Denny Hamlin delivers first Cup win of season for Joe Gibbs Racing

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Denny Hamlin outran Kyle Larson in the final 25 laps to win the Overton’s 301, giving Joe Gibbs Racing its first Cup win of the season.

Driving a backup car, Hamlin led the last 34 circuits at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to give JGR its first Cup win since November 2016 at Texas Motor Speedway.

It’s Hamlin’s 30th Cup win and his third at New Hampshire.

The top five were Hamlin, Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick.

“I was doing everything I could to pace (myself),” Hamlin told NBCSN at the start-finish line. “I knew (Larson) had a very fast car. It just seemed like we were able to get off the corner pretty good. Really I just drove a pace there that I felt comfortable with, just in case we had to restart. I didn’t want to burn the tires up.”

Hamlin led 54 of the race’s 301 laps. The win was his first in 28 races since claiming victory in the regular season finale at Richmond last September.

Hamlin had to go to a backup car after crashing his primary in practice on Friday.

“Put us behind the 8-ball on Friday, but it’s cool to win one like this,” Hamlin said.

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Larson earned his seventh runner-up finish of the season and his second in a row after starting last due to failing post-qualifying inspection … Martin Truex Jr. led 137 laps from the pole and claimed his 14th stage win in Stage 1 … Daniel Suarez tied his career-best result by finishing sixth … Danica Patrick finished 13th, giving her consecutive top-15 finishes for the first time this year … Jimmie Johnson finished 10th after serving a pass-through penalty to start the race for a start violation.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Erik Jones was eliminated in a one-car wreck on the Lap 41 restart from a competition caution. The wreck was caused by a flat tire, a result from contact on pit road. Jones finished last … Cole Whitt finished 38th after blowing an engine on Lap 68 … Joey Logano went to the garage on Lap 177 for a mechanical problem. He returned to the race just beyond the 200-lap mark. He finished 37th. Kyle Busch’s hopes of ending a 34-race winless streak ended when he was caught speeding while pitting on Lap 238. He was caught speeding again when he pit again on Lap 263. Busch, who won Stage 2, finished 12th.

NOTABLE: Toyota cars led 290 laps Sunday. They have led 869 out of 902 laps in the last three races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway … Dale Earnhardt Jr. led a season-high 10 laps in a strategy bid during green flag pit stops … Hamlin is the first driver to win in a backup car since Kurt Busch at Michigan in June 2015 … Denny Hamlin will join NASCAR America live from the NASCAR Hall of Fame at 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday on NBCSN.

LUG NUT VIOLATIONS: Daniel Suarez and Kurt Busch each had one unsecured lug nut after the race.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “(Denny Hamlin) is probably the best short track racer there is out here. Especially, when it comes to short, flat tracks, but for me to get beat by him is not a cool thing, but I’m proud of that because Denny Hamlin, like I said is really good at this stuff.” – Kyle Larson after finishing second.

WHAT’S NEXT: Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 3 p.m. ET on July 23 on NBC.

Kyle Larson wins Stage 1 at Miami, Brad Keselowski leads Championship 4 drivers

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Kyle Larson won Stage 1 of Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, dominating by leading 67 of the stage’s 80 laps, holding a nine-second edge when he took the checkered flag.

Meanwhile, here’s how the four Championship 4 drivers finished after the first 80 laps of the scheduled 267-lap event: Brad Keselowski is second, Kyle Busch is third, Kevin Harvick is fourth and Martin Truex Jr. in fifth.

Truex, with six of his seven wins this season coming on 1.5-mile tracks like Homestead-Miami, wasted little time to take the lead away from pole-sitter Denny Hamlin.

The first caution of the race came out on Lap 6 when Joey Gase appeared to blow a tire and hit the Turn 1 wall hard.

During the subsequent pit stop, the only Championship 4 driver to hit pit road for four new tires was Keselowski, putting him off-sequence of the other contenders.

The move worked, though, as Keselowski quickly climbed from ninth on the restart on Lap 9 to third by Lap 12 and second by Lap 14.

Larson, who also pitted with Keselowski, took the lead away from Truex on Lap 13 and held on for the remaining 67 laps of the stage.

On Lap 38, Jimmie Johnson blew a right rear tire and came to pit road for four new tires. Even though there was no caution, all four championship contenders pitted over the following two laps.

On Lap 58, Harvick passed Truex and into third place for the first time in the race, zeroing on Keselowski in second.

Johnson got into the wall again on Lap 60, even though there was no caution, and sustained moderate damage, pitting for four tires and fuel.

Kyle Busch passed Harvick to take over third on Lap 77.

Sixth through 10th were Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer.

Watch: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fans on what the driver means to them

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The fan base of Dale Earnhardt Jr. is large and devoted.

Those fans, affectionately called “Junior Nation,” has voted Earnhardt as NASCAR’s most popular driver 14 years in a row.

Justin Hartley of NBC’s “This is Us” is a member of Earnhardt’s fan base. The actor narrates the above essay on the close relationship between the driver and his fans.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks to Bob Costas about his career, legacy before final Cup start

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Sunday marks Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s last start as a full-time Cup driver in NASCAR.

NBC Sports’ Bob Costas sat down with the 14-time most popular driver before the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to get Earnhardt’s thoughts before he climbed in the No. 88 Chevrolet for the last time.

Earnhardt addressed what he hopes his legacy will be after 20 years in the sport as a driver, including his impact on attitudes towards concussions in sports in general.

Earnhardt, who will join NBC Sports in 2018, also talked about what life has in store for him in the near future.

Earnhardt also made sure to credit his devoted fan base for making his career possible.

“I understand the driving force behind my success and opportunity in this sport, whether it be inside the car or outside the car, is all because of Jr. Nation,” Earnhardt said. “This year we’ve tried our best to show appreciation to them.”

Watch the above video for the full interview.

 

Furniture Row Racing going for Cup title after year of success, tragedy

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It’s been a historic year for Furniture Row Racing, the Cup team that has its base of operations in an old water bed factory in Denver, Colorado.

With Martin Truex Jr. piloting the No. 78 Toyota, they won a team record seven races and a series record six races on 1.5-mile tracks. Combined with a dominating performance under the new stage racing format, Truex has put the team in its second Championship 4 in three years.

But it’s also been a season of perseverance and tragedy.

NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan narrates the above video essay on the story of Furniture Row Racing’s 2017 season.