Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (17340)

Bobby Labonte embarks upon his first race ever at Kentucky Speedway as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits the 1.5-mile D-shaped oval for the inaugural Quaker State 400 Saturday night.

Labonte has 635 starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, 202 in the Nationwide Series and 10 in the Camping World Truck Series, but ironically has never raced at the speedway. Fortunately for him and his JTG Daugherty Racing team, NASCAR is allowing teams two test sessions on Thursday to become acclimated to the track that was opened in 2000.

“It’s good that we have a full day of testing and I’m really looking forward to racing at Kentucky Speedway,” Labonte said. “Believe it or not in all my years racing, I’ve never raced at Kentucky. I’ve only tested there. It is such a great facility and I cannot wait to see everything they have done in preparation to host their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.”

“We do not test very much,” crew chief Frank Kerr added. “We have a huge test plan to try a bunch of things to find what Bobby wants to feel in the car. Our mile-and-a-half program has been up and down this season and testing will help us find what suits Bobby’s driving style.”

This weekend Labonte is carrying Kimberly-Clark Corporation COTTONELLE® Clean Care on his No. 47 Toyota Camry. For more than a century, Kimberly-Clark has transformed ideas into innovative products leading the world in providing essentials for a better life - and their global brands are a trusted part of the lives of nearly 1.3 billion people across more than 150 countries.

“My family uses Kimberly-Clark Corporation brands throughout our home and this weekend JTG Daugherty Racing is carrying COTTONELLE® Clean Care on the hood of the No. 47 Toyota, which is 30% stronger,” Labonte said. “It’s one of many exceptional brands that Kimberly-Clark has in their stable.”

While it is a big weekend for Kimberly-Clark Corporation, it is a homecoming of sorts for Labonte’s spotter and his former driver David Green that hails from Owensboro, Kentucky. When Bobby Labonte stepped out of his NASCAR Nationwide Series ride to go Cup racing, he hand selected Green to fill his shoes full-time during the 1993 season. Green did not disappoint and the next year he was hoisting the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship trophy.

“Bobby and I had built a relationship as competitors against one another and we were building cars for him and Terry before I went to work for him as an employee,” said Green, who has a total of nine Nationwide Series victories and also competed in 78 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and 11 Camping World Series Truck events. “He’s the one who provoked me to move to North Carolina. In 1992, I worked for him in the shop and spotted. He knew I wanted to drive and at the same time he always told me that if someone offered me something that we would talk and go from there. I would come to him and he would say, ‘Well, I don’t know that will be a good deal.’ Then I had a shot at running ARCA and I won the Nashville race.

“Little did I know, Bobby was working on having me drive for him in the Nationwide Series,” continued Green. “Bobby’s very smooth. When he announced he was going Cup racing, we had a meeting with his sponsor Slim Jim and I was wondering what it was all about. In the meeting, the executive said ‘Hey Bobby, How about having David drive for us.’ And to think, I thought I was just tagging along that day.”

JTG Daugherty Racing PR

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will make its first stop at the Kentucky Speedway this Saturday. As an up and coming driver, Landon Cassill often carries less experience into most venues than his fellow competitors. However, things will be different in this weekend's Quaker State 400. Cassill is one of the few drivers who have competed at the 1.5-mile race track and he looks forward to navigating his No. 51 Security Benefit/Thank A Teacher Today Chevrolet in familiar territory.

Cassill competed in the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kentucky Speedway, driving for JR Motorsports. He started eighth and finished 11th in the No. 5 Chevrolet. Cassill has also tested Sprint Cup Series cars for Hendrick Motorsports at the track. He hopes his seat time will give him a head start on the field this weekend.

Crew chief of the No. 51 team, Nick Harrison, is from Columbia, Tenn., a short drive from Kentucky Speedway. He will have several friends and family members at the inaugural Cup Series event and aims to leave them with a lasting impression.

Phoenix Racing will take the same car that Cassill drove earlier this season at Pocono Raceway. Cassill started 25th and finished in 24th in the event.

