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Race Report: Las Vegas

A wild weather day that included a little rain, heavy winds and even sand storms ended with Kyle Busch leading Joe Gibbs Racing with a fourth-place finish during today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Meanwhile Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin finished 18th and 19th respectively, while a late race accident left Matt Kenseth back in 37th.

Kyle Busch started the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota from the 23rd position but patiently worked his way toward the front at his home track as he moved into the top 15 prior to a competition caution on lap 31. Busch would enter the top ten for the first time shortly after the restart. The heavy winds would add to the challenge of finding the proper handle on the racecar, but crew chief Adam Stevens would continue to make adjustments to help the M&M’S Camry turn better in the corners. He would line up sixth for a restart on lap 223 and used an amazingly aggressive move first to the top of the track and then to the bottom to vault his way into the lead. He would go on to lead the next 38 laps of the race. As the laps began to wind down Busch would radio in to his team that the car had become tight and he was experiencing a significant vibration that might indicate he had a tire going down. With just five laps remaining Busch would have to give up the lead to the No. 2 car of Brad Keselowski and he would drop back a couple more spots over the final laps to finish the day in fourth.

Carl Edwards qualified the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota in the 24th position but an accident during the second round of qualifying Friday evening left the team no choice but to bring out the backup car resulting in a start from the back of the field. Edwards wasted no time however in making his way through all the traffic as he was up to 30th by lap 15. He would continue his climb through the field and shortly after lap 100 he would find himself racing in the top 10. Edwards was racing in the top 10 late when he would get spun from behind while checking up to avoid an accident in front of him on lap 226. The No. 19 ARRIS Camry would come down pit road and the loss of track position would prove costly as Edwards lined up back in 22nd for the restart. He would gain four spots prior the checkered flag to finish 18th.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota from the ninth position and was running in the top ten prior to a lap 32 competition caution. Crew chief Mike Wheeler would make the call for two tires on the first change of the day allowing the FedEx Camry to restart first. Hamlin managed to make the most out of the track position for a few laps at least. He would lead 10 total laps before the older two tires began to prove detrimental. Hamlin would end up falling back outside the top ten on the ensuing green flag run. He would battle tight conditions for much of the remainder of the afternoon while racing for a spot inside the top 15. Hamlin would go on to finish the race in 18th.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 DEWALT Toyota in the third position and was strong throughout the day. He would get the opportunity to lead for a total of nine laps just past the 200-lap mark of the race. Kenseth was running fifth on lap 225 when he was spun and then took a hard hit from the 24 car. It was a disappointing finish to an otherwise strong afternoon for the DEWALT team. Kenseth would have to take the car to the garage and his day was over. He would be scored back in 37th position for the day.

Brad Keselowski of Penske Racing captured the win, followed by Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 26 laps and 20 lead changes among 10 different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series remain out west next Sunday with a trip to Phoenix International Raceway. Live coverage on Fox will start Sunday, March 13 at 2 PM ET (race starts at 2:30 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

Denny Hamlin Wins the Daytona 500!

Joe Gibbs Racing opened its 25th Anniversary season with a win in the sport’s biggest race when Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag in today’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

JGR was strong throughout speed weeks at the famed 2.5-mile speedway and today was certainly no different with all four JGR teams running inside the top five late in the race with an opportunity for a win. But in the end it was a bold last lap move to the outside that propelled Hamlin and the FedEx team to the win. Fittingly enough it was the first Daytona 500 victory for JGR since Dale Jarrett captured the organization’s first overall win at the race back in 1993.

