Matt Kenseth kept Joe Gibbs Racing’s momentum rolling in a positive direction with a win today in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Three JGR teams earned a spot in the top five with Denny Hamlin just behind his teammate in second and Carl Edwards in fifth, while an accident left Kyle Busch to finish back in 37th.
The win automatically advances Kenseth into the second round of the Chase with his teammate Hamlin, who won the opening round of the Chase last week in Chicago. Regardless of their finishes next week at Dover, both Kenseth and Hamlin will advance to the Contender round of 12. Edwards is currently third in the point standings behind only his two race-winning teammates. Busch, is currently 13th in points, but only one point out of 12th and two points out of 11th heading into Dover.
Today’s win continued JGR’s recent dominance in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The organization has now won the last four Sprint Cup Series race and 10 of the last 13.
Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota from the 13th position but quickly raced into the top 10. Kenseth patiently moved his way to the front of the field throughout the first half of the race and was running third at the halfway mark. He would take his first lead of the day on lap 194 and crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make the call to remain out on the track following a lap 211 caution to regain his position at the front of the field. He would eventually give way to his teammate in the 11 car on lap 219 and when a final caution came out on lap 239 the Dollar General Camry would make its way back down pit road for tires and fuel. That proved to be a tremendous call as Kenseth restarted in the 11th position but was able to make his way back to the front of the field. He would manage to pass his teammate Hamlin for second with the laps winding down and pushed the leader in the 4 car hard in hopes of making him use up any remaining fuel. That strategy worked to perfection when the 4 car ran out of gas with three laps to go. Kenseth quickly moved to the front for a final time earning his fifth win of the season and automatically earning his position in the Contender Round of 12.
Hamlin qualified his No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota in seventh position and ran consistently in the top ten throughout the first half of the race. Hamlin would lead for the first time on lap 219 and held the lead for the next 21 laps before a caution came out on lap 239. Short on fuel to make it to the end, crew chief Dave Rogers would call for Hamlin to come to pit road for a final time. That decision paid off as Hamlin restarted in 10th, but had the car and fresher tires to make a run back to the front. He would get as high as second before his teammate Kenseth made the pass to put him back in third with the laps winding down. Hamlin would hold third until three laps to go when the 4 car ran out of gas from the lead. That allowed the FedEx Camry to claim an impressive second-place run.
Carl Edwards started the No. 19 Sport Clips Toyota on the pole and led the opening 19 laps before giving way to the 4 car on lap 20. The Sport Clips Camry would come out fifth following the first round of stops after taking four tires. Edwards would drop back to run 10th over the next portion of the race. The 19 team would suffer a penalty on pit road on lap 160 when NASCAR ruled that equipment had left the pit box area. That caused Edwards to have to serve a stop and go penalty and he would drop back to run 25th. However the 19 team would rebound once again and Edwards was back in the top ten. He would run seventh over the course of the final run of the afternoon and then gained a couple additional spots when other leaders ran out of fuel before the checkered flag. He would earn his eighth top-five finish of the season.
Kyle Busch started the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota in 17th but quickly moved his way toward the top ten and was running 12th just five laps into the race. Busch was solidly into the top ten through the halfway point of the race when he suddenly lost his right front tire on lap 160 sending him hard into the outside wall resulting in severe damage to the right side of his Camry. Busch would somehow manage to drive the car to the garage and the Pedigree team did amazing work to get the 18 back on the track just 36 laps later. That proved important as Busch returned to the track in 40th but managed to gain three additional spots to finish 37th. Despite the setback today, Busch is just one point behind 12th and two points out of 11th place in the standings heading into Dover next week. Only the top 12 teams in points will advance into the Contender Round after Dover.
Kenseth captured the win, followed by Hamlin, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle and Edwards then rounded out the top five. There were nine cautions for a total of 41 laps and 16 lead changes among seven different drivers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series continues the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship next weekend in Dover, DE. NBCSN will provide live broadcast coverage of the race starting at 2 PM ET (race begins at 3 PM ET) on Sunday, October 4.