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Denny Hamlin wins the Sprint Unlimited!

Denny Hamlin continued Joe Gibbs Racing’s winning ways from the 2015 season with a trip to victory lane in tonight’s Sprint Unlimited, NASCAR’s annual all-star race to open the new season.

Tonight’s race was split into two segments with an opening 25-lap run and a final 50-lap battle to the checkered flag. Hamlin’s win was his third in the annual event and it was JGR’s fourth win in the last five years. Meanwhile Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch were caught up in accidents that ended their night prior to the checkered flag. Kenseth finished 12th, Edwards 16th, and Busch 17th.

Hamlin started from the 15th position on the grid and was content to ride in the back of the pack in hopes of avoiding any early-race accidents. The strategy didn’t work out quite as planned however when the 17 car spun down into the FedEx Express machine on lap 14 causing right side damage. But first-year crew chief Mike Wheeler showed no panic and the FedEx team was able to make the necessary repairs to keep Hamlin on the lead lap. Hamlin would go on to lead a race high five times for 36 laps and won a tight battle over a final green white checkered two-lap finish to earn the win.

Hamlin’s teammates were also strong on the 2.5-mile superspeedway tonight. In fact, all four JGR Camrys could be found at the front of the field and racing in the top seven late in the race. Unfortunately the 2 car would set off a major accident in the final laps when he turned the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota which creating a chain reaction that also collected Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S Toyota. Meanwhile Kenseth was hoping to put the No, 20 Dollar General Toyota in victory lane for a second consecutive year, but he would get caught in the night’s final accident when the 78 car spun down in front of his path. He would go on to be scored in 12th.

The starting front row for the Daytona 500 will be decided Sunday during a qualifying session at 1:30 PM. The rest of the line up for the Daytona 500 will be decided by a pair of Duel races on Thursday evening. Sunday’s qualifying session will be broadcast live on Fox at 1:30 PM, while the Duel races can be seen on Fox Sports 1 starting at 7 PM on Thursday.

The Great American Race will once again provide the official start to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season when Fox broadcasts the Daytona 500 live from Daytona International Speedway next Sunday, February 21 at 1 PM ET. The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

Kyle Busch Wins NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship

Kyle Busch completed one of the most amazing comebacks in all of sports, recovering from injuries suffered on the eve of the Daytona 500 this past February to earn his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship with a win in today’s 400-mile race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

In fact, it was a night of firsts for Busch, Toyota and M&M’S.

It is Busch’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship and in the process also provides Toyota and M&M’S their first respective championships in the sport’s premiere race series.

For Joe Gibbs Racing it was the organization’s fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship and first since 2005. In addition, Interstate Batteries, the founding sponsor for JGR and primary sponsor on the No. 18 Camry for six races this year, captured its second championship, after winning it all with JGR and driver Bobby LaBonte in 2000.

It was an incredible season across all of JGR with all four teams earning a spot in the Chase and combining for an incredible 14 wins as well as victories in both the preseason Shootout in Daytona and the Sprint All-Star race in Charlotte.

Busch qualified the No. 18 M&M’S Crispy Toyota in the third position and quickly established that he had the car necessary to run at the front of the field all afternoon. He would go to the lead for the first time on lap 20 and remained in the top five the remainder of the evening. While running at or near the front of the field all race Busch managed to keep his competitors for the championship in his rear view mirror. He would run second at lap 100 and continued to hold that position at lap 200. A late caution for debris on lap 257 would bring the leaders down pit road a final time, and as they have all season the M&M’S pit crew delivered, allowing Busch to restart second with seven laps remaining. Busch would restart on the outside and quickly moved around the 2 car for the lead. From there he managed to pull away from the 4 car and earn his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. It was not only Busch’s first championship, but also the first championship for rookie crew chief Adam Stevens. It was an incredible season and despite missing 11 races because of the injuries he would return to not only win a race, but to win five, and earn a spot in the top thirty of points required to secure a spot in the Chase.

