Ham­lin ends the JGR vic­tory drought

The Washington Post - - SPORTS - BY DAN GELSTON

loudon, n.h. — Denny Ham­lin held off Kyle Lar­son over the fi­nal laps Sunday af­ter­noon at New Hamp­shire Mo­tor Speed­way and sent Joe Gibbs Racing to Vic­tory Lane for the first time this sea­son.

One of the top or­ga­ni­za­tions 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 hard-charg­ing Lar­son on the fi­nal 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 back 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.

Sea­son points leader Martin Truex Jr. was third, fol­lowed by Matt Kenseth and Kevin Har­vick.

JGR won seven of the first 12 races last sea­son, and Carl Ed­wards was 10 laps away from a pos­si­ble sea­son 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 just couldn’t find the win­ning for­mula un­til New Hamp­shire.

“It’s not from a lack of try­ing,” Ham­lin said.

JGR also an­nounced this week that Erik Jones would re­place two-time Day­tona 500 cham­pion Kenseth in the No. 20 next sea­son. With Ham­lin send­ing the crowd into a frenzy by burn­ing the tires down, Sunday was sim­ply a rea­son for the team to cel­e­brate.

Lar­son was sec­ond and nearly caught Ham­lin — af­ter a try­ing week where NASCAR caught Lar­son’s Chip Ganassi team try­ing to tin­ker a bit too much out­side the rule book on the No. 42 Chevro­let.

Lar­son’s team was pe­nal­ized 35 points this week, eras­ing what had been a one-point ad­van­tage over Truex in the driver stand­ings. Truex, who led 137 laps, leads the stand­ings by 38 points over Lar­son.

Lar­son’s pole-win­ning time was dis­al­lowed be­cause of an un­ap­proved rear deck fin lid.

“NASCAR’s kept a closer eye on our team, in par­tic­u­lar,” Lar­son said. “Had to go to the back. I don’t think that re­ally af­fected us, which I think is a good thing. The lit­tle stuff we got in trou­ble for so far hasn’t af­fected our per­for­mance. We’ve got to keep work­ing hard on the ar­eas on our race car that are le­gal and find more speed that way.”

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