"Kentucky is a lot of fun. It's really wide and has a few different grooves that you can race in. It's almost a whole lane wider than Kansas (Speedway). You've got a few options, depending on how your car is handling. It always makes for a good show. More lanes means more side-by-side racing, which I think the fans will see plenty of. Not to mention, it's going to be a night race and that always adds some excitement to the event.

"This is going to be a pretty special race. It's not too often that you have the opportunity to say that you won the first Sprint Cup race held at a track. It's a unique honor for sure. Everyone will be gunning for those bragging rights.

"I've got some experience racing at Kentucky. I ran in the Nationwide Series race a few years ago and have tested some Cup cars there. I'm familiar with the track and its characteristics. Hopefully that will pay dividends this weekend and we'll unload a fast Thank A Teacher Today Chevy. I'm always the one who has to learn the track and get acclimated to it. It'll be nice to not be 'the 'new guy' at the track for a change."

Phoenix Racing PR

The last time David Gilliland raced at Kentucky Speedway, his day ended in Victory Lane. That was in 2006 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, when he drove a part-time, unsponsored car to a surprising win against a field of Sprint Cup regulars.  Saturday's Quaker State 400 will make for a long-awaited reunion between the 1.5-mile speedway and the driver of the No. 34 Taco Bell Ford in the Sprint Cup Series - and another opportunity to prevail as an underdog.

Gilliland is coming off another strong run last week at Daytona International Speedway, where he finished 16th after running up front for part of the race and successfully evading two multi-car pile-ups in the closing laps.


The 2006 Nationwide win is Gilliland's only previous race at the Sparta, Ky., track.


Comments from Taco Bell driver David Gilliland on going to Kentucky:

"Kentucky is obviously a special track to me.  I obviously have the big win there in the past and been waiting to go back ever since, so we're excited.  I think Peter (Sospenzo) and the guys have a great racecar prepared.  I'm really looking forward to the Thursday practice session.  We've been really needing a test session on a mile-and-a-half track this year.  We've kind of gone back and forth through some different set-up stuff and we're really hoping we can use some of that data from the test session to really solidify some of the stuff that we've found.  I feel like that's going to be a big help for us as a team and as an organization.  Hopefully we can go in there and come out with the same result we had last time - a win.

"We're excited as a team going into this race.  We've been very competitive in parts of our program - the superspeedway and road-course stuff - and I feel like the mile-and-a-half stuff we've been a little bit behind on.  So, hopefully we can use Kentucky to help us take a step forward in that area.

"I still remember that win like it was yesterday.  We'd been working so hard for so long, and that was the one perfect night where everything just came together.  You can kind of see the similarities in our situation here at Front Row Motorsports.  We're one of the smaller teams, without a corporate sponsor, working hard each and every week to be more competitive.  I know our day is coming, too.  We're taking steps forward all the time.

"The last couple weeks show it.  We had a great race at Infineon - a good racecar and ran up front all day.  We had a great car last week at Daytona, too.  We had the respect and confidence of Tony Stewart to run with us all day, and unfortunately we got separated at the end again so we couldn't finish it off.  But we're stringing some good races together and hopefully that will get the attention of some potential sponsors to help push our program to the next level."

Front Row Motorsports PR

While the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is new to Kentucky Speedway, Travis Kvapil is not. He has two top-five finishes in five starts at the track in the Camping World Truck Series.  The Long John Silver's car will have a head start preparing for Saturday night's Quaker State 400. Not only does Kvapil have experience at the 1.5-mile oval, the No. 38 was among a handful of cars that got some laps on the track during a June 1 Goodyear tire test.


Kvapil had a strong run at Daytona International Speedway last weekend.  In a fast Long John Silver's Ford, he ran up front and led a lap, but was caught up in a wreck in the closing laps and finished in the 29th position.


