Denny Hamlin Holds Off Kyle Larson At New Hampshire For First Cup Series Win Of 2017by Hunter Thomas July 16, 2017
LOUDON, N.H. – Denny Hamlin captured his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season on Sunday after he held off a hard charging Kyle Larson in the final laps of the Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
As the laps wound down at the Magic Mile on Sunday, Larson inched ever so closer to Hamlin, who led the final 34 laps. The two drivers maneuvered through lapped traffic, and in the end, Larson just couldn’t catch Hamlin in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota.
Hamlin said, “Yeah, they’ve (Kyle Larson and the No. 42 team) just been so fast this year and we honestly haven’t been able to keep up and so for us to be able to get the lead there, stretch it out – I knew it was going to be important for me to stretch out the lead as far as I could, that way I could pace myself at the end of the race and it was just enough.”
With the victory, Hamlin becomes the 12th different winner of the season. Hamlin also becomes the first driver in the Joe Gibbs Racing organization to win a Cup Series race this year, and he did so in a backup car after he crashed in Friday’s practice.
“Yeah, just it’s a great feeling,” Hamlin said. “I know we’ve been getting better and better as the year goes on, but definitely needed a win for the organization and for myself and just kind of get some momentum going with the playoffs are coming up, so we’ve got to get going. Really this is awesome.”
Second-place finisher, Kyle Larson, crossed the finish line just .509 seconds behind Hamlin on Sunday, but he did have a solid performance. The driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Target Chevrolet earned his 12th top-10 finish of the season, and he now trails point leader, Martin Truex Jr. by 38 points in the standings.
Following his second-place finish, Larson said, “I was catching him (Denny Hamlin) a couple tenths of a lap there, and then it seemed like when I got kind of close there, I don’t know, within four or five car lengths at the end, my lap times kind of evened off a little bit with him, I started getting too tight on exit, and I couldn’t carry the speed on exit like I needed to. I’d gain a lot on him on entry, but I couldn’t keep the power down and keep the front turning on exit there that last run. Finished second, but another hard‑fought race.”
As for Martin Truex Jr., he finished third in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 WIX Filters Toyota. Truex Jr. won Stage 1, his 14th stage win of 2017. Throughout the afternoon, he led a race high of 137 laps and rebounded from a flat tire under green flag conditions to capture the top-three finish.
“Yeah, you know, we had a really good WIX Filters Toyota for most of the race and led a bunch of laps and then got that flat tire, kind of got off sequence,” Truex Jr. said. “You know, whatever happened there after lap 200 or so I think the VHT was kind of wore off the track and we started to lose our edge a little bit there. We still had a shot, but on the last restart we got the inside lane there, restarted third. It wasn’t the place to be, obviously. I think the 11 (Denny Hamlin) started fourth and that was really the place I would have liked to have been.”
Matt Kenseth finished fourth, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five. Daniel Suarez finished sixth, followed by Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson, who rebounded from a start violation at the beginning of the 301-lap race.
Six drivers exchanged the lead on 11 occasions. While Truex Jr. dominated during the race, so did Kyle Busch, who led 95 laps. Busch looked as if he was the driver others would have to challenge for the victory; however, Busch was penalized twice for speeding on pit road. He overcame the penalty issued on lap 238 as he cracked the top-10, but the second speeding ticket on lap 263 took him completely out of the picture for a win. Busch finished 12th.
“Our Interstate Batteries Toyota was fast today,” Busch said. “I messed up a couple of times with getting the speeding penalties, and it pretty much cost us a chance for the win today. It’s disappointing, but we’ll look forward to getting to Indianapolis next week.”
The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series will visit Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 23 for the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400. NBC will broadcast the prestigious event live at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images