Eventful would be an understatement in describing the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Chase drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch had a lot on the line heading into this race, while Joey Logano continues his learning curve as a sophomore in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Read below to see how Hamlin, Busch, and Logano fared in the Sylvania 300:
Denny Hamlin: No. 11 FedEx Small Business Toyota (finished 11th)
Hamlin came into the race with the points lead and a season best six wins that beat out even four time and defending champion Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin’s runner-up finish in the Sylvania 300 to race winner Clint Bowyer didn’t come without its bumps in the road, though. Hamlin started the race in the 22ndposition and had to work through some heavy race traffic to get to the front, including a heated battle between his closest competitor in the standings in Johnson. By lap 90, Hamlin was in the top 10. He remained in the top 10 for over 100 more laps and was in the top five by lap 210. However, just a few laps later, contact with Carl Edwards sent the No. 11 Toyota spinning. Hamlin kept it off the wall though and was able to continue on in the race and stay on the lead lap. Hamlin was back in the top 10 by lap 240. After the final pitstop of the race, it became clear that fuel mileage was going to be an issue. Hamlin had enough to go the distance. His competitors did not. Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer, the dominant cars of the day, were dangerously short on fuel but were too far ahead of Hamlin for Hamlin to be able to run them down. They would have to run out of gas. Stewart did, but Bowyer didn’t. Hamlin finished right on the bumper of the No. 33 car and came home with a second place finish. Hamlin remained the points leader and has a 35 point lead over second place Bowyer.
“Yeah, our car was good,” said Hamlin. “We just fought restarts all day. It took us half the race or three quarters of the race, actually, to get up front to the two, three or four and then as soon as we got there, we got spun. So it was so frustrating on my part to have to battle back from 22nd there with 80 (laps) to go. And just Mike (Ford, crew chief) worked on the car and got it super fast there at the end. I was just trying to make those guys run as hard as I could, but it wasn’t enough.”
Kyle Busch: No. 18 M&M’s Toyota (finished 9th)
Busch wasn’t much of a factor during the race, struggling with the handling throughout and had fallen back to 13thby lap 135. However, Busch hardly ran outside the top 15 and maintained a fairly consistent position around ninth. Like Hamlin, though, Busch didn’t go through the race without incident. On lap 223, Busch’s brother Kurt spun in front of him and Busch moved down to avoid the crash. Unfortunately, Jimmie Johnson was there too and spun Busch around. He avoided contact with the wall or any other cars and was able to continue on in the race. Busch remained fourth in the standings after the race and is now 62 points out of the lead.
“Where do I begin, I don’t know,” said Busch. “I guess I’ll start with yesterday. I thought I was driving the car right and apparently I didn’t set the car up right. We were about two-tenths off yesterday and I thought it was just a factor of those guys getting more speed out of their cars. In essence it was off. We just didn’t get it setup right. It was mainly my fault. You know the guys fought hard and Dave (Rogers, crew chief) made some good calls. Any time that we got speed off the corner and then we missed it in the center of the corner — any time we got speed through the middle, we couldn’t get down the straightaways. We were battling back and forth with tight and loose. We just got what we could out of it today. Fortunately our bad day right now is ninth versus some other guys.”
Joey Logano: No. 20 Home Depot Toyota (finished 35th)
Logano’s day started out bad with a qualifying position of 31stand only running in the top 10 during green flag pitstops. Things went from bad to worse on lap 243 when Logano crashed after contact with Kurt Busch. Not too long after, Logano reported he had no gears and it was later determined he had a broken gear box. Logano fell one spot in the standings to 22ndand is now 285 points out of 13thplace.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to competition on Sunday, September 26th, for the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway. Jimmie Johnson is the defending champion of this event.