Matt Kenseth saved his best for last Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, snatching the lead from teammate Denny Hamlin thirty-one laps from the finish and keeping the Number-20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in front the rest of the way in posting his second win of the season and the thirty-eighth of his career. The margin of victory was two seconds over runner-up Tony Stewart. Joey Logano came home in third place with Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle completing the top five. Pole sitter Jimmie Johnson led only the first lap and finished twelfth. Sunday’s race was a day of domination for Toyota. The manufacturer led all but two of the 301 laps contested on the one-mile Loudon oval including a race-high 133 by Kyle Busch on the way to an eighth-place finish. He was seeking a weekend sweep after winning Saturday’s X-FINITY Series race. Busch dominated the early stages Sunday, leading all but fourteen of the first hundred laps. Martin Truex Junior was strong, running out front for 123 laps before a broken shifter and clutch problems forced him off the pace. He came out of New England with a sixteenth-place finish … The only non-Toyota drivers to lead Sunday’s race were Johnson and Brad Keselowski – who each led one lap on the way to finishes of twelfth and fifteenth, respectively … 23-year-old Alex Bowman placed twenty-sixth in the Number-88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He was subbing for Dale Earnhardt Junior, who sat out Sunday’s race with concussion-like symptoms after recent crashes at Michigan and Daytona. Earnhardt’s status for next weekend’s race at Indianapolis is uncertain … Sunday’s race included thirteen lead changes among six drivers.
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A number of NASCAR Sprint Cup teams took part in a two-day organizational test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday and Wednesday. The test was in advance of the Crown Royal presents the Wounded Warrior Coalition 400 to be held on July 24. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, and Kevin Harvick were among those at the test that were consistently fast in each of the sessions. Two sessions were held on Tuesday, with teams working through the lunch break Wednesday due to a threat of weather in the area. Matt Kenseth who was second quickest in the opening session on Tuesday noted that the tire fall off was significant with the new lower downforce package being used this season and expected that fall off to translate to good racing. Others taking part in the test included Paul Menard, Joey Logano, Brian Scott, Chris Buescher, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. AJ Allmendinger and his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing team were originally scheduled to attend the test, but following two incidents on Saturday night in Kentucky that injured Allmendinger’s hand, the team passed on attending the test. Allmendinger has been cleared to return to NASCAR competition following an X-ray on Monday.
Brad Keselowski stretched his final fuel load right to the finish line to notch his third career Kentucky win and second straight victory of the season. The closing laps saw several teams try to stretch the final fuel run hoping for a caution, only to be forced to pit. Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. dominated the race leading a combined 174 laps but were among those who needed to pit for fuel finishing ninth and tenth respectively. Carl Edwards was also working fuel strategy and was able to run down Keselowski in the closing laps, but was not able to pass him and was forced to settle for second. Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-five. The newly repaved and reconfigured surface of Kentucky Speedway proved to be a challenge to many drivers over the course of the evening. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the first driver to struggle with the new lower downforce aero package at the speedway, wrecking on lap nine. He was not the last, as a total of nine drivers would eventually be involved in accidents that brought about a track-record tying eleven cautions for fifty-three laps on the evening. Jimmie Johnson, who crashed his primary car in practice, saw a repeat performance in the race, spinning in turn-4 and making contact with the wall.
Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott also were involved in accidents throughout the evening. By virtue of his early departure, Ryan Blaney has now dropped out of the top-sixteen in Championship points which will place a great deal of pressure on the rookie driver in the final eight races of the regular season. Jeffery Earnhardt, who finished twenty-eighth, was the highest finishing rookie, on a night when many drivers struggled with the new track conditions.
Tony Stewart survived a fierce last-lap duel with former teammate Denny Hamlin, nosing past Hamlin under braking in the next-to-last corner of the final lap at Sonoma Raceway and driving on to his forty-ninth career Cup Series victory. It ended an eighty-four-race winless streak for the three-time champion that dated back to June 2013.
Before Sunday, Stewart’s last trip to Victory Lane had come at Dover International Speedway. He took the white flag yesterday with Hamlin in hot pursuit and briefly lost the lead to his Joe Gibbs Racing rival. But Stewart calmly measured his opponent as they navigated the final turns on the Northern California road course and made his winning pass with the checkered flag in sight. The margin of victory was six-tenths of a second.
Joey Logano, pole sitter Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Junior completed the top five.
Stewart sat out the early weeks of the season while recovering from back surgery after he was injured in late January while driving dune buggies on vacation in California. Despite missing eight races, he’s eligible for the post-season Chase provided he’s among the top thirty in the standings at the end of the regular season.
With Sunday’s victory, Stewart’s nine points shy of that with 10 races left before the sixteen-driver title field is set … Stewart started tenth and led the final twenty-two laps of Sunday’s race in his Number-14 Chevrolet. Runner-up Hamlin led a race-high thirty-three laps around the two-mile natural road course …Sunday’s race included twelve lead changes among eight drivers. There were four cautions for ten laps.
