Series history last year at Iowa Speedway, you would think Max Gresham would have been satisfied with nothing less than another victory in Saturday’s Pork Be Inspired 175 K&N clash at the Newton, IA oval.

That wasn’t the case, however, as Gresham roared his No 18. Live Oak Plantation/Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota from the 23rd starting position to a second-place finish behind race winner Brett Moffitt.

“Heck yeah, I’m happy with second,” said Gresham after Saturday’s race. “I’m not sure we had anything for the 00 (Moffitt) at the end, but we did have a great battle with Eddie MacDonald for second. It was a fun race racing with him to the end, Honestly, I’m just happy to come out of here with a second-place finish. It was a great point’s night for us and that’s what we want to do, just keep on racking up the points.”

Gresham proved he would again be one of the drivers to beat posting the second fastest speed out of a massive field of 58 cars in practice. The recent Woodward Academy high school graduate hoped to have a pole run, but an early qualifying draw and a loose race car had Gresham posting a lap of 129.310 miles per hour – good enough only for the 23rd spot in the 40-car starting field.

“We were just really loose in qualifying,” said Gresham. “I almost wrecked a couple of times. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.”

At the drop of the green flag, Gresham quickly picked up five spots in the first five laps of the race. Gaining ground was difficult, however, thanks to the great competition and the five caution periods that spiced the first 50 circuits.

“It was definitely tough the first half of the race,” Gresham stated. “The goal was to just keep the fenders on the car and we were able to work our way into the top 15 doing that. That paid big benefits after we were able to do our pit stop later in the race.”

Those ‘benefits’ came at Lap 88 caution period when Gresham headed to pit road and the assistance of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates.

“We actually made three pit stops during that caution,” said Gresham. “We came in once for gas, once for right-side tires and once for lefts. It was kind of a like a goat rodeo. You have cars coming in and out of the pits and just avoiding everybody was a real challenge. It was tough, but my spotter Jeff Bailey, did a great job getting me in and out of the pits and my Joe Gibbs Racing team pit crew was super fast. We picked up eight spots from 14th to sixth and that definitely helped me save my tires to race at the end. What we did on pit road was the biggest thing that in getting us the great finish in this race.”

Gresham wasted little time putting the pit road advantage to work speeding from sixth to third in just six laps. Later on Lap 126, Gresham rolled around Benny Gordon for the second spot and set his sights on Moffitt who was ahead by 2.69 seconds.

Try as he might, Gresham wasn’t able to run down Moffitt and despite a late restart that closed the gap, the 18-year-old driver couldn’t pull the trigger on his first win of the 2011 NASCAR K&N season.

“I might have screwed up a little on the restart,” said Gresham of the late opportunity. “We just didn’t go like I needed to and Brett got a great restart. We weren’t going to chase him down and had to work pretty hard to hold off Eddie.”

The solid runner-up effort jumped Gresham from seventh to fifth in the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season championship point standings, Gresham now has 605 points is only 41 markers out of the top spot.

Gresham will now have a busy week moving from Griffin, GA to Charlotte, NC and traveling to Michigan International Speedway for an ARCA superspeedway test with Venturini Motorsports.

Gresham’s next NASCAR K&N event will be on Saturday, June 4 when the East division visits historic Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston Salem, NC. The event, which will be part of a NASCAR doubleheader that also features the Whelan Modified Series, will take the green flag at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

You can follow Gresham at www.MaxGresham.com – or on Twitter@MaxGresham and on Facebook at Max Gresham Fan Page

Additional information about the Joe Gibbs Racing NASCAR K&N Pro Series effort can be viewed at www.JoeGibbsRacing.com.

To discuss NASCAR and ARCA marketing opportunities with Max Gresham, please contact J.R. Longley at JRLongley@MaxGresham.com or at 706-581-6970.

Close, but no All-Star Cigar

The NASCAR Sprint All-Star race unique in many ways with no championship points at stake, but rather a large prize reward for the victor. In addition, it is the shortest race of the season with a total of 100 laps run in four segments, including a 50-lap segment to open the race, followed by two 20-lap segments and a final 10-lap dash to the checkered flag.

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Kyle Busch qualified the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota on the pole and led the first several laps of the race before dropping back into the third position for the remainder of the first segment. Busch held on to that position for much of the second 20-lap segment as well. The M&Ms made the decision not to pit following the second segment and Busch started second on the outside lane to open the third portion of the race. He was able to beat Carl Edwards on the restart and claim the lead once again. Edwards would eventually reclaim the lead just prior to the end of the third segment. With a 10-minute break before the final 10-lap segments teams were able to work on the car for an extended period of time. When the 10-minute break concluded all teams would come to the pits for a four tire change. Busch would restart second, but wasn’t able to track down Edwards and went on to finish in that second position.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in the 15th position and used the first 50-lap segment to get a good read on his car and gain a couple of spots in the field. He would enter the top 10 for the first time on lap 60 following a caution in the middle of the second segment of the race. Hamlin would jump into the sixth position to open the third segment and enter the top five for the first time on lap 80. He would finish that third segment in the fifth position and the team used the 10-minute break to make final adjustments to the car. The No. 11 Camry would restart the final segment in the sixth position following the four-tire change. Unfortunately Hamlin wasn’t able to improve on his position over those final laps and went on to finish the night seventh.

