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Race Report: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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Denny Hamlin led Joe Gibbs Racing with a fifth-place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Speedway. Meanwhile teammate Matt Kenseth joined Hamlin in the top ten with a ninth-place run while David Ragan took the checkered flag in 22nd and an accident left Carl Edwards back in 42nd.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota from the 19th position and was able to climb his way quickly through the field and into the top ten prior to a competition caution following lap 25. Quick work by the FedEx crew on the opening stop put him in the top five for the initial restart of the race. Hamlin would remain in the top ten all day while battling mostly for a spot in the top five throughout the race. He would manage to avoid any major damage when his teammate Edwards drew contact with the No. 5 car and slid down into Hamlin on lap 195. The FedEx Camry would prove just fine as he drove into the third on the ensuring restart. Hamlin would go on to finish with a strong fifth-place effort.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 DEWALT Toyota in the sixth position but dropped back outside the top ten on the opening green flag run of the race prior to a competition caution after 25 laps. Kenseth would run outside the top 15 over the course of the next green flag run although he would eventually lead a lap on lap 79 during a round of green flag stops. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make adjustments to help his loose handling Camry turn better and the DEWALT car would return to the top ten by lap 100. Kenseth would struggle much of the day on restarts but was able to regain any lost position over the course of each green flag run. He would battle to remain in the top ten and managed to finish with a strong ninth-place effort.

David Ragan qualified the No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota in 13th but a wreck during Saturday’s final practice forced the team to bring out the backup car for the race resulting in having to take the green flag for the start at the back of the field. He would climb to 34th prior to a competition caution following lap 25. The handling on the M&Ms Crispy Camry would struggle back in traffic and Ragan would eventually lose a lap to the leaders. Unfortunately the cautions would not fall when needed for the 18 team and Ragan would go on to finish two laps down in 22nd.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 Comcast Business Toyota from the 14th position and was able to drive into the top ten on the opening green flag run prior to a competition caution following lap 25. He would remain in the top ten and eventually managed to lead during a round of green flag stops on lap 78. Edwards would battle for a spot inside the top five for much of the afternoon. The Comcast Business Camry was running third when he would draw contact with the No. 5 car on lap 195 causing him to spin down the track and into his teammate Hamlin and eventually making contact with the inside wall. The damage would force Edwards to the garage for repairs and although the No. 19 crew was able to get him back to the track he would finish 40 laps down to the leaders in 42nd.

Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing captured the win, followed by Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Hamlin rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 28 laps and 18 lead changes among nine different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series remains out west next week with a trip to Phoenix. Live coverage on Fox will start Sunday, March 15 at 3 PM ET (race starts at 3:30 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

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Atlanta Race Report

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Matt Kenseth led Joe Gibbs Racing with a fifth-place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Carl Edwards rebounded from a flat tire to finish 12th, while David Ragan finished 18th and an accident left Denny Hamlin back in 38th despite running in the top five most of the day.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the 36th position but quickly climbed through the field and was running 11th when a competition caution waved on lap 25. After a great stop on pit road Kenseth would find himself in the top ten restarting eighth on lap 32. The Dollar General Camry would remain inside the top ten and race as high as third in the opening 100 laps. He would pit from the fourth position on lap 138 when he felt there might be a problem with a rear tire. Kenseth was correct as the tire showed that it was beginning to unravel, but the move initially paid off as he set off a cycle of green flag stops which resulted in the No. 20 Camry taking the lead on lap 142. He would battle a loose handling race car and eventually fell back outside the top five during the green flag run. Kenseth came back down pit road with more tire issues on lap 168 and a caution about five laps later would catch him a lap down forcing him to take the wave around. Fortunately a caution would quickly follow allowing the 20 to come back down pit road for fresh tires and remain on the lead lap. The handling on the Dollar General Camry would continue to struggle back in traffic however and he would run 18th with 100 laps remaining. He would line up 16th for a restart with 70 to go and drove his way back into the top ten and was running eighth with 50 laps to go. Kenseth and crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make the decision to remain out under caution while the other leaders pitted with 25 laps to go allowing him to restart as the leader. He would relinquish the top spot on the restart when another accident triggered a red flag situation. The race restarted with 15 laps to go and Kenseth battled to earn a fifth-place finish.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota from the fifth position and would enter the pits from sixth following a competition caution on lap 25. He would restart in fourth on lap 32. Edwards would race inside the top ten over the course of the first 100 laps and was seventh at lap 125. The ARRIS Camry was running sixth on lap 142 following a round of green flag pit stops. He would continue to fight for a spot inside the top five and was running fourth with 80 laps remaining. He would line up fifth for a restart with 70 to go and managed to drive into third before another quick caution for a wreck just behind him. Edwards was running fifth with just over 50 laps remaining when a flat left rear tire would force him to pit road. The ARRIS team would give him fresh tires but the process would cost Edwards two laps to the leaders. He would get one lap back when the leaders pitted under green and then Edwards received the lucky dog to get back on the lead lap. He would restart 12th with just over 20 laps to go. He would go on to finish 12th.

