Monday, July 16, 2012

Flawless Strategy Helps Kahne to New Hampshire Win

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR

A 301-lap contest, the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 could be a refreshing return to near normality in NASCAR Sprint Cup after the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The New Hampshire Motor Speedway race was as much won by a member of the Hendrick Motorsports as it was lost by two Joe Gibbs Racing competitors.

Starting from pole, Kyle Busch and the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry had the early advantage on the field. Aided by caution-free racing from the outset of the LENOX Industrial Tools 301, Busch led the first 66 laps around the 1.058-mile oval. In total, there were only 3 brief yellow flags caused two times for debris and a third time for the blown engine of the #10 Chevrolet piloted by David Reutimann.

Finishing in the top-10 in only one of the past six events on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, Kyle Busch pitted on lap 67 to attention of his equally-starved #18 Joe Gibbs Racing team. Coming off the race track, Busch saw his potentially positive run erased by NASCAR's pit road speed monitoring system. In a pit stop that would later be complicated by an issue with the right rear tire change, the #18 Toyota was measured going too quickly entering his pit stall. Kyle Busch would have to return to pit road to serve a drive-through penalty costing him important track position. Looking for a victory or at least a solid top finish at the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 to remedy the mid-season slump, Kyle Busch would be unable to effectively regain the ground lost and ultimately settling for a 16th place result. 

"We have good racecars every week, and our Interstate Batteries Camry was good again this week, and things just haven’t been falling our way." said Kyle Busch on his official website post-race release. "We got behind early with some pit road issues but made it up with some smart calls. At the end, we pitted, and one lap later the caution comes out, and we were never able to make it back up since track position is so important here.”

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR

With the Kyle Busch's penalty opening up the race to another leader, teammate Denny Hamlin would assert himself at lap 72. Hamlin's #11 FedEx Toyota controlled much of the mid-portion of the 301-lap event. While the Joe Gibbs Racing owned vehicle was sailing in front of the field at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the Hendrick Motorsports four-car team were united. Occupying 2nd through 5th after one-third distance, the Chevrolet Impalas of Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr were able to maintain a close race pace with Denny Hamlin but were unable to reel-in the #11 Toyota.

Leading a race-high 150 laps at the LENOX Industrial Tools 301, Denny Hamlin would also be bitten by the plague of pit road to ruined teammate Kyle Busch's New Hampshire race. A pit stop under caution condition during lap 235 provided all the leaders including Hamlin with a chance to take a final fill-up of fuel. The option for changing tires had most of the lead cars planning for two right side Goodyear slicks during their fuel stop. However, in the #11 car's pit stall, a more time-consuming four-tire stop was carried out on Denny Hamlin's Toyota costing the team the lead of the race. The four-tire stop became an even more frustrating ordeal when it appeared to be a results of a miscommunication between the Joe Gibbs driver and his crew chief Darian Grubb.

With the lead of the race turned over to the #5 Chevrolet of Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin used his four Goodyear tires to overhaul his way through the top-10 and later into the top-5. The #11 Toyota entered 4th place on lap 263 and soon captured the runner-up position. As Kahne fought through lapped traffic, Hamlin cracked to within a second of the #5 Chevrolet in the closing distance. Into the last couple of laps, Denny Hamlin began pushing his #11 FedEx Toyota to its limits with still much ground to make up on Kasey Kahne. On the second-to-last lap, Hamlin overran the turn 3-4 complex of New Hampshire Motor Speedway in his valiant attempt to challenge for victory. Fending off the fight from Denny Hamlin late, the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 belonged to Kasey Kahne.

Winning his second race for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, Kahne was relieved to so promptly repeat his success first obtained at the Coca-Cola 600 for the #5 car. "It was a good race. Started out fast right at the start just racing with Kyle and Denny. Track position was pretty big. Denny was really tough throughout the whole race. When we got two tires there at the end, put us first, I was feeling really good about where we were at." said the winning Hendrick Motorsports driver. Kahne added, "I slid around for the first 10 laps, then I knew I needed to get as big of a lead as I could because I knew Denny would be coming at some point. I tried to get away. We ended up winning. It was great." 

Photo Credit: Hendrick Motorsports

Finishing 2nd after a hard-charging effort, Denny Hamlin finished 2.738 seconds behind Kahne at the end of the LENOX Industrial Tools 301. Hamlin finished in front of another Toyota Camry, the #15 belonging to Michael Waltrip Racing piloted by Clint Bowyer to third. Dale Earnhardt Jr inserted the #88 Chevrolet into a noble 4th place effort as a second top-5 for the Hendrick Motorsports team at New Hampshire. Coming from 22nd place in his #2 Dodge for Penske Racing, Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-5.

With current 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standing leader Matt Kenseth finishing in 13th place, second-place trailing Dale Earnhardt Jr has closed to within 16 marker to the lead after the 301-lap event.

Receiving a much-appreciated week off, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and teams will return to action on July 29th when they compete at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400 race.

2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup
LENOX Industrial Tools 301
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Race Results

Pos # Car # Driver Sponsor/ Car Maker
1 5 Kasey Kahne Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
2 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Freight Toyota
3 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hour Energy Toyota
4 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard / Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
5 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
6 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet
7 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet
8 29 Kevin Harvick Rheem Chevrolet
9 16 Greg Biffle 3M / WB Mason / Post-it Ford
10 39 Ryan Newman ARMY ROTC Chevrolet
11 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
12 14 Tony Stewart MOBIL 1 / Office Depot Chevrolet
13 17 Matt Kenseth NESN Ford
14 20 Joey Logano The Home Depot Toyota
15 55 Brian Vickers / Aaron's Toyota
16 18 Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota
17 27 Paul Menard Menards / Duracell Chevrolet
18 99 Carl Edwards Fastenal / LENOX Ford
19 9 Marcos Ambrose DeWalt Ford
20 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops / Allstate Chevrolet
21 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
22 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Shell Pennzoil / AAA Dodge
23 47 Bobby Labonte Luke & Associates Toyota
24 51 Kurt Busch Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet
25 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Degree Chevrolet
26 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row / Farm American Chevrolet
27 38 David Gilliland Taco Bell Ford
28 43 Aric Almirola Medallion Financial Ford
29 83 Landon Cassill Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota
30 93 Travis Kvapil Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota
31 32 Ken Schrader Federated Auto Parts Ford
32 33 Stephen Leicht Chevrolet
33 10 David Reutimann Mohawk Northeast Chevrolet
34 34 David Ragan Front Row Motorsports Ford
35 30 David Stremme Inception Motorsports Toyota
36 13 Casey Mears GEICO Ford
37 26 Josh Wise MDS Transport Ford
38 87 Joe Nemechek AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota
39 36 Dave Blaney Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
40 98 Michael McDowell Phil Parsons Racing Ford
41 23 Scott Riggs North Texas Pipe Chevrolet
42 79 Kelly Bires Team Kyle / Bestway Disposal Ford
43 49 JJ Yeley Robinson-Blakeney Racing Toyota

No comments:

Post a Comment