Joe Gibbs Racing finally broke their 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winless streak as Denny Hamlin won the Overton’s 301 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It was Hamlin’s first Cup Series win in 28 races. Truex started on the pole, and would go on to win Stage one, but the race belonged to Hamlin who was driving a back-up car after he crashed his primary car in practices during the weekend. Team mate Kyle Busch also had a great run, however he would only end up finishing 12th– officially declaring Busch win-free for a whole year. Perhaps this Joe Gibbs Racing success would be an insight of things to come for the team.
Running away from Mondays like… ? pic.twitter.com/OKImNxdPwL
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 17, 2017
Johnson and Truex Jr were on the front row for the start of this race, but it was Truex and Kenseth who got out ahead. Johnson, meanwhile, had a penalty issued due to a start violation when he beat Truex to the line. He was confused but still obliged and headed to the rear. Lap 35 saw the competition caution come out and most of the drivers made a strategy call to head down pit lane. It was a quick stop and Truex took off again from the restart. Jones then brought out the caution after his front left tyre blew–this was after some contact on pit road when he, Kahne and Elliott went three-wide. Jones then lost it out on the track, and his day was over.
LF tire went down, causing @erik_jones to slam the outside wall.
Damage stemmed from contact on pit road. pic.twitter.com/c7IPeQX6eI
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 16, 2017
Truex led the restart once again, but this time he was leading ahead of Kyle Busch who’d done very well on the restart in true Busch style. Lap 68 brought another caution for Whitt who went straight to the garage. With only 8 laps left in this stage, some decisions were going to have to be made about whether to pit now, or in 8 laps time. Busch pitted from second–giving up the chance to earn points from Stage one–as did teammate Hamlin. There were two laps to go when the green flag came out and Truex led and continued to do so until he was declared the winner of Stage one in his 14th Stage win this year.
After some repair to the track during the end of Stage caution, Busch and Blaney were on the front row for the start of Stage two, and it was Busch who got the best run from the inside as he went on to lead. Austin Dillon then brought out the caution on lap 89 after he span out. Fortunately this was a one-car wreck. Busch once again led the restart from the outside line and got a great jump ahead of Harvick. The rest of the stage passed without incident under green flag conditions, and Busch won the Stage after his early pit strategy paid off, followed by teammate Hamlin.
The start of Stage three saw Hamlin shoot ahead in the outside line before Harvick and Truex made it three-wide in an epic battle for first. Despite his fierce competitors, Hamlin clung onto first and Busch made his way up from fourth, to second. Joe Gibbs Racing were finally flexing their muscles and dominating. Truex took the lead on lap 196 and Hamlin dropped back to third behind Busch. On lap 219, Truex gave up first to head to pit road with a flat tyre and began the rounds of green flag racing. Busch and Hamlin now led the race. After his pit stop, Busch received a penalty for speeding on pit road. This would cost him the race win.
Truex continued his lead until there were 41 laps to go and another Gibbs driver – Kenseth – took the lead. Simultaneously though, a caution came out for Newman who got hit in the left rear and slid up the track backwards, narrowly missing the wall. All leaders came to pit road and Busch sped once again on pit road, earning him another penalty. Kenseth led the restart and Hamlin started applying pressure to his team mate, wanting that top spot and he succeeded with 34 laps to go. Despite Larson looking like a huge threat to Hamlin, it wasn’t meant to be for the No. 42 driver and it was Hamlin who headed to Victory Lane.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 18, 2017
It has been a tough season for the Joe Gibbs drivers, and this victory may just be the bolster that they all need to carry on succeeding and racking up some wins before the playoffs begin. As a team, they have put in an extraordinary amount of work and determination to fine-tune the new style of Toyota Camry cars so that they can consistently run well and earn precious points. Fans of Joe Gibbs Racing and their drivers will undoubtedly be very relieved that Joe Gibbs have had their first win this season, and will be hoping that this will continue in the weeks to come. Not only that, but Hamlin celebrated with an absolutely epic burnout, and we definitely want to see more of those.
We still can’t get enough of @DennyHamlin‘s wicked burnout.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 17, 2017