Meanwhile Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards joined Hamlin in the top five with third and fifth-place finishes respectively and Kenseth led 40 laps at the end of the race before being passed by Hamlin on the final lap and losing momentum causing him to drop back to a 14th-place finish.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Camry from the 11th position and patiently drove his way to the front and was running second behind his teammate in the 18 prior to the first caution on lap 20. He would restart in the top spot on lap 24 and hold the lead until the next caution on lap 58. Hamlin would dominate much of the first half of the race, leading a race-high 39 of the opening 100 laps. That dominance would continue through much of the second half of the race as well. The FedEx Camry would hold the top spot for a total of 95 laps on the day, but it was a strong move to the top of the track that allowed Hamlin to lead the most important lap of the day. Hamlin was running fourth late when he moved up in front of the 4 car who was trying to make a late race run to the front of his own. The move worked perfectly as he built momentum on the outside and when his teammate Matt Kenseth, who was leading at the time moved up the track in an attempt to block, Hamlin dipped to the middle to make the pass. He would have to edge out Martin Truex, Jr. at the line to earn the win, which he managed to do by the slimmest of margins. In fact, it was the closest Daytona 500 finish in the history of the event. The win was not only Hamlin’s first Daytona 500 victory, but also the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win ever for rookie crew chief Mike Wheeler. Of course the two combined to win last week’s Sprint Unlimited non-points event as well.

Kyle Busch, who enters the 2016 season as defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion after an incredible 2015 campaign, qualified for today’s Daytona 500 in the fourth position and was able to slide up one spot into second when his teammate Matt Kenseth had to go to the back of the field for the drop of the green flag. Busch would patiently navigate the opening laps behind the wheel of the No. 18 M&M’S 75th Anniversary Camry, before moving around the 88 to lead for the first time on lap 18. He would restart third following the day’s first caution on lap 26. Busch was strong all afternoon as he remained in the top five. He was running third following the final restart with 12 laps to go and he settled in hoping to make a last lap move to the front. However that opportunity never came as he his teammate Hamlin got to his outside with momentum to make the pass for the win. Busch would go on to finish third.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota from the 10th position and was patient through the early going before contact with the 24 car on lap 20 brought out the day’s first caution. Edwards would avoid major damage but crew chief Dave Rogers would bring him down pit road for some repairs to the nose of his ARRIS Camry. He would restart toward the back of the field on lap 26. Edwards would once again show patience through the early stages of the race, but when the 14 car spun on lap 58 he was forced up the track to avoid contact and the 6 car made contact from behind sending him into the wall. He would bring his ARRIS Camry down pit road for additional repairs, but this time the damage was more severe the lengthy repairs dropped him a lap down to the leaders. Another caution on lap 92 would provide another opportunity for the ARRIS team to work on the car prior to a lap 99 restart and the team’s efforts paid off when a lap 120 caution provided the 19 team the lucky dog designation to put him back on the lead lap. From there Edwards would begin to climb his way back toward the front of the field and was back inside the top ten by lap 160. He would enter to top five for the final 12 lap run to the finish. Edwards’ fifth-place comeback finish was a strong start to the season for the 19 team.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the back of the field after an accident in Thursday’s qualifying race forced the team to move to a backup car. Kenseth had earned a spot on the front row when he qualified second in last week’s qualifying session. It didn’t take long for him to move his way back into the top 20 and he would restart in the top ten on lap 26. Kenseth would make his way to the front with his teammates and was running in the top three throughout the midpoint of the race. He would get blocked in his pits on a lap 120 pit stop causing him to drop back to run seventh and once again he would have to show great patience in his efforts to return to the front of the field. On the next round of stops his Dollar General crew put together an amazing green flag stop that put him out front once the field cycled through. Kenseth would go on to lead the next 40 laps and appeared set to win his third career Daytona 500. However his teammate got an amazing run after jumping to the high line on the final lap and managed to make a thrilling pass. Kenseth would lose momentum momentarily in the process causing him to drop back to 14th at the finish.

Hamlin captured the win and was followed by fellow Toyota drivers Martin Truex, Jr. and his teammate Busch. Kevin Harvick was fourth, while teammate Carl Edwards rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 31 laps and 20 lead changes among 15 different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway next week with live coverage on Fox starting Sunday, February 28 at Noon ET (race starts at 1 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

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).