Comments from Long John Silver's driver Travis Kvapil on Kentucky:


"There's a whole day of testing for everybody at Kentucky when we get there, but since we did the tire test a few weeks ago, I feel like we're one step ahead of the competition. By the time that day is over, it's pretty much going to be a level playing field, but we have an idea of what the track is like, the grip level, the tire, the track surface, all of those variables that we can chew on over the last few weeks.  And hopefully we take a little bit better set-up there and be a little bit more prepared since we had track time already.


"I like Kentucky. I've never won there but I think I finished second there a few years ago when I drove for Roush (Fenway Racing). Any of these Cup guys, when they show up to the racetrack, they pretty much get it figured out in a couple laps. These guys are the best in the business, so having race experience there isn't such a big deal but knowing the track, how the groove widens out and how you can run in a second and a third lane, you don't have to just be committed to the bottom. The track is quite rough, so being familiar with that and knowing some of the characteristics of the race track, it's good to have that track time and have race experience there. It's not a huge advantage but it definitely doesn't hurt.


"It's cool that the race is sold out already.  It's exciting to go to a new track for the Sprint Cup Series and know that the fans there are that enthusiastic about the race coming to town that they've sold it out a week in advance.  NASCAR fans are the best, and when you're racing in front of a full house, there's nothing better.  We'll try to give them something to cheer for in our Long John Silver's Ford."

 

Front Row Motorsports PR

At Kentucky Speedway, Jeff Gordon will attempt to be first in the first -- for the fourth time.

Among Gordon's 84 career victories are three inaugural event wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994, Auto Club Speedway in 1997 and Kansas Speedway in 2001 (four other tracks have been added to schedule since 1994 with no other driver winning multiple inaugural races). Saturday night's Quaker State 400 marks the first visit for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to Kentucky, and it could also mark the fourth trip to Victory Lane in a first-time event for the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet.

"It may be our first race here, but a lot of drivers have logged a lot of miles here," said Gordon, who has climbed from 16th to eighth in the point standings with four topsix finishes in the last five races. "Some of the guys have run Nationwide events here and we used to test here all the time -- this was one of the tracks we could test at before it became a Cup track.

"Going back to those old testing notes will give us some information, but (Hendrick Motorsports teammate) Mark Martin participated in the tire test here earlier this year. That's the most current data we have with these cars and setups we're running today.

"It's been a while since I've tested here, so it'll be interesting to see what has changed." Gordon will get a re-introduction to the circuit during a test day on Thursday.

"It could take two or three laps, or it could take 100 before you get comfortable on the track," said Gordon. "We've got a lot of track time scheduled for Thursday, so that should give us a good opportunity to get close (with the setup).

"There are a lot of unknowns like where you can push the limits, where your car is going to handle the best and what characteristics the track will have as the race goes on. Does the track get looser or tighter in certain parts of the corner?"

One of Gordon's inaugural event wins occurred at Kansas Speedway, and he believes that 1.5-mile track -- where he has two wins and eight top-five finishes in 11 starts -- most closely resembles Kentucky.

"I would say the closest thing we run would be Kansas," said Gordon. "Every mile-and-a-half track has a similarity as far as speed and grip level, so you try to maximize that.

"But while Kentucky has a lot more grip, it's a little bit rougher than some of the other tracks. It's also fairly flat, but it's surprising how fast we get around here."

On Saturday night, Gordon's plan is to be the fastest -- and first -- to the checkered flag.

Performace PR Plus/Jeff Gordon PR

Carl Edwards seemed to spend as much time on pit road or in the garage as on the race track Saturday night.

Edwards crashed in the fourth turn on the race’s 24th lap as he and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle were running in a tandem draft. Contact between the cars sent Edwards into the inside wall, and he lost two laps as repairs were made to the rear of the car. He finished 37th, 26 laps down, after struggling with exhaust fumes that leaked into the car after a crush panel was destroyed in the wreck.

“It was just the timing of everything,” Edwards said of the accident. “I was being aggressive and kind of having a little bit of fun, but that’s what we decided we were going to try to do. We were going to go out there and race a little harder this time.

