New Hampshire Rear-View Mirror

Denny Hamlin

It took more than half of the regular season but Joe Gibbs Racing finally made it to Victory Lane. (Photo: Getty Images)

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It took more than half of the regular season but Joe Gibbs Racing finally made it to Victory Lane.

Denny Hamlin’s win in Sunday’s Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was the first time the JGR organization finally celebrated a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win in 2017.

In a season that has been punctuated by a variety of surprises, that remains the most curious.

JGR’s come close, namely by Kyle Busch, to putting a W on the board but a variety of things have kept the goose egg in the win column. Mistakes, like the two speeding penalties by Busch Sunday for example, have been a prime culprit.

Hamlin was able to come back from a Friday mistake when he crashed in practice to score his 30th career win on Sunday. He had to hold off a fast approaching Kyle Larson to do so but in the end the Virginia native held a comfortable margin when he crossed the start-finish line.

Hamlin’s in the playoff hunt now and can use the remainder of the regular season to fine-tune things and somehow make a challenge for the title. Despite the win, there still appears to be a big gap between the 11 team and other championship contenders namely Larson and three-time winner Martin Truex Jr.

But you can’t compete for the crown unless you’re in the playoff field and Hamlin is there.

Certainly much to the relief of team owner Joe Gibbs.

  • The application of the PJ1 substance to provide more grip and another lane of racing was the focal point of the weekend in New Hampshire. The reality is this; the substance worked for a while but once it wore off Sunday’s race was a pretty typical New Hampshire affair. You can applaud the effort from tracks and NASCAR to try and make racing better but at the end of the day, the “sticky stuff” is not the be all, end all as many seem to want to believe. I’m afraid we’re in for a weekly dose of “will they use it this week?” as the season rolls on. For the record, it will not be applied to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for next week’s Brickyard 400.
  • Friday’s penalty that sent Kyle Larson from his third pole of the season to the rear of the field after qualifying was a big topic of discussion over the weekend. It came on the heels of Wednesday’s huge punishment from last week’s Kentucky race when NASCAR penalized Larson 35 points in addition to suspending crew chief Chad Johnston (as well as a $75,000) fine for an illegal rear brake cooling assembly. The Chip Ganassi Racing team is definitely on the radar after those two significant infractions in addition to the multiple times Larson wasn’t able to qualify this year when his car failed to get through inspection on time. 
  • The “Silly Season” maneuvering for next year continues to take center stage. Now that Erik Jones has been tabbed to take Matt Kenseth’s spot at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2017, a major domino has fallen. There will be several more to come in the next few days. Kenseth remains convinced he will have a ride next year and has given no indication of retirement. However, it’s going to be much more complicated than simply finding a competitive team that can give the former series champion an opportunity to race at a high level. The sentiment of Kenseth taking Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s vacated No. 88 ride at Hendrick Motorsports seems to have died down.
  • Kyle Busch stated after winning his 89th career XFINITY Series race Saturday afternoon he would retired from competing in NASCAR’s number two division when he reaches the 100 victory mark. That was no doubt music to many fans’ ears who have tired of seeing Busch dominate the series in recent years. Busch only has four starts remaining this season than to NASCAR’s limitation of Cup drivers’ participation in the series and ten next year if the policy remains in place. But there is some speculation the sanctioning might completely add more limits or completely eliminate Cup regulars in the NXS at some point. If so Busch’s quest for the century mark could be derailed or at the very least slowed down.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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