RICHMOND, Va. — Joe Gibbs Racing experienced a mixed bag of results in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Matt Kenseth kicked off the race weekend by taking pole position. He lead from the start to the 164th circuit, winning the first stage, before losing the lead to Brad Keselowski and finishing runner-up in the second stage.
With 38 laps to go, however, he and Chase Elliott made contact in Turn 1, leading to his right-rear tire going flat.
He came home 23rd.
Kyle Busch ran a more “under the radar” race until the final stage. He made his way towards the lead for a lap and hung around the top-five, but was busted for a commitment line violation under the final caution of the race.
He finished 16th.
Daniel Suarez, who started 11th and rallied from a three-lap deficit to finish 12th, described his race as “okay.”
“The first half of the race it was very tough,” Suarez said. “In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, it’s just so difficult. You get behind one or two adjustments and then you get a lap down or two laps down and it’s very difficult to recover that. Luckily we got a lot of cautions right there at the end and I was able to overcome those laps down that I was down. Very proud of the team. They never give up. They were working hard on the race to try to make it better. I just feel like we have to work hard in the first third – first half – of the race to try to stay with the rest of the guys.”
Denny Hamlin was the highlight of the mixed bag.
He put himself in position with finishes of fifth in the first stage and fourth in the second. He first took the lead briefly under the second stage caution break, but lost it to Keselowski on lap 228. He regained it under the fifth caution with 150 to go, thanks to exiting pit road first, and held it until he was edged out at the line by Keselowski with 113 to go.
Hamlin took the lead for the final time under the seventh caution and was passed by Keselowski on the restart with 39 to go.
He brought his car home to a third-place finish.
“We were competitive and our car drove really good,” Hamlin said. “We were just missing some of the speed from the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 22 (Joey Logano) – they run a little more sideways than what we run and just they have more grip. I think we optimized our day for the most part and that’s about as good as we could do.”