Joe Gibbs Racing ends funk at 1.5-mile tracks with top-five day


Carl Edwards was worried.

Joe Gibbs could tell as he talked on the phone with the driver Saturday while preparing to fly to Sparta, Ky., for the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

Edwards didn’t like the way the weekend had been going at the 1.5-mile track with a new lower-downforce package that had him struggling. His No. 19 Toyota recorded the 20th- and 19th-fastest speeds in practice, with the former becoming his qualifying speed because of rain.

“It was really eating at him,” Gibbs said. “I haven’t really been worried about it, because I kept waiting to say, ‘We’re going to break out of this.’ We got a great pit crew put together, we know what he can do as a driver, he has (crew chief) Darian (Grubb), we couldn’t have a better group put together. But to be truthful, the performance had been off some and I could tell reading into him he’s going, ‘gosh dang it, you know, what’s going on.'”
With his team adapting well to the new rules, Gibbs’ prediction of a breakout came true — not just for Edwards but all of his drivers.

Spearheaded by Kyle Busch’s victory, Joe Gibbs Racing made team history with all four cars finishing in the top five for the first time. The last time a Sprint Cup team accomplished the feat was Roush Fenway Racing at Michigan in August 2008. Edwards and Matt Kenseth were also a part of that accomplishment.

Kentucky marked only the seventh race this season with the regular lineup for JGR, which expanded to four Camrys by adding Edwards in the offseason. Busch had missed the first 11 Cup races recovering from injuries in an Xfinity crash at Daytona

“(We) have not been working together that long,” said Denny Hamlin (third), who finished ahead of Edwards and Kenseth. “We have only had Kyle for a few weeks now, so we’re starting to build that chemistry.

“And obviously, any time you have a driver of caliber of when Kyle came in, Matt, and now Carl, it just continues to push you to go faster and push you to do your job better, and that’s when you can feed off each other like that. That’s typically how you get to an elite level.

“So, it’s just one race, but obviously it’s a big night for Joe Gibbs Racing.”

Edwards might been the best indicator of JGR’s strength in earning only his third top 10. Edwards, who joined them after more than a decade with Roush, hasn’t contended often this year while admitting to pressuring himself into mistakes early in the year.

Thanks to a fuel mileage gamble, Edwards had won the Coke 600 in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile track, which was significant for many reasons — not the least of which that it likely secured a Chase for the Sprint Cup berth.

It snapped a streak of seven races at 1.5-mile tracks that had been won by either Kevin Harvick or Jimmie Johnson dating back to the previous race at Charlotte.

Edwards himself hadn’t won on a 1.5-mile oval since Las Vegas in 2011 and JGR’s last had been by Hamlin in the 2013 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Through five races, Chevrolet has failed to win at Kentucky, which is an oasis for JGR, having won three races at the track (Busch in ’11 and ’15; Kenseth in ’13).

Kenseth shared his enthusiasm for the race with his first tweet in 20 days.

Edwards changed his attitude toward the setup about halfway through the race. After starting 20th, he was in the top 10 by Lap 60 and would remain there the rest of the night, even leading lap during a memorable three-way battle for first with Hamlin and Busch.

“I cannot say enough positive things about this direction NASCAR is going with less downforce,” Edwards said, singing a different tune than he had to Gibbs earlier. “I felt like a race car driver tonight.”

“I could actually drive the car, I was steering and sliding, I about wrecked a few times,” Edwards continued. “You know, I felt like I was doing something, not just sitting in line.

Hamlin was even more impressive. Caught speeding while pitting for a flat tire on Lap 70, Hamlin rallied from 36th, getting his laps back through yellow flags. He eventually 13 laps before yielding to runner-up Joey Logano with 42 laps left.

Edwards said it was Hamlin, the longest tenured driver at JGR in his 10th season, whom he first went to with his frustrations following practice.

“Denny was basically my counselor the other day after practice,” Edwards said. “I went straight over and talked to him and he helped me a little bit. I think overall the group’s been working very well with TRD (Toyota Racing Development), I’m the new guy but yeah it was pretty screwed up that Denny is the counselor of the group, but anyway. It’s a good group and it’s cool to be a part of it. These guys, they really push me a lot. It’s cool when your teammates are this fast.”