“We had the points lead and not a lot to lose, so it’s no big deal. It is what it is. If you take the last five restrictor-plate races and average them out, we’ve done really well. We just have to make sure we do well in the Chase.”

Edwards, who had held the point lead since the Texas race in early April, fell to second behind Kevin Harvick.

“In the big picture it doesn’t mean much, but there is a lot of pride in leading those points, so we’ll try to get that points lead back,” Edwards said. “But, in the end, this is one of those things that could actually be good. It could be something that pays off for us.

“That’s a pretty big lesson right there. I kind of strayed from my normal M.O. at these places and was being pretty aggressive at the beginning, and it bit me, so we’ll go to Talladega in the fall and we’ll have a better plan.”

Team Ford Racing PR

Geoffrey Bodine started the Coke Zero 400 from the 35th position in the No. 35 Luke & Associates Chevrolet and utilized 143 laps to get comfortable with the two-car draft at Daytona International Speedway. Without a drafting partner for majority of the race, Bodine settled in to finish the 400-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) event when a wheel barring broke and ended the team’s day early. The Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) team chose to call Bodine to the garage so there was not a risk of tearing up equipment. The No. 35 Luke & Associates Chevrolet finished 38th.

Thursday rain showers allowed Bodine a short 45-minute practice session to tune in the No. 35 Luke & Associates Chevrolet in the team and sponsor’s NSCS debut. Since the Luke & Associates team did not have a guaranteed starting spot in Saturday’s race, they focused on making qualifying runs. Due to the impound, the TBR team setup the No. 35 in race trim, and Bodine posted the 41st-fastest time of 50.019 seconds. He locked the Luke & Associates Chevrolet into the Coke Zero 400 with the 35th-fastest qualifying lap of 50.206 seconds.

Bodine took the green flag from the 35th position and began to learn the two-car draft. By the first caution on lap six for a three-car incident in turn one, Bodine was in the 40th position and working with TBR teammate Dave Blaney. Trying to avoid the incident, Blaney flat-spotted his tires. TBR owner Tommy Baldwin called both teams to pit road in order to restart close to one another.

Bodine drove down pit road for his first pit stop, but a miscommunication caused him to drive past his pit stall. He was then penalized for speeding during his exit off pit road. The next lap, he drove the No. 35 Luke & Associates Chevrolet back down pit road, and the crew made a fuel-only pit stop.

The field restarted on lap eight with the No. 35 in the 36th position. At the restart, Bodine found a new partner in the No. 71 of Andy Lally before teaming back up with Blaney by lap 17. An incident in turn four caused the second caution of the day on lap 24. Bodine was in the 36th position when he drove down pit road for a four-tire pit stop. He restarted 24th and joined Blaney in the two-car draft. The twosome swapped positions for the first time on lap 32 to allow the No. 35 Luke & Associates Chevrolet to cool down. Six laps later, the TBR team decided to swap back as the pair ran faster lap times with Blaney in front.

Still learning the nuances of the two-car draft, Bodine drove high into the corner and caught the right rear quarter panel of the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet. Blaney spun in the corner and brought out the third caution of the night on lap 49.

For the remainder of the race, Bodine struggled to find a drafting partner to work with and continued to race in the top-36. On lap 51, the Luke & Associates team made a four-tire pit stop, their third of the night. The team made their fourth pit stop on lap 92 and changed two right-side tires and added fuel. Bodine continued to race in the 36th position but fell a lap down on lap 108. The Chemung, N.Y., native swapped positions with the No. 7 of Robby Gordon and fell to 37th.

The Luke & Associates team made their final scheduled pit stop on lap 134. The team changed two right-side tires and added fuel. Ten laps later, Bodine radioed that he had a problem with the left front wheel. Baldwin called the 62-year-old racer down pit road to change four tires to try to fix the problem. Bodine drove off pit road but returned four laps later with the same issue. The No. 35 team assessed the problem and determined that the left-front wheel barring broke.

Baldwin called for Bodine to drive the No. 35 Luke & Associates Chevrolet back to the garage in order to not risk ruining equipment. The team finished the event 38th in its debut.

