It was dominating night for Joe Gibbs Racing at Kentucky Speedway with an impressive victory by Kyle Busch and all four teams finishing in the top five in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400.
Busch led a race-high four times for 163 total laps en route to the win, while teammates Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth finished third, fourth, and fifth respectively. The win is Busch’s second since returning from his early season injury and moves him to 35th in the standings and 87 points out of 30th-place which would secure his place in the NASCAR Chase for the Championship.
Kyle Busch started the No. 18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota from the ninth position but was fast from the outset as he raced his way into the top five and a great two-tire stop on his first trip to pit road helped put him out first on lap 33. He would fall to second just prior to the night’s next caution and once again the M&M’s pit crew delivered putting Busch out first once again for a restart on lap 87. He would settle into second once again before another caution on lap 100. This time the 18 team made the call to remain out on the track and once again he raced second following the restart. Another great two-tire stop on lap 124 put him back at the point for a restart on lap 129. He would continue to hold the top spot through a couple of quick cautions. Busch would continue to hold the lead with 100 laps to go. He would line up second alongside his teammate Hamlin for a restart with 55 to go. After a couple of quick restarts he would run third with 40 to go, but managed to pass his teammate to take over second and then slowly reeled in the 22 car making the pass with 20 laps remaining. Busch never looked back after that as he stretched out his lead to the finish line.
Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota from the eighth position and proved quick from the drop of the green flag as he raced his way into the top five. He was running fourth when he felt his right front tire going flat and was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 73. Hamlin was correct as the team confirmed his right front tire was starting to come apart. Unfortunately NASCAR ruled he was speeding when he came onto pit road causing him to serve a pass through penalty. The sequence would avoid certain disaster had the tire blown, but Hamlin would be two laps down. The FedEx team would take the wave around on the next caution to get one of those laps back and he restarted 39th and still one lap down on lap 87. Hamlin quickly moved into the top 30 seeking the lucky dog position for being the first car one lap down. He would gain that spot on lap 115 and the caution would come on lap 122 allowing him to get back on the lead lap. Hamlin would move his FedEx Camry back inside the top 20 by lap 133 and was 17th when a caution came out at the halfway point of the race. He would restart 18th on lap 140. Hamlin worked his way back into the top 10 and was running back inside the top five with 100 laps to go. The FedEx pit crew delivered all night and put Hamlin out first for a restart on lap 212. He would lead twice for a total of 13 laps on the night despite the early race setback. A couple quick cautions created hectic restarts and Hamlin was running third with 40 to go. He would hold that spot to the finish.
Carl Edwards started the No. 19 Minions Toyota 20th and worked his way toward the top ten on the opening couple of green flag runs. Crew chief Darian Grubb would make the call for a four-tire stop on the opening round of stops and that would put Carl back outside the top 15 once again as many other leaders made the call for just two-tires. Edwards was able to utilize the four tires to his advantage on the track however as he drove his way back into the top ten. He would restart sixth on lap 87. He would continue to hold that spot on lap 115. Edwards’ “Minions” on pit road would turn a great two-tire stop allowing the 19 to restart fourth on lap 129. He would take third on lap 133 and was in second when another caution came out on lap 144. He would line up third behind his teammates Hamlin and Busch for a restart with 55 laps to go. Edwards ran fourth with 40 laps to go following a couple of hectic restarts and was able to hold that spot to the finish.
Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the 16th position and was able to make his way into the top ten prior to the first round of pit stops. He would run fifth on lap 80 and came to pit road on lap 83 for four tires. He would restart fifth on lap 87 and hold that spot through the next caution on lap 100. The Dollar General Camry would run seventh on lap 115. The team would make the call for four tires during a round of stops on lap 124 and he would restart 13th on lap 129. He then restarted 10th on lap 140. Kenseth would choose to pit for four tires on lap 153 while the majority of leaders made the call to remain out on the track. That would leave Kenseth back in 15th for the ensuing restart but he was back inside the top 10 by lap 167. He would line up fifth for a restart with 55 to go. He continued to run fifth behind all three teammates and the 22 car with 40 to go. Kenseth would go on to finish the night in that fifth position.
Kyle Busch captured the win and was followed by Joey Logano, Hamlin, Edwards and Kenseth rounded out the top five. There were 11 cautions on the night for a total of 49 laps and 13 lead changes among eight different drivers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next Sunday, July 19. NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will provide live coverage starting at 1 PM ET (race scheduled to start at 1:30 PM ET).