David Ragan started his first race for JGR, filling in for an injured Kyle Busch, who was hurt last weekend following an accident at Daytona International Speedway. Busch is now resting at his home in the Charlotte area. Ragan started the No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota from the 17th position and was able to gain five positions on the opening 25-lap run before NASCAR displayed a competition caution. He would restart from the fifth position on lap 32. The M&Ms Crispy Camry would drop back outside the top ten and was running 16th on lap 125. He would drop back to run 20th at the halfway mark and would ultimately fall two laps off the pace. He would go on to finish 18th.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Ground Camry from the fourth position and used a great start to jump two spots into second where he raced over the course of the opening 25 laps before a NASCAR threw a competition caution following overnight rain that washed the track clean. Hamlin would race near the top five for most of the opening 100 laps and drove his way up to second on lap 115. He would lead during a round of green flag pit stops on lap 140 and once the field cycled through stops he was racing in third. He would climb into second on that run and the FedEx crew would put Hamlin out of the pits as the leader on lap 175. He would hold the lead for several laps before sliding back into third. He would line up seventh for a restart with 70 to go but would spin down across the track and then back up into the outside wall. The damage would force Hamlin to take the FedEx Camry back to the garage for repairs. He would return to finish the race but was left with a disappointing 38th-place finish despite leading twice and running in the top five most of the day.

Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports captured the win, followed by Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Logano and Kenseth was fifth. There were 10 cautions for a total of 54 laps and 28 lead changes among 12 different drivers.

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Daytona 500 Race Report

An injury to Kyle Busch in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race altered the Joe Gibbs Racing lineup prior to today’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Veteran driver Matt Crafton would fill in for Busch, who suffered a broken right leg and left foot late in Saturday’s race and was unable to take the wheel of his No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota. Crafton would arrive in Daytona late Saturday night and was up early to get fitted for a seat and debrief with crew chief Adam Stevens in preparation for The Great American Race. The change in driver forced Crafton to start the race from the back of the field relinquishing the fourth position which Busch had earned during Thursday’s duel races. Crafton would spend the first half of the race hanging at the back of the field while he became familiar with the Camry’s handling. He would move forward as the laps began to wind down toward the checkered flag and was battling for a spot inside the top 10 late, but a caution would set up a green-white-checker finish and an accident on the final lap would cause Crafton to lose position at the finish. He would go on to finish 18th.

Busch had successful surgery Saturday night on his broken leg and is expected to return to Charlotte this week for additional evaluation by the medical team. Joe Gibbs Racing will provide additional updates on his condition as needed.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Camry from the back of the field but was able to maneuver his way toward the front over the course of the early portion of the race. Hamlin would race inside the top five through much of the first half of the race. Following a restart with 19 laps to go Hamlin would make his way back to the front of the field in a thrilling multi-lap three wide battle. A late caution would set up a green-white-checker finish and Hamlin would restart second. Unfortunately the cars behind him didn’t get a great jump on the restart to provide the No. 11 FedEx Camry the momentum needed to take the top spot and he would get shuffled back to a fourth-place finish.

It was also a historic day for JGR as the organization officially launched its fourth team with veteran Carl Edwards making his first start for the team and ARRIS sponsoring its first race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Edwards started the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota from the fourth position and ran in the top five for much of the first half of the race. Edwards would lead a lap during a round of green flag pit stops but then was penalized for speeding on pit road on lap 89 and had to serve a pass through penalty. The ARRIS Camry would remain on the lead lap however and Edwards would work his way back to the front of the field to lead on lap 166. Unfortunately his line would not get going and Edwards would be shuffled back. He was fighting for position on the two-lap green-white-checker finish when he got shuffled back and avoided a big final lap wreck to be scored in 23rd at the finish.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the 35th position and had proven to have a fast race car all week. The winner of the Sprint Unlimited all-star race the week prior would get caught up in a wreck on lap 42 when the 14 car slide up the track and forced Kenseth to make contact with the wall. Although he was able to keep his Dollar General Camry from race ending damage, the Dollar General team would have to make multiple trips down pit road for repairs. Kenseth would eventually fall two laps off the pace and the cautions needed to try and make his way back on the lead lap never fell at the right times. He would go on to finish the day 35th.