“It was very interesting learning experience,” explained Bodine. “Unfortunately, part of my learning experience was spinning out my teammate Dave Blaney. That wasn’t very good, and I feel very bad about that. I just made a mistake trying to keep the engine cool. You duck to the right to get air, and I went too far. I came back and turned Dave into the wall. After that, I didn’t have any trouble.”

“I had a lot of fun,” he continued. “If we could get hooked with a fast car, we were really fast. Unfortunately, all the fast cars had teammates already, so we didn’t get to show the potential that the car had. Toward the end, we broke a wheel barring. My crew and everyone did such a great job setting the car up with a rookie in this type of racing, so I was really happy with that. I was pretty happy with the finish. I was really excited being there with our new sponsor Luke & Associates. They had a great time and enjoyed the race. They understand the outcome and how things go. They’re pleased, and that’s the most important thing. They had some good introductions to potential customers, so the program is already working. We look forward to continuing with them.”

Tommy Baldwin Racing PR

High-hopes ended in disappointment for the No. 36 Golden Corral team. Dave Blaney looked to repeat this season’s superspeedway success this weekend in the event at Daytona International Speedway. Blaney started the 400-mile race from the 40th spot. As he did in both superspeedway races earlier this season, Blaney hung back for the beginning of the race. An incident on lap 47 relegated the team to a 39th-place finish. The Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 36 Chevrolet fell to 33rd in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) owner points.

Blaney took to the track Thursday for a rain-shortened 45-minute practice session. He posted the 44th-fastest time of 50.139 seconds in the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet. On Friday, Blaney posted the 40th-quickest qualifying lap of 50.387 seconds.

Blaney took the green flag on Saturday from the 40th spot and planned to hang back at the beginning of the 400-mile race. The Hartford, Ohio native quickly found TBR teammate Geoffrey Bodine, and the pair raced in a two-car draft by lap four. The first yellow flag waved on lap six for a three-car incident in turn one. Trying to avoid contact, Blaney flat-spotted his tires. TBR owner Tommy Baldwin called for the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet to come down pit road for a four-tire pit stop.

The field restarted on lap eight with Blaney in the 29th spot. Without a drafting partner, he fell back to the 35th position to team up with Bodine. An incident on lap 24 caused the second caution of the night, and the Golden Corral pit crew made a two-tire pit stop. Blaney restarted 25th on lap 27 with Bodine restarting in the 24th spot. The pair got back together following the restart. By lap 32, the twosome swapped positions giving Blaney the 35th spot.

By lap 40, Blaney radioed that the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet was shaking really bad like a wheel was loose. He continued that he might have issues with oil pressure. Four laps later, the TBR team decided to swap positions once again to let the No. 35 Luke & Associates Chevrolet cool down. Crew Chief Philippe Lopez, making his debut with the team, radioed that the pair was 2.5 seconds slower with Bodine in front, so on lap 46, the twosome swapped again.

Still learning the nuances of the two-car draft, Bodine drove high into the corner and caught the right rear quarter panel of the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet on lap 47. Blaney spun in the corner and hit the outside wall. The Golden Corral Chevrolet came to rest on the apron of turn one and could not restart.

Blaney finished 39th in the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet. The team is now 33rd in NSCS owner points, 45 points ahead of 36th and two points behind 32nd. Blaney is 31st in NSCS driver points, 66 points behind David Gilliland in 30th.

“It was an unfortunate night for the Golden Corral team,” explained Blaney. “We were really looking forward to coming back here to Daytona and trying to get a top-10 finish so kids could eat free on Monday. We started having problems with the engine just before the spin. Unfortunately, situations like this are just a product of this type of racing.”

Tommy Baldwin Racing PR

For Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team, Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway delivered the kind of outcome they’ve come to expect in a restrictor-plate event – high hopes dashed by disappointment. In fact, the Coke Zero 400 was almost an exact replica of the team’s February outing at the 2.5-mile oval in the season-opening Daytona 500.

