The majority of attention heading into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup was focused on the drivers from Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske. And deservedly so. Drivers from those organizations won 13 of the previous 16 regular season races.
But, coming in under the radar, Joe Gibbs Racing made a statement at Chicagoland Sunday.
Its trio of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth finished sixth, seventh and 10th. It was only the third time that’s happened this season.
The first time: New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
All that’s left for JGR to assert itself into championship contender talk is for one of its drivers to take a stroll through victory lane – a feat it hasn’t accomplished since Denny Hamlin won at Talladega in May.
After posting a career-high seven victories last year in his first season with JGR, Kenseth has no checkered flags to his credit in 2014. Still, he’s been one of the most consistent drivers in the series, finishing sixth in the regular season point standings (his 17 top 10s rank second only to Jeff Gordon’s 18).
Kyle Busch has experienced an up-and-down season. He notched a quick victory at Auto Club in March and owns three runner-up finishes on the season. Simply put: At New Hampshire, he’s due. He’s finished second the last three races there, with his last win coming 2006.
The New Hampshire race also sets up well for Hamlin. He has three top-10 finishes at Loudon in his last five starts, including a victory, a runner-up and an eighth place showing in July.