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.

Cup starting lineup for Sunday’s race at Atlanta

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Kyle Busch will lead the field to the green for Sunday’s Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and have Ryan Newman beside him on the front row.

Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing each placed all four of its cars in the top 12 of the starting lineup.

JGR will have Busch first, Daniel Suarez fourth, Erik Jones 10th and Denny Hamlin 12th. Stewart-Haas Racing will have Kevin Harvick third, Kurt Busch seventh, Clint Bowyer ninth and Aric Almirola 11th.

Reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. will start 35th in the 36-car field after his car failed to pass inspection before qualifying.

Click here for starting lineup

 

Martin Truex Jr.’s car chief ejected after Atlanta inspection failures

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HAMPTON, Georgia – Defending series champion Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota was the first team to struggle with NASCAR’s new optical scan inspection, and the punishment was a key crew member.

Truex’s Camry failed to clear prequalifying inspection three times Friday, resulting in the ejection of car chief Blake Harris from Atlanta Motor Speedway. Truex will start 35th in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

NASCAR vice president of competition Scott Miller said the car had multiple problems with body scans “for rear-wheel openings and rear-toe failures.”

Furniture Row Racing president Joe Garone said the team couldn’t get a handle on the new Optical Scanning Station. Many teams, including Furniture Row Racing, have replicas in their shops of the system, which relies on high-definition cameras and projectors.

“It’s a new process,” Garone said. “We’re working hard, collectively, the whole garage is to figure the boundaries out and how to get through, and NASCAR is working with their equipment the same way.

“It’s just tough. It’s tough. One time you go through, the next time you don’t. You go through again and some things pass that didn’t pass the time before. It’s just frustrating, but we’ll get it all worked out. It’s just a matter of time.

Crew chief Cole Pearn had a viscerally negative reaction at the station when told by NASCAR officials the car hadn’t passed on its third scan, seven minutes before qualifying was scheduled to begin.

Garone said the vibe within the team was “pretty volatile at the moment, because you’re trying to figure out what you actually did, especially when you feel like maybe the equipment itself is off a little bit. It’s also on our side as well. It’s just a weird set of circumstances. The tolerances are very tight. It’s difficult to get through and push where you need to and be conservative where you need to and figure it all out. It does change every time you go through.”

Miller took umbrage at the suggestion the new station wasn’t reliable (which was a frequent criticism of the previous Laser Inspection Station that the optical scan replaced).

“Of course they’re going to say that, but we had 20 people make it through on the first attempt and multiple people saying how consistent the rear-wheel alignment was vs. our equipment last year,” Miller said. “The only comments I had today on the rear-wheel alignment part was positive comments, not negative comments. We ended up with one (car failing to clear inspection). All I can say is I feel like we did our job.”

Miller said after the third failure, it’s NASCAR’s discretion to suspend a team member and the car chief was chosen because “we’ve tapped the car chief as an important individual.” Miller said if Truex had failed a fourth time, the team would have faced a 10-point deduction under a new penalty structure this season that is focused on race weekend punishments.

Miller implied the team had chosen to skip trying to clear inspection a fourth time to avoid risking further penalty, but Garone said the decision was made because “well, we’re out of time.

“That wasn’t a decision other than a timing decision,” he said. “You know what happens when you rush? The driver goes out, and he’s all amped up, and it’s just not worth doing.”

Truex, who will start 35th Sunday, also will serve a 30-minute practice hold Saturday.

Pole-sitter Kyle Busch, whose Joe Gibbs Racing team supplies Toyota chassis and has an alliance with Truex’s team, was surprised the No. 78 was the only inspection casualty Friday.

“I certainly would have guessed there would have been more; that they wouldn’t have been the only ones,’ Busch said. “I honestly have no clue on what happened to them. I don’t have that information from any of our guys. So I’ll have to figure out what they missed out on being able to get through the OSS.”

Denny Hamlin on Daytona 500 spat with Bubba Wallace: ‘It’s done’

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HAMPTON, Georgia — Denny Hamlin seems to be putting his brief feud with Bubba Wallace in the rearview mirror before Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

After qualifying 12th for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (and electing to skip the final round because his No. 11 team felt it wasn’t worth the tradeoff on tire wear), Hamlin told a small group of reporters that “I’d say it’s over with. Moving on. Trust me, it’s done.”

Was the Joe Gibbs Racing driver concerned about the fallout from Daytona?

“Doesn’t concern me,” Hamlin said. “I’ll just keep moving forward and try to do the best I can and let whoever tell their side and let it be.”

Earlier Friday at Atlanta, Wallace said he had been kicked out of a golf group that Hamlin is in because of their feud, which started on the last lap of Sunday’s Daytona 500. He also called Hamlin a “dumb ass” for estimating last week on a podcast that 70 percent of NASCAR drivers are using Adderall.

Did Hamlin plan to talk to Wallace?

“It’s done. It’s done. It’s done.”

Hamlin did briefly address Kevin Harvick’s comments that several veteran drivers are angry at him for the Adderall comment.

“I’ve talked to Kevin,” Hamlin said. “We’re good. Yeah. Trust me, it’s all done, guys.”

 

Kyle Busch zooms to first career Atlanta Cup pole

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Kyle Busch denied Ryan Newman a record-breaking eighth career pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway, nipping Newman to take the top starting spot for Sunday’s race.

Busch earned the pole with a lap of 184.652 mph. Newman ran a lap of 184.419 mph in the final round — a difference of 38-thousandths of a second.

Newman will start second and be followed by Kevin Harvick (184.388 mph), Daniel Suarez (184.229) and Brad Keselowski (183.856). Newman remains tied with Buddy Baker for most career poles at Atlanta with seven. Newman, though, will make his 12th career front row start at Atlanta.

This is Busch’s first career Cup pole at Atlanta and 28th in his career.

Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott all failed to qualify in the top 24 to advance to the second round.

“We’re way off,” Elliott told Fox Sports 1. “Not even close.”

Dillon will start 25th, Blaney 26th and Elliott 27th.

Martin Truex Jr. did not make a qualifying attempt after his car failed three times to pass inspection. Truex won seven of the 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks last season. He was eighth at Atlanta a year ago. Truex will start 35th in the 36-car field.

Click here for qualifying results

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