Joey Logano of Penske Racing captured the win, followed by Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Hamlin, and Jimmie Johnson was fifth. There were seven cautions for a total of 26 laps and 27 lead changes among 12 different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway next week with live coverage on Fox starting Sunday, March 1 at Noon ET (race starts at 1 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

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Matt Kenseth Wins the Sprint Unlimited!

Matt Kenseth wasted no time in finding victory lane in 2015 with a win in last night’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. Carl Edwards was impressive in his debut with Joe Gibbs Racing earning a third-place finish, while Kyle Busch finished ninth and Denny Hamlin was scored in 19th after being involved in an accident that ended his night early.

Kenseth started 16th following a random draw on Friday afternoon that determined the starting lineup for the 75-lap race. He would move to the front of the field early to lead for the first time on lap 10. On the night, he would lead four different times for a total of 21 laps. He would take the lead back from his teammate Carl Edwards on lap 70 and held the top spot to the finish earning a trip to victory lane in his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota.

Edwards started from the 14th position and spent the opening segment toward the back of the field hoping to avoid an early big wreck. As the race went on Edwards maneuvered toward the front of the field and was inside the top five for the final 20 laps of the night. The No. 19 ARRIS Toyota would lead briefly on lap 69, but teammate Matt Kenseth would regain the top spot on the next lap and Edwards would go on to finish the race in third.

Busch started eighth and also spent the early portion of the night running toward the back of the pack in hopes of avoiding an early accident. The strategy paid off for nearly the entire opening 25-lap segment but he would receive front end damage on a lap 46 accident. Although his team was able to make repairs on pit road to the No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota and maintain a spot on the lead lap, Busch wasn’t able to work his way back toward the front of the field and had to settle for a ninth-place finish.

Hamlin would get caught in the night’s big accident when he was sent into the grass on lap 46 attempting to avoid several other cars wrecking. The front end of the No. 11 FedEx Express lifted in the air but fortunately the car never went completely airborne and Hamlin would come to a rest. The damage was too severe to continue however and his night would be over. He would be scored in 19th.

The starting front row for the Daytona 500 will be decided today during a qualifying session at 1 PM. The rest of the line-up for the Daytona 500 will be decided by a pair of Duel races on Thursday evening. Today’s qualifying session will be broadcast live on Fox at 1 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 22 at 1 PM ET. The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

Race Report: Homestead-Miami, The Championship 4

With the championship on the line Denny Hamlin led tonight’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with just eight laps remaining, but a series of late cautions proved too much to overcome as Kevin Harvick was able to use fresher tires to make his way to the front for the race win and to claim the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Meanwhile Matt Kenseth finished in sixth-place while a broke axle left Kyle Busch back in 39th.

Hamlin who was confident in his team all week started his No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota from the eighth position and it didn’t take long to understand why the veteran driver was so optimistic. Hamlin maneuvered his way into the top five and led for the first time on lap 64. There was little doubt that the FedEx Camry would be a factor all night. Hamlin would lead five times for a total of 50 laps over the course of the race. He was up front late when the team made the call to remain out to maintain its track position with 18 laps remaining. Hamlin would restart second to Jeff Gordon and would grab the lead and began to drive away from the field. However two late cautions allowed several other teams that had come down pit road for four tires on the earlier stop to gain ground on the ensuing restarts and ultimately the four fresh tires on the 4 car proved too much to overcome. Hamlin would get caught three wide in the middle on the final restart and ended up finishing seventh. He completes his season officially third in the standings.

Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the fifth position and was holding steady in the top five when he would get a bit loose and scrape the outside wall. The 20 team would make an extended stop to work on the car and Kenseth would drop back outside the top 15 for the restart. He would patiently work his way back toward the front of the field over the course of the night and was able to earn a strong sixth-place finish. Kenseth completes the season seventh overall in the point standings.

Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in the seventh position and was racing just outside of the top ten through the early portion of tonight’s race. The M&Ms crew made adjustments to help the 18 Camry turn better and Busch was able to race his way back into the top five. He would come down pit road under caution on lap 117, but his left rear axle broke as he attempted to exit the pits forcing the team to push the car back to the garage for repairs. He would return to the race 20 laps down and go on to finish the night in 39th. Busch completed the season 10th overall in the points standings.

Kevin Harvick won the race followed by Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top five. There were 13 cautions for a total of 52 laps and 18 lead changes among five different drivers.

Joe Gibbs Racing would like to thank all of our partners for their support throughout the 2014 season. Preparations are already underway for 2015 with the Daytona 500 scheduled to open the season on Sunday, February 22.

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