Matt Kenseth qualified the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the 19th position but wasted little time in making his way into the top ten. Kenseth was 15th before the first caution of the day on lap 14 and by the time NASCAR displayed a competition caution lap 30 he was up to seventh. He would battle the remainder of the afternoon inside the top ten before a final caution on lap 257. Kenseth would restart ninth and managed to gain two spots to take the checkered flag in seventh. It was another fantastic season for Kenseth who won five races over the course of 2015.

Denny Hamlin qualified the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota on the pole and was quick through the early going as he ran second. Smoke would come from the back of the No. 11 early on and Hamlin was forced to come down pit road for repairs. The team would repair a broken line that caused the issue and he would return to the track three laps down. However the FedEx team continued to fight and their perseverance paid off as they worked their way back to the lead lap. A series of cautions worked to their advantage and with the use of a wave around the two lucky dog designations, Hamlin was back on the lead lap by lap 47. From there he would drive his way back into the top ten and ultimately earn a 10th-place finish. He would finish the season with two wins and ninth overall in the point standings.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota in the seventh position and showed early speed as he drove his way into second by lap 20. Edwards remained in the top five through the halfway mark of the race before a caution that immediately followed a round of green flag pit stops. The ARRIS team would elect not to pit and Edwards would restart from the lead when many of the other leaders came down pit road for fresh tires. The older tires proved to be a big disadvantage however, and Edwards would fall out of the top ten by lap 160. He would fight to get back into the top ten the remainder of the evening before finishing 11th. He would finish his first season with JGR with two wins and fifth in overall points.

The win was Busch’s fifth of the season. He was followed tonight by Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Kyle Larson, who rounded out the top five. There were seven cautions for a total of 30 laps and 18 lead changes among eight different drivers.

The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be celebrated with the annual NASCAR awards banquet to be held in Las Vegas, NV on Friday, December 4 with live television coverage on NBCSN. The 2016 NASCAR season will begin once again with the running of the Great American Race from Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, February 21.

We thank all of our partners and fans for their tremendous support throughout the 2015 season and look forward to the start of a new season in just a few months.

Race Report: Phoenix International Raceway

The one thing you can count on when NASCAR comes to Phoenix is usually dry warm weather. But that simply was not the case for today’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500k.

After a six-and-a-half hour rain delay to start the race, it was shortened by nearly 100 laps when rained returned to soak the one-mile track. When NASCAR made the race official it was Kyle Busch leading Joe Gibbs Racing with a fourth-place finish, while Denny Hamlin was eighth, Carl Edwards 12th and Erik Jones 19th.

This was the final race of the Eliminator Round of 8 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Kyle Busch’s fourth-place finish locked in his position for the final four, which will now race for the Championship in Miami next Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately Carl Edwards didn’t get the opportunity to complete today’s race due to the rain and his 12th-place finish left him just five points out of the final transfer spot. Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr. will join Busch in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway next Sunday to compete for title.

Kyle Busch qualified the No. 18 M&M’S Crispy Toyota in the 10th position and showed speed from the outset once the race finally began following a long rain delay that turned this day race into a battle under the lights. Busch was up to seventh before a competition caution on lap 40 brought the field down pit road. He would line up fifth for the ensuing restart and gain a spot into fourth by lap 100. Busch would bring the No. 18 Camry a bit too close to the wall on his next stop on pit road causing a slower than normal stop and dropping him back to run eighth on lap 130. He would recover to run seventh at the halfway mark. Busch brought his M&Ms Crispy Toyota back down pit road once again on lap 197 when a caution came out during the stop. Because he was already on pit road he was able to complete the stop lined up fourth. However the race would never resume. It was a lengthy cleanup for the accident that brought out the caution and just when it appeared the field was set to go green the rain returned. A heavy downpour would force NASCAR to call the race after just 219 of the scheduled 312 laps. Busch was officially scored in fourth place and secured his spot in next Sunday’s Championship Four in Miami.