Once again, Newman had a strong racecar, evidenced by him leading four times for a race-high 25 laps in his No. 39 Bass Pro Shops/NRA Chevrolet Impala. But in the end, he was relegated to a 23rd-place finish thanks to being shuffled out of the lead on the race’s final restart and being collected in a last-lap accident.

“Just another typical Daytona for us,” said Newman, who led nine times for a race-high 37 laps in the Daytona 500. “It’s just disappointing to know how strong the Bass Pro Shops/NRA Chevy was tonight and how close we’ve been both times at Daytona this year to win. It’s just a product of this racing, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. Sooner or later, luck is going to go our way at this place.”

Just as he did in this year’s Daytona 500, Newman paired with Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin for the new style of tandem-racing that has dominated the restrictor-plate races this season. And once again, the pair proved to be a force on the racetrack. And just like the outcome of February’s race, Newman was a mere minutes away from capturing victory at the famed Daytona track.

Newman was leading at lap 158 – just two laps from the end of the race’s regularly scheduled distance – when the caution flag waved for a multi-car accident in turn four. The caution set up the race’s first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. Newman restarted in the lead on lap 162, but shortly after the green flag waved, David Ragan wrestled the point away from him – just as the caution flag flew once more as several cars crashed in turn one.

Newman restarted in second for the race’s second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish with drafting partner Hamlin lined up directly behind him in fourth. Initially, the pair looked to have a good restart, but as another drafting tandem took to the high side of the track in an attempt to take the lead, Newman’s back bumper and Hamlin’s front bumper became disengaged.

With the pair no longer bumper-to-bumper, they were shuffled deep in the pack of cars by the time they made a complete lap, which put Newman in a precarious position for the final run to the checkered flag. Inevitably, Newman got caught up in the last-lap melee as he exited turn four, but he was able to limp across the start/finish line in his heavily damaged racecar to post a 23rd-place finish.

SHR PR

Kyle Busch rallied from a late-race accident to score an impressive fifth-place finish in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The driver of the No. 18 Interstate All Battery Center Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) notched his ninth top-five finish of 2011.

Daytona and its sister track, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, are the only two restrictor-plate tracks on the NASCAR schedule. As was the case in the season-opening Daytona 500 and the April race at Talladega, drivers had to align themselves in two-car drafts to make any headway toward the front of the field. The system creates a dicey game of bumper cars that sometimes leads to drivers involuntarily spinning out their drafting partner.

Busch, who started 38th, and his JGR teammate, Joey Logano, who started 37th, worked together all night long as they did in earlier Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Daytona and Talladega, including last night’s Nationwide Series race where Busch pushed Logano to victory on the final lap.

During the Coke Zero 400, Logano and Busch communicated well, pitted at the same time and were never far apart during the first 159 laps of what was scheduled to be a 160-lap race. Sometimes they would run up front – Busch led five times for 11 laps – or sometimes they would just ride in the back of the pack waiting for the race to near its end.

As they were running ninth and 10th, respectively, on the high side of the racetrack entering turn three on lap 159, Kasey Kahne’s car touched the Chevrolet piloted by Jeff Gordon, who was inside of Busch. The right side of Gordon’s car slid slightly into the left side of Busch’s Toyota, forcing Busch’s No. 18 machine into the SAFER Barrier on the outside retaining wall.

While the contact from Gordon and the brush with the SAFER Barrier were both minor, the impact still caused the right-front tire on Busch’s car to go flat. He was forced to pit one lap later for new tires and minor repairs, but his partner, Logano, had no damage and stayed out on the racetrack.

That meant Logano would restart near the front of the pack, while Busch would take the green flag in 28th. Busch and Brad Keselowski decided to work together in an attempt to charge toward the front of the field during the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, but a 15-car accident in turn one immediately after the restart brought out another caution before the duo could begin to really work together.

Several cars then had to pit because of the accident and Busch, who stayed out on the track, was able to restart in 15th on lap 169. From there, he and Gordon worked together and during the final, green-white-checkered finish, and they managed to move up to fifth (Busch) and sixth (Gordon) when the checkered flag flew.

