Hamlin Gets His First Win of 2017 at New Hampshire

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LOUDON, NH – RIS – Denny Hamlin punched his ticket to the playoff by winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Overton's 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday.  It was the first win for Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing in 2017.  It was Hamlin’s third win at NHMS and the first win of any kind for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2017.

"It's great.  It was definitely a team effort," Hamlin said. "This is a -- I put us behind on Friday with the backup car getting in a wreck, but this -- I really wish we would race that car that was in the hauler, but this one, they did a great job getting it as close as they could working on the balance, getting it good yesterday and team effort. This is a total team effort all around."

Kyle Larson closed on Hamlin in the closing laps but was unable to catch him. Martin Truex Jr. finished third, Matt Kenseth was fourth and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five.

Hamlin took his first lead of the race by getting off pit road first during a caution at the start of stage three and the second half of the race. Previous race dominators Truex and Kyle Busch waged a three-wide battle with Hamlin for the lead for several laps before Truex took the top spot.

Truex gave up the lead to pit with a flat right-front tire on lap 218 of the 301-lap race, but others followed suit, kicking off a cycle of green-flag pit stops. Busch inherited the lead with Truex pitted, but Busch was nabbed for speeding on pit road when he made his stop. Truex reclaimed the lead at the end of the cycle.

At lap 262, the yellow flag flew.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. restarted with the lead after staying out, with Kenseth alongside in second with two new tires. Truex and Hamlin restarted in the second row, each with four new tires.

Kenseth, and later Hamlin, took the lead, but Truex dropped back several positions on the restart. Larson eventually got up to second and Truex to third, as Hamlin continued to lead late in the race.

After starting on the pole, Truex led the entire first 75 laps of the race and claimed his 14th stage win of the season. He gave up the lead, though, to pit during the caution between stages and, as a result, restarted 24th due to varying pit strategies.

In addition to the traditional caution between the first two stages, the red flag was displayed for track repair, specifically for the patching of a four-by-eight-inch hole in the track.

Most of the race field pitted when the yellow flag waved on lap 68 for a Cole Whitt blown engine. Truex and a few other front-runners, including Kenseth, Larson and Jamie McMurray, stayed out. Busch was the first off pit road among drivers who pitted and restarted in the back of the top 10.

Truex, Kenseth, Larson and McMurray maintained their positions for the two green-flag laps that remained in the opening stage, but they pitted when the stage ended. Those who pitted during the lap 38 caution stayed out, and Busch and Ryan Blaney restarted on the front row.

Larson was outside the top 20 again for the start of stage two because of his end-of-stage-one pit strategy. He had already raced from the back of the front, starting the race in the back and getting up to seventh by a lap 35 caution. He was up to fourth by lap 50.

"It's a little frustrating what we have had to go through the last couple of weeks, but it's pretty awesome to be able to run as fast as we have and finish second the last two weeks from dead last," Larson said.

"I'm proud of our team, proud of everybody at our race shop. I can't thank my sponsors Target, Credit One Bank, and all of our other supporters enough for what they do for our team. It's been a lot of fun these last couple of weeks to be as fast as we have been, so keep working hard at it and maybe we can get some more wins."

Jimmie Johnson fell to the back at the start of the race when he was penalized for jumping the start. Unlike Larson, he had trouble getting up through the field. Partly through his early race pit strategy, though, Johnson began the second stage in the fourth position.

"I guess I just got it wrong at the start," Johnson said. "I went off the flag and forgot that the pole-sitter has to be the first one to the stripe, so I'll take the responsibility on that one. And then we had an OK finish. We had decent short run speed. We would just fall off too hard. I really thought we were going to be in a position for a top five, but we ended up 10th."

By lap 100, Truex was back inside the top 10 and Larson inside the top 15.

Busch remained up front for the duration of the second stage, pulling away from the rest of the field to claim the stage two win, his fifth stage victory of the season. Truex was back inside the top 10 shortly after a lap 92 restart. He finished the second stage just outside the top five in sixth.

Hamlin, Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, was second at the end of stage two, followed by Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Harvick and Kurt Busch. Johnson was fifth.

