Joe Gibbs Racing finds Victory Lane
Hamlin wins at New Hampshire; FRR’s Truex finishes third
LOUDON, N.H.» Denny Hamlin held off Kyle Larson over the final laps Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to send Joe Gibbs Racing to Victory Lane for the first time this year.
One of the top teams in NASCAR, JGR had yet to have any of its four drivers win until Hamlin took the lead with 33 laps left and held off the hardcharging Larson on the last lap.
Hamlin needed his 30th career Cup victory to secure a berth in NASCAR’s version of the postseason and end a winless streak that stretched to last September at Richmond.
“Definitely needed a win for the organization, for myself,” Hamlin said.
Larson had a sensational run from the rear of the field, where he was forced to start because he failed inspection after he won the pole. Larson lost his points lead last week and his crew chief was suspended after failing a postrace inspection at Kentucky.
Hamlin crashed the No. 11 Toyota in practice and was forced to race in a backup car. It seemed to suit him just fine at New Hampshire.
Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was third Sunday, followed by Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick.
JGR won seven of the first 12 races last season and Carl Edwards was 10 laps from a possible championship when he crashed out in the finale. Daniel Suarez replaced Edwards this season and Hamlin, Kenseth and Kyle Busch have made strong runs at the checkered flag, but they couldn’t find the winning formula until New Hampshire.
“It’s not from a lack of trying,” said Hamlin, who then scampered away from the lobster traditionally awarded to the winner in Victory Lane.
Larson’s team was penalized 35 points last week, erasing what had been a one-point advantage over Truex in the driver standings. Truex, who led 137 laps Sunday, leads the standings by 38 points over Larson.