Unfortunately the rain shortened race didn’t work in the favor of Carl Edwards and the No. 19 STANLEY team. Edwards qualified in the fourth position and was running fifth at the competition caution on lap 40. A great stop by the STANLEY crew would allow him to restart third. Edwards would remain in the top five throughout the night and was running fourth following a round of green flag stops near the halfway point. A caution on lap 197 would catch the 19 team a lap down because they had already pitted under the green flag. Edwards would receive the lucky dog to return to the lead lap in 12th prior to the restart. However the restart would never come. The caution for the accident would last over 20 laps and the rain returned before the race could restart. Edwards would be scored in 12th and was unable to earn the finish needed to advance into the final four.

Erik Jones, who filled in for Matt Kenseth again this weekend at Phoenix, qualified the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the seventh position and was running 10th at the competition caution on lap 40. He would battle loose handling conditions while running 13th at the halfway point. He would go a lap down during a long green flag run on lap 182 and would come down pit road following a lap 197 caution. He was set to restart 19th when the rain returned ending the race at lap 219.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in 13th and was running 12th at the competition caution on lap 40. The FedEx pit crew would put him out 10th for the ensuing restart. Hamlin was up to eighth at lap 100. He remained in the top ten when a caution came out for an accident on lap 197. He would continue to run eighth following a round of pit stops, but the race would never restart when heavy rains returned to the track. Hamlin would be scored in eighth.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. captured the win, followed by Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five. There were two cautions for a total of 29 laps and eight lead changes among seven different drivers.

Kyle Busch will race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship in the season finale next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. NBC will broadcast the race live with coverage starting at 2 PM (race begins at 3 PM ET).

Race Report: Texas

Joe Gibbs Racing’s two remaining Chase entries secured top five finishes in this afternoon’s AAA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch led the way with a fourth-place finish and Edwards came home just one spot behind in fifth. Meanwhile rookie Erik Jones had a solid day filling in for Matt Kenseth with a 12th-place finish, while Denny Hamlin suffered a mechanical issue early in the race that relegated him to a 38th-place finish.

This was the second race of the Eliminator Round of 8 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. The field will be reduced to just four teams following next week’s race at Phoenix. A final Championship Four will compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22. By virtue of his win last weekend in Martinsville, Jeff Gordon was the first to qualify for the final four. Today’s winner, Jimmie Johnson, was already eliminated from the Chase. Thus seven drivers will compete for the final three spots and an opportunity to run for the Championship in Homestead. Busch is currently second in points and 11 points ahead of fifth place which is currently held by his teammate Carl Edwards. Edwards is seven points behind Martin Truex, Jr. and 10 points behind Kevin Harvick. Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano currently sit sixth, seventh and eighth in the standings.
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Kyle Busch qualified the No. 18 M&M’S Crispy Toyota in third position and it was obvious from the outset that he would have a car capable of competing for a win this afternoon. Busch was in the top five through the first third of the race and was running second on lap 100. The handling on his No. 18 Camry would become loose on the exit of the turns on a green flag run just prior to the halfway mark of the race and Busch would drop back to run sixth. Crew chief Adam Stevens would call for adjustments to help those handling issues and Busch would restart sixth on lap 154. He would line up ninth for a restart on lap 203. Busch would drive his way back into sixth with 100 laps remaining. He would cycle through a round of green flag pit stops in fifth on lap 257. He would run third before coming down pit road under the green flag with 37 laps remaining and he would cycle through in fifth at lap 300. A caution with 24 laps remaining would bring Busch back down pit road and the M&M’s Crispy Toyota would restart fifth. He would go on to finish the day in fifth and second in overall points heading to Phoenix next Sunday.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 Sport Clips Toyota in the 13th position and was able to race just outside the top 10 through the early going. Edwards would run seventh at the 100-lap mark of the race despite battling handling issues on his Camry. Crew chief Darian Grubb would continue to call for adjustments to help the Sport Clips Camry turn better in the corners of the track. A great pit stop would allow Edwards to restart third just after the halfway mark and he would move into second on the next run. He would hold that spot for a lap 203 restart and ran fourth with 100 laps remaining. He would cycle through a round of green flag pit stops in third on lap 256. He would come to pit road under the green flag with 38 laps remaining and cycled back to run eighth. A caution with 24 laps remaining would bring the leaders back down pit road and the No. 19 Sport Clips Toyota lined up seventh for the restart. He would go on to finish fifth and is now fifth in the overall point standings, just seven points behind the 78 for the final transfer spot.