While in victory lane, Hamlin had to hold a huge lobster, one of the "trophies" the winner of any race at NHMS wins.  Unfortunately, Hamlin has a fear of lobsters and can't even eat beside someone who is eating one of the sea creatues.  He held it for a short time and handed it off to someone else on the podium.  Hi crew had fun chasing him with it.  "I'd just as soon they threw it back in the ocean and let it live," Hamlin said.

Next week, the MENC teams head for Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Brickyard 400 on July 23rd.

 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Number 19
Unofficial Race Results for the 25Th Annual Overton's 301 - Sunday, July 16, 2017
New Hampshire Motor Speedway - Loudon, NH - 1.058 Mile Paved
Total Race Length - 301 Laps - 318.458 Miles

Fin Str Car Driver Team Laps Stage 1 Pos Stage 2 Pos Pts Status Tms Laps Playoff Pts
1 8 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Office Toyota 301 9 2 51 Running 2 54 5
2 39 42 Kyle Larson Target Chevrolet 301 3 9 45 Running 1 1
3 1 78 Martin Truex Jr. WIX Filters Toyota 301 1 6 49 Running 3 137 1
4 3 20 Matt Kenseth DEWALT Flexvolt Toyota 301 2 7 46 Running 2 4
5 12 4 Kevin Harvick Busch Beer Ford 301 3 40 Running
6 14 19 Daniel Suarez # ARRIS Toyota 301 31 Running
7 19 14 Clint Bowyer Nature's Bakery/Feeding America Ford 301 10 31 Running
8 9 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford 301 4 36 Running
9 10 2 Brad Keselowski Wurth Ford 301 28 Running
10 2 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet 301 5 33 Running
11 11 24 Chase Elliott NAPA Chevrolet 301 10 27 Running
12 7 18 Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota 301 5 1 41 Running 2 95 1
13 30 10 Danica Patrick Aspen Dental Ford 301 24 Running
14 17 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fastenal Ford 301 23 Running
15 26 3 Austin Dillon Dow Chevrolet 301 22 Running
16 25 13 Ty Dillon # GEICO Chevrolet 301 21 Running
17 4 1 Jamie McMurray GearWrench Chevrolet 301 4 27 Running
18 18 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Nationwide Chevrolet 301 19 Running 2 10
19 15 21 Ryan Blaney Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 301 8 8 24 Running
20 27 6 Trevor Bayne Performance Plus Motor Oil Ford 301 17 Running
21 23 47 AJ Allmendinger Kroger ClickList Chevrolet 301 16 Running
22 29 27 Paul Menard Sylvania/Menards Chevrolet 301 15 Running
23 28 34 Landon Cassill MDS Transport Ford 301 14 Running
24 21 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 301 13 Running
25 22 37 Chris Buescher Liberty Tax Service Chevrolet 300 12 Running
26 20 95 Michael McDowell WRL General Contractors Chevrolet 300 11 Running
27 24 31 Ryan Newman Grainger Chevrolet 300 7 14 Running
28 5 5 Kasey Kahne Farmers Insurance Chevrolet 300 6 14 Running
29 32 38 David Ragan Overton's Ford 300 8 Running
30 16 32 Matt DiBenedetto Weirs Motor Sales Inc. Ford 299 7 Running
31 31 23 Corey LaJoie # Dr Pepper Toyota 298 6 Running
32 36 83 * Ryan Sieg(i) BK Racing Graphics Toyota 298 0 Running
33 37 33 Jeffrey Earnhardt Hulu Chevrolet 297 4 Running
34 35 15 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet 296 3 Running
35 34 55 * Gray Gaulding # #CHECKIT4ANDRETTI Toyota 295 2 Running
36 38 51 * Josh Bilicki(i) Prevagen Chevrolet 290 0 Running
37 13 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 269 1 Running
38 33 72 Cole Whitt Chevrolet 66 1 Engine
39 6 77 Erik Jones # 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota 40 1 Accident
Time of Race: 03 Hrs, 00 Mins, 36 Secs. Average Speed: 105.800 MPH Margin of Victory: 0.509 Seconds

Ron Fleshman

RIS NASCAR Editor.  Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.

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Volume 2017, Issue 7, Posted 11:31 PM, 07.16.2017