Hamlin edges Larson, field
LOUDON, N.H. — Denny Hamlin held off Kyle Larson over the final laps Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to send Joe Gibbs Racing to victory lane for the first time this season.
One of the top organizations in NASCAR, JGR had yet to have any of its four drivers win until Hamlin took the lead with 33 laps left and held off the hard-charging Larson on the final lap.
Hamlin needed his 30th career Cup victory to secure a berth in NASCAR’s version of the postseason and end a winless streak that stretched to last September at Richmond.
“Definitely needed a win for the organization, for myself,” Hamlin said.
Larson had a sensational run from the rear of the field, where he was forced to start because he failed inspection after he won the pole. Larson lost his points lead last week and his crew chief was suspended after failing a post-race inspection at Kentucky.
Hamlin crashed the No. 11 Toyota in practice and was forced to race in a backup car. It seemed to suit him just fine at New Hampshire.
Martin Truex Jr., was third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick.
JGR won seven of the first 12 races last season and Carl Edwards was 10 laps away from a possible championship when he crashed out in the finale. Daniel Suarez replaced Edwards this season and Hamlin, Kenseth and Kyle Busch have made strong runs at the checkered flag, they just couldn’t find the winning formula until New Hampshire.
“It’s not from a lack of trying,” Hamlin said.
JGR also announced this week that Erik Jones would replace two-time Daytona 500 champion Kenseth in the No. 20 next season. With Hamlin sending the crowd into a frenzy by burning the tires down, Sunday was simply a reason for the organization to celebrate.
Hamlin scampered away from the lobster traditionally awarded to the winner in victory lane.
Larson was second and nearly caught Hamlin — after a trying week where NASCAR caught Larson’s Chip Ganassi team trying to tinker a bit too much outside the rule book on the No. 42 Chevrolet.
Larson’s team was penalized 35 points this week, erasing what had been a one-point advantage over Truex in the driver standings. Truex, who led 137 laps, leads the standings by 38 points over Larson.
Larson’s pole-winning time was disallowed because of an unapproved rear deck fin lid.
“NASCAR’s kept a closer eye on our team, in particular,” Larson said. “Had to go to the back. I don’t think that really affected us which I think is a good thing. The little stuff we got in trouble for so far hasn’t affected our performance. We’ve got to keep working hard on the areas on our race car that are legal and find more speed that way.”
Here are other items of note from New Hampshire:
n Josef Newgarden raced to his second Toronto IndyCar title in three years Sunday, dominating on the streets surrounding Exhibition Place.
Newgarden came out in front on Lap 25 after a crash by Tony Kanaan caused a caution and maintained an advantage of over two seconds for the majority of the rest of the race. The American has five career victories, also winning in Alabama in April.
Newgarden gave Team Penske its 193rd victory, the most of any team.
n Lewis Hamilton slashed Sebastian Vettel’s Formula One championship lead to one point by winning a record-equaling fifth British Grand Prix on Sunday as his title rival was left reeling by a late puncture.
Vettel was in third heading into the penultimate lap at Silverstone only to see his front left tire shred — immediately after Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen’s car experienced the same fate.