Next stop Pocono Speedway for Sunday’s Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400, the fourteenth race of the year that kicks off the second half of the Sprint Cup Series’ regular season. Martin Truex Junior is coming off a dominating victory last weekend in the Coca-Cola 600 and is the defending race winner at Pocono. The last driver with back-to- back victories in the track’s spring race was Jeff Gordon in 1996 and 1997 … With Truex’s victory Sunday night, the list of Sprint Cup race winners this season grew to eight. If there are nine more drivers who reach Victory Lane over the final thirteen regular-season races, then there’ll be one driver with a race win to his credit that will not get a spot on the 2016 Chase Grid – which will include only the sixteen top eligible drivers based primarily on race wins. There are three drivers who won last year but are still without a victory in 2016: Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Junior and Joey Logano. Busch and Earnhardt are two-time winners at Pocono. Logano has one victory there, in 2012.
With Martin Truex Junior’s victory Sunday night in the Coca-Cola 600, the list of Sprint Cup Series winners this season grows to eight. If there are nine more drivers who reach Victory Lane over the final thirteen regular-season races, then there’ll be one driver with a race win to his credit that will not get a spot on the 2016 Chase Grid – which will include only the sixteen top eligible drivers based primarily on race wins. There are three drivers who won last year but are still without a victory in 2016: Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Junior and Joey Logano.
There are thirty-nine drivers on the preliminary entry list for next weekend’s Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 at Pocono Raceway led by defending winner Truex and regular-season points leader Kevin Harvick.
Next stop, Charlotte Motor Speedway for Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600, which marks the halfway point of the 2016 regular season. Martin Truex Junior will start the four hundred-lap marathon from the pole position after topping Thursday night’s qualifying session with a lap of 192.328 miles per hour in the Number-78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. He’ll share the front row with Joey Logano, who was second-quick at 192.007 miles per hour. Ricky Stenhouse Junior qualified third with Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski – Logano’s Team Penske teammate – rounding out the top five. Defending race winner Carl Edwards will start ninth. It’s Truex’s ninth career pole and second this season. He qualified Number-1 at Kansas Speedway earlier this month and finished fourteenth in the Go Bowling 400.
The pole sitter has won the “Six Hundred” just twice over the last seventeen years, both times by Jimmie Johnson – in 2004 and 2014 … Earlier on Thursday, Kurt Busch led opening practice with Johnson, Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson filling positions two through five. Kyle Busch had the best average speed over ten consecutive laps at 185.465 miles per hour … Logano is hoping to complete a sweep of the May events in Charlotte. He won last weekend’s All-Star Race.
The last driver to win both in the same season is Kurt Busch in 2010.
With Kyle Busch’s victory last weekend at Kansas Speedway, the list of Sprint Cup Series winners this season is holding steady at six. If there are eleven new names in Victory Lane over the final fifteen regular-season races, then there’ll be one driver with a race win to his credit that will not get a spot on the 2016 Chase Grid – which will include only the sixteen top eligible drivers based primarily on race wins. The list of drivers who won last season but are still without a victory in 2016 includes Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Junior, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Junior … Of those five drivers, Logano is the only one who’s not yet tasted victory in a Cup Series race at “The Monster Mile,” though he’s won four X-FINITY Series races there.
Martin Truex Junior has joined Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Kyle and Kurt Busch, and rookie Chase Elliott on the list of drivers newly eligible for next year’s Sprint Unlimited non-points special event as a result of their qualifying efforts in 2016. The non-points special event features pole winners from the previous season and traditionally kicks off Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway. Truex earned the Number-1 starting spot for this past weekend’s Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway with a speed of 190.921 miles per hour. He finished fourteenth in the race.
Next stop in the Sprint Cup Series is Dover International Speedway for Sunday’s Triple-A 400 Drive for Autism. Chevrolet has a six-race winning streak on “The Monster Mile” dating back to 2013 – with Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart contributing to the recent run of success. Johnson has three of those wins.
Kyle Busch passed Tony Stewart for his final lead of the night thirty-seven laps from the finish and kept the Number-18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in front the rest of the way Saturday at Kansas Speedway, notching his third victory of the season. Busch started sixth, took his first lead just twenty-six laps into the race and beat runner-up Kevin Harvick to the checkered flag by one-point- one seconds. It’s Busch’s thirty- seventh career Cup Series victory but his first in seventeen starts on the Kansas City oval. Kurt Busch finished third with Matt Kenseth – one of Kyle Busch’s J-G- R teammates – grabbing fourth place.
Rookie Ryan Blaney completed the top five. Pole sitter Martin Truex Junior led a race-high 172 laps and seemed headed for his first victory of the season. But with less than sixty laps remaining, Truex was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel on his Number-78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. After returning to the track, Truex could do no better than fourteenth in the final running order.
Harvick’s second-place finish was enough to keep him atop the regular-season standings, though his lead over Busch has shrunk to four points … Through the first eleven races of the season, there have been six race winners: Busch, with a series-leading three victories … Harvick, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin … There were three drivers in the field who consider Kansas Speedway their “home track” and none cracked the top ten Saturday night. Edwards (Columbia, Missouri) finished eleventh, Clint Bowyer (Emporia, Kansas) ran nineteenth and Jamie McMurray (Joplin, Missouri) placed twenty-first.
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