HAMLIN WINS AT NEW HAMPSHIRE
By Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter
LOUDON, N.H.--Denny Hamlin is back in victory lane after 28 winless races. He won Sunday's 301-lap Cup Series race by less than 100 feet over Kyle Larson.
After a restart on 268 Hamlin pushed his No. 11 Toyota to the front of the pack. Kyle Larson moved into second ahead of Matt Kenseth, and had Hamlin in his sights. By lap 290, he was about 200 feet behind the leader. Five laps later, he had cut the distance to 100 feet. With two to go, it looked like Larsen might be able to gain his third victory of the year, but he was never able to challenge Hamlin, and had to settle for the runner-up spot.
Yes, I knew Kyle was coming, but we had a fast car and I don't think there was anyway that he could have gotten by me before the end of the race, said Hamlin. It's been a long time since our last win and I wasn't going to leave anything on the track. We hung it all out today.
It's been a long time, but we're getting better and better. The Chase is coming and we've got to get going.
While second would have been great for many of the drivers, it wasn't for Larsen. He had actually qualified first, but his car failed a post-qualifying inspection and he had to start the race from the last position.
I gave it my best shot there at the end, said Larsen. I could gain on him in the corners, but he had a rocket on the straightaways.
Martin Truex Jr., winner of last week's race started on the pole, led the most laps (137), and finished third.
I wish I could take that last restart back, said Truex. It wasn't one of my best. We ran a good race, but there at the end, I don't think we had the winning car.
Matt Kenseth was fourth, followed by Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Jimmie Johnson.
Truex was the winner of Stage One, while Kyle Busch took Stage Two.
Kyle Busch started the race from the seventh spot, led 95 laps but wound up 12th. While he ran up front for much of the early laps, he was probably the race's biggest loser. He was hit with two pit road speeding penalties. Both of them were for entering pit road too fast, and each time he had to come back down pit road at the legal speed limit. The first occurred on lap 201, and he was able to work his way back to the front. The second one came on lap 262, and it put him back in 22nd position, too far back with 39 laps left to reach the leaders.
It's racing, said Busch. What can I say? We all get in a hurry sometimes and don't realize how fast we're going. It's one of those things. I hate it for my guys, because they gave me a good car.
Joey Logano was one of the first drivers out of the race. His No. 22 Ford had a mechanical failure, leaving him with a 37th-place finish. The poor finish dropped him to 13th in points.
Erik Jones, who will take over the No. 20 Joe Gibbs car next season was the first car out after a cut tire caused him to hit the outside wall.
The race was red-flagged for 25-minutes while speedway officials patched a hole in the asphalt track.
Top-10 leaders after 19 of 36: 1. Truex-758, 2. Larson-720, 3. Kyle Busch-650, 4. Harvick-639, 5. Hamlin-589, 6. Elliott-587, 7. McMurray-577, 8. Keselowski-564, 9. Johnson-552, 10. Bowyer-526.
Results of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race held Sat., July 15 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: 1. Kyle Busch, 2. Ryan Preece, 3. William Byron, 4. Kyle Larson, 5. Brad Keselowski, 6. Ben Kennedy, 7. Elliott Sadler, 8. Ty Dillon, 9. Cole Custer, 10. Brennan Poole.
Top-10 leaders after 17 of 33: 1. Sadler-620, 2. Byron-575, 3. Allgaier-530, 4. B. Poole-428, 5. Hemric-421, 6. Custer-396, 7. Tifft-387, 8. Reed-377, 9. Annett-355, 10. Armstrong-351.
SCHRADER IS BACK ON THE TRACK
During a recent interview, racing legend Ken Schrader mentioned that he'd like to run the 5th annual NASCAR Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway. Schrader has participated in the summer classic each year since its inception. Eldora is the only dirt race scheduled among NASCAR top-tier series.
Almost immediately, his phone was ringing with offers from several truck teams. A call from Jeff Bolen, owner of the No. 66 Chevrolet Silverado and Bolen Motorsports, was the ideal call. Schrader will race with crew chief Paul Clapprood making the calls from the pit box. Eldora marks the first race in which Schrader and Clapprood will work together. When it comes to dirt and putting a driver behind the wheel with experience, you can't beat this opportunity with Schrader, said Clapprood.
Schrader's stats at Eldora Speedway includes running all eight years of The Prelude to the Dream race in which he has five top-10 finishes; two USAC midget victories; a USAC Silver Crown victory and three UMP modified wins. Schrader also holds the track record for his 2013 Pole position in the NCWTS.
We are thrilled to be running Eldora again this season, Schrader said. It is truly a classic event and I enjoy every aspect of the race - the fans' excitement, the level of competition and the fun of running at this iconic track. Driving the Bolen Motorsports Silverado will be a blast. As a track owner myself, I see and appreciate what Tony Stewart and his team have done to create such a Midsummer Classic!
Meanwhile, Aric Almirola, the driver of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford , who suffered a fracture to his T5 Vertebra after a multi-car accident at Kansas Speedway in May, returned to racing this past weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The injury, which has a standard healing time of eight to 12 weeks, took eight weeks for Almirola to recover. Throughout the recovery process, Almirola did physical therapy, swam and tested in a simulation and on track environment. A test yesterday at Charlotte Motor Speedway was the final step in a multi-step process to return.
It felt great to be back in the race car, said Almirola. After racing in the Cup Series for five and a half years, it got to be routine, and I took it for granted. When something gets taken away from you at a moment's notice like that, it has certainly made me appreciate my passion for racing and my desire to compete at this level. The thrill of running 200 miles per hour in a stock car was something that I had honestly lost a little bit. After being out of the car for eight weeks, the passion is back, now more than ever.
There had been talk in recent weeks that Dodge might return to NASCAR, but last week at New Hampshire, Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said it wouldn't happen.
A return to the sport showed that it would be too complex and, more importantly, too expensive. Part of the problem would be finding a team with top-tier engine-building capability-and there just aren't many choices now that the Cup series has consolidated engine-building among a handful of teams (Or in Toyota's case, the company itself). Dodge would prefer to supply the engine specifications and have the engines built by the team, like they were at Penske. But there are minimal options.
The company still supports the National Hot Rod Association, where Dodge- and Mopar-backed teams are doing well in Funny Car and Top Fuel.
Weekend Racing: The Truck Series will have a Wednesday night race on the dirt at Eldora Speedway, while the Cup and Xfinity teams are at the 2.5-mile Brickyard in Indianapolis.
Wed., July 19; Truck Series race 11 of 23; Starting time: 9 pm ET; TV: FoxSports1.
Sat., July 22; Xfinity Series race 18 of 33; Starting time: 3:30 pm ET; TV: NBCSN.
Sun., July 23; Cup Series race 20 of 36; Starting time: 3 pm ET; TV: NBC.
Racing Trivia Question: How many drivers will be eligible for the start of the 10-race Chase for the Championship?
Last Week's Question: Where is Matt Kenseth's hometown? Answer. It is Cambridge, Wisconsin.
Gerald Hodges is a syndicated NASCAR writer and author. You may contact him by e-mail at: email@example.com.