Erik Jones, who is filling in for Matt Kenseth the next two weekends, qualified the No. 20 DEWALT Toyota in the sixth position. With two practice sessions rained out on Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway Jones’ time in the No. 20 Camry was limited prior to today’s race. That didn’t seem to bother the young driver however as he battled inside the top ten through the early portion of the race. Tire wear would prove to be a major issue throughout the afternoon and crew chief Jason Ratcliff would bring the rookie driver down pit road for fresh tires. With many other leaders staying out on the track under that stop, Jones lined up 26th for the restart on lap 42. It didn’t take him long to make his way back to the front however and he was up to eighth by lap 100. Jones was still eighth for a restart on lap 154. The DEWALT Camry would become loose on the next green flag run and Jones was back in 10th for a restart on lap 203. Those loose conditions would continue on the next green flag run and he would drop back outside the top ten to run 13th with l00 lap remaining. He would cycle through a round of green flag pit stops in 14th at lap 257. Jones would continue to fight toward a spot in the top ten with 30 laps to go but got damage to the right front of the car just prior to a caution with 24 laps to go. The team would make the necessary repairs on pit road to keep him on the lead lap and he would go on to finish the day in 12th.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota in ninth and would bring his Camry down pit road following an early caution. That would put Hamlin back in 20th for the ensuing restart and shortly thereafter he would radio in that he was experiencing an issue with fuel pick up. Crew chief Dave Rogers would instruct him to bring the car to the garage and the FedEx crew would go to work on repairs. However Hamlin would find himself many laps off the pace by the time he was able to resume racing. He would go on to finish the afternoon back in 38th.

Jimmie Johnson captured the win, followed by Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Busch, and Edwards rounded out the top five. There were nine cautions for a total of 47 laps and 15 lead changes among eight different drivers.

The third and final race of the Eliminator Round in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship will take place next week at Phoenix International Raceway. NBC will broadcast the race live with coverage starting at 2:30 PM (race begins at 2:45 PM ET).

Race Report: Martinsville

A steady morning rain moved out of Martinsville Speedway just in time for the start of this afternoon’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500. Short track racing often creates high drama and this afternoon was no different at the famed Virginia track known as the “paper clip”.

When it was over, just before darkness settled on Martinsville, Denny Hamlin would lead Joe Gibbs Racing with a third place finish, while Kyle Busch finished fifth, Carl Edwards 14th and late race accidents left Matt Kenseth back in 38th.

This was the first race of the Eliminator Round of 8 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. The field will be reduced to just four teams following the next two races at Texas and Phoenix respectively. A final Championship Four will compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22. By virtue of his win this afternoon, Jeff Gordon is the first to qualify for the final four. Busch is currently second in points just eight back of the leader Gordon, while Edwards sits in fifth, 17 points behind.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota in eighth and was trying to hold a spot in the top 10 before a pit road speeding penalty on lap 53 forced him to drop to the back of the pack. Hamlin would try and work his way back toward the front but was caught up in a wreck and spun on lap 112. He would pick up some damage to the nose of the FedEx Camry and would pit on lap 129 under caution for repairs. Hamlin would patiently work his way back inside the top 20 and was 15th by lap 225. A caution just before the halfway mark would bring the field back down pit road and Hamlin would line up 11th for a restart on lap 242. He would run 13th on lap 300, but was able to drive his way back inside the top five by lap 350. He was running fourth when a caution came out on lap 375. He would run seventh at lap 400, but another pit road speeding penalty on lap 420 would send him to the back of lead lap cars once again. However Hamlin proved once again why he is considered one of the best at this short track as he drove his way back to the front yet again. He would earn a solid third-place finish.

