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NASCAR Cup: Denny Hamlin gets Joe Gibbs Racing back to victory lane at New Hampshire

Denny Hamlin celebrates in victory lane after winning the Overton's 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 16, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Denny Hamlin celebrates in victory lane after winning the Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 16, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).


Joe Gibbs Racing finally broke into victory lane, 19 races into the 36-race 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, courtesy of Denny Hamlin’s win of the Overton’s 301. It was Hamlin’s 30th-career win and third at NHMS and came in a backup car as a result of a wreck in the first practice on Friday.

“It’s great. Definitely a team effort,” Hamlin said. “This is a – I put us behind on Friday with the backup car getting in a wreck, but this – I really wish we would race that car that was in the hauler, but this one they did a great job getting it as close as they could working on the balance, getting it good yesterday and team effort. This is a total team effort all around.”

Kyle Larson started in the back for the second week in a row because of an inspection issue either before or after qualifying, and for the second week in a row, he finished second, this time without regular crew chief Chad Johnston, as he began his suspension for an issue in post-race inspection last weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

“It’s a little frustrating what we have had to go through the last couple of weeks, but it’s pretty awesome to be able to run as fast as we have and finish second the last two weeks from dead last,” Larson said.  I’m proud of our team, proud of everybody at our race shop.  I can’t thank my sponsors Target, Credit One Bank, and all of our other supporters enough for what they do for our team. It’s been a lot of fun these last couple of weeks to be as fast as we have been, so keep working hard at it and maybe we can get some more wins.”

Martin Truex Jr. finished third after starting on the pole and leading 137 laps of the 301-lap race. Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five.

“This is a great weekend for our Busch/Jimmy John’s Ford,” Harvick said. “The guys did a great job. They made it a little better than it was in practice. They executed on pit road all day and did all the little things right. We didn’t have the speed that the Toyotas had through the center of the corner. As the long run would go that gap got wider as we got worse. We hung in there and fought all day and everyone did a good job to get us a good finish.”

Hamlin, Truex and Kyle Busch combined to lead all but 15 laps of the race, with Busch leading 95 laps and Hamlin 54. Busch wound up 12th after two pit-road speeding penalties. Truex and Busch were the two stage winners, with Truex leading the first 78 laps of the race, including the win of the first stage that ended on lap 75.

Varying pit strategies, as a result of the yellow flag waving just a few laps before the end of the stage, put Busch up front at the start of stage two. He, along with most of the race field, pitted when the yellow flag waved for Cole Whitt’s blown engine on lap 68. Truex, though, along with a few other frontrunners stayed out to be up front when the opening stage ended.

After pitting prior to stage end, Busch stayed out and inherited the lead during the caution at the start of the second stage, while Truex pitted and restarted outside the top-20. Busch led throughout the second stage and by the end of stage two, Truex was just outside the top-five in sixth.

Hamlin got off pit road first during the caution between the second and third stages, the halfway point of the race, to take his first lead. Busch and Truex took Hamlin three-wide and after several laps, Truex took the lead.

Truex suffered a flat right-front tire that forced him to give up the lead to pit under green on lap 218. After he pitted, others followed suit and cycled through green-flag pit stops. Busch inherited the lead when Truex pitted, but when Busch pitted, he was caught speeding on pit road for the second time.

After pitting first under green, Truex was on older tires than his fellow competitors, and Kenseth was able to take advantage of having slightly newer tires to gain on and pass Truex for the lead on lap 261.

The yellow flag waved for the seventh and final time for a Kasey Kahne wreck on lap 262. Kenseth retook the lead from Dale Earnhardt Jr., who stayed out, when the race restarted. Truex, meanwhile, lost several positions, despite taking four tires to Kenseth’s two.

“You know; we had a really good WIX Filters Toyota for most of the race and led a bunch of laps and then, got that flat tire, kind of off sequence,” Truex said. “You know; whatever happened, there, after lap 200 or so, I think the VHT was kind of worn off the track, and we started to lose our edge a little bit, there. We still had a shot, but on the last restart, we got the inside lane, there, restarted third. It wasn’t the place to be, obviously. I think he 11 (Hamlin) started fourth and that was really the place I would have liked to have been. And then, we just didn’t get a good restart on the bottom and lost a couple spots and had to battle back, and then, just didn’t quite have the speed at the endow the race that we had in the first 200 laps.”

Also on four new tires, Hamlin eventually got by his teammate, Kenseth, to take the race lead for the final time.

Daniel Suarez posted a career-best finish of sixth. Clint Bowyer finished seventh, Kurt Busch was eighth, and Brad Keselowski ninth. Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-10 after being sent to the back at the beginning of the race for jumping the start.

“I guess I just got it wrong at the start,” Johnson said. “I went off the flag and forgot that the pole sitter has to be the first one to the stripe, so I’ll take the responsibility on that one.   And then, we had an okay finish. We had decent short run speed. We would just fall off too hard. I really thought we were going to be in a position for a top 5 but we ended up 10th.”

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Posted by on July 17, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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