Race Report: Watkins Glen International

7-9 August, 2015, Watkins Glen, New York USA Carl Edwards, Stanley Toyota Camry ©2015, Russell LaBounty NKP

It was another strong performance for Joe Gibbs Racing with three top-ten finishes in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International.

Kyle Busch was just one spot short of claiming JGR’s fifth straight victory. He led the team with a second-place finish this afternoon at the Glen and was followed by Matt Kenseth in fourth and Carl Edwards in eighth, while Denny Hamlin fell just short of fuel at the end and finished 27th.

The second-place finish by Busch provided enough points to secure the 30th position in the standings. Having already amassed four wins, as long as Busch remains in the top 30 he will have secured his position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship.

Kyle Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota from the eighth position and quickly moved into the top five just two laps into the afternoon. Fuel strategy is often a factor on this road course and Busch would line up 11th for a restart on lap 29 following his first pit stop. He would race his way toward the front and ultimately claim the lead on lap 56. The No. 18 M&M’s Crispy Camry would pit on lap 58 after another caution. That would shuffle Busch back in the field when several other cars that pitted seven laps prior made the call to remain out on the track. He would restart 21st with 31 laps remaining but managed to race his way back in the top 15 to run 12th just six laps into the next run. Busch continued to climb his way through the field and was back inside the top 10 and running seventh with 20 laps remaining. He was back in the top five with 12 to go, took over fourth with nine laps remaining and was up to third with five laps to go. Busch managed to make a final pass at the finish line when the 4 car ran out of gas just before the end. He would earn a strong second-place finish and is now six points in front of the 31st position.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota from the 23rd position and held that spot through the first five laps before patiently working his way inside the top 20. He would restart 18th on lap 29 and the team played fuel strategy with a trip down pit road on lap 51. That would allow Kenseth would restart from the lead with 31 laps remaining after all the other leaders had to pit under the next caution on lap 58. He would give up the lead on the restart but settled in to run second on the next run as he looked to save enough fuel to the finish just as he had done one week ago in his victory at Pocono. When the race stayed green all the way to the finish he would have to give up a couple spots on the track to make it to the finish, which he managed to do to earn a strong fourth-place effort.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota in the 15th position and raced near the top 15 through the early portion of the race. Crew chief Darian Grubb would implement a pit strategy that brought the No. 19 Camry down pit road on lap 25. That proved advantageous when a caution came out just a couple laps later. Edwards would restart inside the top five on lap 29. Edwards restarted 24th with 31 laps remaining and was back inside the top 20 and running 17th with 25 laps to go. He would continue to climb through the field on the ensuing run and was up to 13th with 20 laps remaining and raced eighth with five laps to go. Edwards would hold that eighth spot to the finish.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota from the 13th position and maintained a spot inside the top 15 through the opening laps of the race. He would come down pit road for the first time on lap 26 while under caution and NASCAR ruled that he was too fast entering forcing the No. 11 Camry to restart at the back of the field. Contact on the ensuing restart would cause damage to his hood pins which resulted in Hamlin’s hood flying up and covering his windshield. Somehow Hamlin managed to navigate the road course and return to pit road where the hood was removed. The FedEx team would make repairs under the next caution which allowed Hamlin to remain on the lead lap. Fuel strategy would play a major factor once again at The Glen and Hamlin was able to line up seventh for a restart with 31 laps to go. He would run eighth with 20 laps to go while seeking to save enough fuel to make it to the finish. Hamlin would fall just short on fuel however, taking the checkered flag back in 27th.

Joey Logano captured the win and was followed by Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. There were five cautions on the afternoon for a total of 16 laps and eight lead changes among eight different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Michigan International Speedway next Sunday, August 16. NBCSN will broadcast the race live with coverage starting at 1:30 PM ET (race begins at 2:30 PM ET).