Portland Xfinity race results, driver points

Portland Xfinity results
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Cole Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when the top three cars made contact and went on to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Portland International Raceway. Custer is the 10th different winner in 13 races this season.

MORE: Portland Xfinity race results

MORE: Driver points after Portland Xfinity race

JR Motorsports took the next three spots: Justin Allgaier placed second, Sam Mayer was third and Josh Berry was fourth. Austin Hill completed the top five.

John Hunter Nemechek remains the points leader after 13 races. He has a 14-point lead on Hill. Nemechek leads Allgaier by 44 points.

Cole Custer wins Xfinity race at Portland in overtime


Cole Custer held off Justin Allgaier at the finish to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race in overtime at Portland International Raceway. It is Custer’s first victory of the season.

JR Motorsports placed second, third and fourth with Allgaier, Sam Mayer and Josh Berry. Austin Hill finished fifth.

MORE: Race results, driver points

Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when Parker Kligerman, who restarted third, attempted to pass Allgaier, who was leading. Sheldon Creed was on the outside of Allgaier. All three cars made contact entering Turn 1, allowing Custer to slip by. Creed finished seventh. Kligerman placed 14th.

Custer won the second stage when John Hunter Nemechek made contact with Creed’s car while racing for the lead on the final lap of the stage. The contact spun Creed and Custer inched by Nemechek at the line.

Early in the final stage, Creed gained revenge with contact that spun Nemechek, who went on to finish 10th. A few laps later, Nemechek and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith had issues. Smith spun Nemechek. After getting back around, Nemechek quickly caught Smith and turned into Smith’s car, damaging it.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Despite the contact on the overtime restart, runner-up Justin Allgaier managed to score his fourth consecutive top-three finish. … Sam Mayer’s third-place finish is his best on a road course. … Austin Hill’s fifth-place finish gives him four consecutive top-five results.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Daniel Hemric finished 33rd after a fire in his car. … Riley Herbst placed 32nd after an engine issue. After opening the season with six top 10s in a row, Herbst has gone seven races in a row without a top 10.

NEXT: The series competes June 10 at Sonoma Raceway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).

Truck race results at WWT Raceway: Grant Enfinger wins


Grant Enfinger took the lead when the leaders wrecked in the final laps and held off the field in overtime to win Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

It is Enfinger’s second win in the last five races. He also collected a $50,000 bonus for winning the Triple Truck Challenge.

MORE: Truck race results

MORE: Driver points after WWT Raceway

Christian Eckes finished second and was followed by Stewart Friesen, Carson Hocevar and Chase Purdy.

Ty Majeski and Zane Smith wrecked while racing for the lead with six laps to go. Majeski, running on the inside of Smith, slid up the track and clipped Smith’s truck. Both hit the wall. That put Enfinger in the lead.

Smith finished 20th. Majeski placed 30th.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Grant Enfinger

STAGE 2 WINNER: Stewart Friesen

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Grant Enfinger’s victory is his fourth top 10 in the last five races. … Carson Hocevar’s fourth-place finish is his fourth consecutive top-five result. … Stewart Friesen’s third-place finish moved him into a playoff spot with four races left in the regular season. … Matt DiBenedetto‘s sixth-place finish is his third consecutive top 10. … Jesse Love finished ninth in his series debut.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ty Majeski had a chance to take the points lead with series leader Corey Heim out because of illness, but Majeski’s 30th-place finish after running at the front most of the day, leaves him behind Heim. … Hailie Deegan finished 32nd after contact sent her truck into the wall hard. … After finishing a career-high third last week at Charlotte, Dean Thompson placed 34th Saturday due to an engine issue.

NEXT: The series races June 23 at Nashville Superspeedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1)

Xfinity starting lineup at Portland: Sheldon Creed wins pole


Sheldon Creed scored his first career Xfinity Series pole by taking the top spot for Saturday’s race at Portland International Raceway.

Creed, making his 50th career series start, earned the pole with a lap of 95.694 mph on the 1.97-mile road course.

MORE: Portland Xfinity starting lineup

Cole Custer will start second with a lap of 95.398 mph. He is followed by Josh Berry (94.242 mph), John Hunter Nemechek (95.127) and Charlotte winner Justin Allgaier (94.897). Road racing specialist Jordan Taylor, driving for Kaulig Racing, qualified sixth at 94.772 mph.

The green flag is scheduled to wave 4:46 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1.