Joey Logano entered the day needing to race his way into the All-Star race in the 40-lap Showdown event earlier in the evening. Unfortunately, only the top-two finishers would be able to advance into the main event, and Logano was hampered from the outset in a short race when he was forced to start his No. 20 Home Depot Toyota from the back of the field following an engine change on Friday. Despite that setback Logano and The Home Depot made an impressive run to the front of the field, climbing from 27th to eighth place in the first 20 lap segment. He was able to put the No. 20 Camry as high as third late in the race but just wasn’t able to close the gap on the second-place car. He went on to finish fifth and unfortunately out of the All-Star Race.

Carl Edwards captured the victory, while Busch finished second, David Reutimann was third, Tony Stewart was fourth and Greg Biffle rounded out the top five.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will remain in Charlotte next week for the circuit’s annual marathon event, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Coca-Cola 600 will be televised live by Fox on Saturday, May 29 starting with pre-race coverage at 6 PM ET. The race will also be carried on Sirius Radio NASCAR channel 90.

Glad That's Over, Dover

Kyle Busch led Joe Gibbs Racing with a fourth-place finish in today’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway, while Denny Hamlin finished 16th and an early spin relegated Joey Logano to 27th place.

The track known as the “Monster Mile” was certainly hard to tame today with heavy rain overnight and early in the morning taking the rubber off the concrete oval and a mix of sun and clouds adding to the challenges for teams trying to dial in the proper balance and handle on their cars.

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With qualifying rained out on Saturday, Busch’s practice time would have given the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota the seventh starting position for the green flag to start today’s race, but an engine change on Friday would force him to the back of the field. The setback hardly appeared to deter Busch and his M&Ms crew however as he began his drive toward the front of the field. An early two-tire call allowed Busch to leap inside the top 20 and amazingly the M&Ms Camry would take over the 12th position by lap 131. Busch would enter the top ten just before the midpoint of the race and spend most of the second half of the race in that position. He would climb into the top five late in the race with a great pit stop and excellent restart. When it was over Busch had earned a solid fourth-place finish despite having to overcome the last-place start.

Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Ground/Autism Speaks Toyota in the 25th position and battled changing handling conditions throughout the race. Hamlin would race his way into the top 20 early, but wasn’t able to continue the climb as he sat outside the top 10 for most of the race. Unfortunately despite several attempts from his FedEx crew to improve the handle on his FedEx Ground Camry, Hamlin just couldn’t find the balance he needed on the very slippery concrete oval in Dover. He would have to settle for a 16th-place finish.

Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the fourth position today at Dover and was hopeful for a solid top-five finish with an opportunity to compete for victory, especially following an impressive third-place finish in last year’s fall race at the “Monster Mile.” Unfortunately, the Monster would take a bite out of his Home Depot Camry early when he brought out the first caution of the day with a spin on lap 20. What made the accident even more unfortunate is that Logano appeared to have a strong car through the early going as he drove into fourth place through the early laps. But damage to the right front fender from the spin would force him to pit road for repairs and leave him a lap off the pace. Logano would later lose another lap to the field during a long green flag run as the damage adjusted the handle on the car and the splitter was making contact with the track. Logano and the Home Depot team fought throughout the day to make the car as good as it could be despite the early setback, but unfortunately they were never able to make up the lost ground and were forced to settle for a disappointing 27th-place finish.

Matt Kenseth captured the victory, while Mark Martin finished second, Marcos Ambrose was third, Busch was fourth and Brian Vickers rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 28 laps and 23 lead changes among 11 different drivers over the course of the 400-lap race.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series comes to Charlotte next weekend with the annual All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The All-Star Race, which is a non-points race, will be televised live by SPEED on Saturday, May 21 starting with the twin Showdown races for the final qualifying spots at 7 PM ET.

Monster Mash

The Monster Mile in Dover, DE took a bite out of all three Joe Gibbs Racing car on Saturday afternoon. Wet weather threatened to postpone the event, but after several track-drying operations the full distance (and then some) was able to be run. Brian Scott lost control of his No. 11 Shore Lodge Toyota early in the event and hit the inside retaining wall on the front stretch which running in the Top-10. After extensive repairs, he was able to return to the track. However, Brian eventually retired from the event in 30th position.

Joey Logano and Kyle Busch proved to be stiff competition for the other leaders throughout the race, consistently running in the Top-5. Busch would have to make a long pit stop after receiving damage to the No. 18 MAC Tools Toyota from an accordion-style incident while entering pit road. Meanwhile, Logano would battle for the lead with Carl Edwards for much of the race. A late race incident set up the second of two Green-White-Checkered finishes and saw Logano restart 2nd and Busch 6th. Off of turn for, coming to take the white flag, Logano and Edwards were side by side when Edwards’ car started to lose rear grip exiting the turn. His car slid up the track near Logano’s left-rear quarter panel. As Logano described, the front splitter from Edwards’ car packed air under the back of the No. 20 GameStop Toyota, creating an ‘aero-loose’ situation. Logano’s car veered into the outside wall, bounced off of it, and back into traffic where the No. 33 made contact and launched into the air. Busch received heavy damage while trying to avoid the mayhem. All drivers walked away from the incident without injury. Logano would end up 13th, and Busch amazingly limped home in 2nd.

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