Kyle Busch qualified the No. 18 M&M’S Crispy Toyota in sixth position and was patient through the early going as he worked to hold a spot in the top ten. He would restart eighth on lap 120. Kyle would continue to hold a spot inside the top 10 when he got loose after running through water that was left from the rain earlier in the day and made contact with the 3 car causing damage to the right front of his Camry car on lap 172. The M&M’S Crispy crew would make quick repairs allowing Busch to restart 26th on lap 180. He would race his way back inside the top 15 to run 14th by lap 220 and was inside the top ten by lap 235. A caution just before the halfway mark would bring the field back down pit road and Busch would line up ninth for a restart on lap 242. He would run eighth on lap 300. A caution on lap 375 would bring the leaders back down pit road and Busch would line up seventh for the ensuing restart. He would run eighth at lap 400. Busch would avoid any trouble over several late restarts to earn a solid fifth-place run.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 XFINITY Toyota in the 14th position and showed patience through the early going as he battled for position inside the top 15. He was fighting to move his way into the top ten when he his teammate Busch would get loose in front of him causing the 47 to check up directly in front of Edwards. Edwards would make hard contact with the back of the 47 resulting in significant damage to the nose of his XFINITY Camry. The 19 team would make quick repairs to get the hood back down and amazingly Edwards would remain on the lead lap and restart 29th on lap 180. He would run 24th on lap 225 while battling tight handling conditions. A caution just before the halfway mark would bring the field back down pit road and Edwards would line up 23rd for a restart on lap 245. He would climb back inside the top 20 to run 19th on lap 300, but fell a lap down to the leaders on one of the longer green flag runs of the race. Edwards would run 20th at lap 400, but managed to earn the lucky dog to get back on the lead lap when a caution came out on lap 436. From there he was able to drive his way back into the top 15 to earn a 14th-place finish.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota from the 18th position and patiently worked his way toward the front of the field over the course of the first 100 laps. Some quick work by the Dollar General crew on pit road helped his track position and allowed him to restart fourth on lap 112. He would continue to hold a spot in the top 10 but pitted under caution while many other leaders remained out on the track leaving him to restart back in 26th on lap 190. The loss of track position did little to deter Kenseth however and he drove his way back inside the top 10 on the ensuing green flag run. He was up to eighth by lap 225. A caution just before the halfway mark would bring the field back down pit road and Kenseth would line up fifth for a restart on lap 242. He would work his way into second by lap 255. Another caution would bring him back down pit road but a broken air gun would cost the team several spots and he would restart back in 16th on lap 284. He would work his way back up to run 12th on lap 300 and ran 10th when a caution came out on lap 375. Kenseth would line up 11th for the restart following a round of pit stops. He would run 12th at lap 400. Kenseth would work his way back to the front of the field and was running back inside the top five on lap 436 when the 2 car got loose and came up into the 20 causing an accident that left significant damage to the Dollar General Camry. The crew made major repairs on pit road to keep Kenseth on the track but a few laps later he would get into the 22 car and this time the damage would send him to the garage. He would officially finish back in 38th.

Jeff Gordon captured the win, followed by Jamie McMurray, Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five. There were 18 cautions for a total of 109 laps and 21 lead changes among nine different drivers.

The second race of the Eliminator Round in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship will take place next week at Texas Motor Speedway. NBC will broadcast the race live with coverage starting at 1:30 PM (race begins at 2:15 PM ET).