Denny Hamlin(11) punched his ticket to NASCAR’s Playoffs, with his win at New Hampshire. Martin Truex Jr.(78) picked up where he left off at Kentucky. Winning Stage One in dominant fashion. Hamlin’s teammate Kyle Busch(18) won Stage Two. But when it meant the most Hamlin drove to the lead and held off a late charge by Kyle Larson(42). Giving Joe Gibbs Racing their first win of the season in the Overton’s 301. Larson finished second after starting last on the field. Just as he did in last week’s Quaker State 400.
Hamlin’s win was even more impressive considering he wrecked his primary car in practice. Then had to pull out the backup car and qualify without any laps on it. His first win of 2017 added one more name to the playoff roster. It also cut one of the spots that driver’s without a win were hoping to earn based on points. Bad news for Joey Logano(22) he suffered a rear suspension failure and spent 33 laps in the garage as his crew repaired the car. Logano finished 37th, falling further behind the final available playoff position. In addition, NASCAR confiscated a part of the rear suspension from his car.
A few more interesting facts from the Overton’s 301
Kyle Larson(42) won the pole and then failed inspection. The penalty, starting at the rear of the field for the second week in a row. Last week at Kentucky, Larson’s car did not make it through inspection in time to make a qualifying run. He finished second to Martin Truex Jr. He said at the time he was proud of his team pushing things to the limit to give him any advantage they could.
After Kentucky, Larson’s car was found to have a non-standard rear brake cooling assembly. He was penalized 35 championship points costing him the slim lead he held over Truex. Larson’s crew chief, Chad Johnston, was fined $75,000 and suspended three races.
With Larson moved to the last starting position, Truex took the pole. With Jimmie Johnson(48) starting on the outside of the front row. Johson jumped the start, beating Truex across the line taking the green. He was slapped with a stop and go penalty in the pits.
Truex finished third, Matt Kenseth(20) fourth and the Ford of Kevin Harvick(4) took fifth.
Fords Never Contend for the Win
Even though Clint Bowyer(14), Kurt Busch(41), and Brad Keselowski(2) finished seventh, eighth, and ninth. A Ford driver never led a lap of the Overton 301. Danica Patrick(10) posted a nice finish in 13th. One spot ahead of boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) who came in 14th. Ryan Blaney(21) took 19th in the Wood Brothers Ford with the Fusion of Trevor Bayne(6) coming in 20th. Aric Almirola(43) who has sat out since injuring his back during a vicious wreck at Kansas. Was back behind the wheel for Richard Petty Motorsports Fusion finishing 24th.
Truex’s Stage win and third place finish stretched his lead over Larson to 38 points. Five Fords locked in spots with victories. Harvick, Keselowski, Blaney, Busch, and Stenhouse. With 11 spots filled by winners. Only five spots remain open for non-winners to qualify on points. Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott(24), Jamie McMurray(1), Bowyer, and Kenseth hold those spots. Logano sits 17th with his encumbered win at Richmond not counting for an automatic spot. He is 54 points behind Kenseth. With just seven races left it looks like Logano may need an official win to make it in.
Next week it’s the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 from Indianapolis Motor Speedway.