“I can’t say enough about this Interstate All Battery Center Camry,” Busch said. “It definitely was a good racecar. I was working with Joey (Logano) all day long and it was really, really good. I can’t say enough about Joey and how well we worked together. Then, we got caught up in that wreck there. We came to pit road and had to fix it. We had a flat right-front. We got back in traffic and I worked with the ‘2’ (Keselowski) and they all wrecked down there (in turn one).

“We stayed out – a couple of guys came to pit road and we gained some track position there. Then, we got separated from the ‘2’ again so I just got with the ‘24’ (Gordon) who was behind me and he never lifted, I don’t think, the last two laps. So, we just dug a hole through the bottom side and made it up there. Again, I can’t say enough about this Interstate All Battery Center Camry. The guys did a great job for me and gave me a really fast racecar. I wish I could’ve worked with Joey and him or I could’ve won this thing, but still it was a good day.”

Busch’s JGR teammates – Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry – finished third and 13th respectively.

David Ragan won the Coke Zero 400 to score his first career Sprint Cup victory.

His Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth, finished in the runner-up spot as the race ended under caution. Logano, Kahne and Busch rounded out the top-five. Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard, Juan Pablo Montoya and A.J. Allmendinger comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were six caution periods for 21 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 170-lap race, which was extended 10 laps due to a green-white-checkered finish.

With round 17 of 36 complete, Busch continues to lead the JGR trio in the championship standings. He gained two spots and now sits third with 576 points, 10 markers back of new series leader Harvick. During each race, bonus points are awarded – one point for leading a lap, one point for leading the most laps and three points winning the race. Busch has accumulated 22 bonus points this season, more than any other driver. Harvick is next best with 20 bonus points.

Hamlin remained 11th in the standings with 495 points, 91 markers out of the top spot and three back from 10th-place Ryan Newman. Logano gained three spots and now sits 20th with 439 points, 147 markers behind Harvick and 59 back of Newman.

Kyle Busch PR

Joe Gibbs Racing proved to have one of the strongest teams on the track tonight for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Each of the three JGR drivers showed the ability to make a run to the front of the pack at any point it desired as they raced in two-car pods for each lap of the 160-lap race. There was no secret that teammates Joey Logano and Kyle Busch would partner for tonight’s race especially following last night’s Nationwide Series performance that resulted in a Logano victory. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin entered the weekend with the strategy to partner with the No. 39 car of Ryan Newman from Stewart-Haas Racing after the pair showed success together in February’s Daytona 500.

When the excitement was all over it would be Logano leading JGR with a third-place finish, while Busch came home in fifth, and Hamlin finished 13th.

Busch partnered his No. 18 Interstate All Battery Center Toyota with his teammate Logano in the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota and the results were impressive all night long. Logano and Busch started 37th and 38th respectively which made it easy to find each other once the green flag dropped to start the race. The two worked their way to the front of the field and were content racing just around the top ten for much of the first half of the race. Logano spent most of the evening pushing his teammate and the two would move to the front of the field with Busch claiming the top spot for the first time just past the midpoint of the race. Busch would lead a total of 11 laps on the night and the two appeared set to race for a victory much as they had done just a night before in the Nationwide Series.

However, with just three laps remaining Jeff Gordon was forced up the track and into Busch and Logano. Although Logano would get through the incident with minimal damage, Busch would have to come down pit road for fresh tires and quick repairs. Perhaps most significant was the fact that when the race restarted for a green-white-checkered finish the two teammates would be separated for the first time all night with Logano in the top ten and Busch all the way toward the back of the field. On the first attempt to conclude the race in a two-lap sprint to the finish Logano had his Home Depot pinned in the middle of the track racing three wide and was forced up into the 5 car of Mark Martin creating a chain reaction that caused damage to several cars. Logano would find himself in the seventh position for the next green-white-checker finish and was able to find a drafting partner in fellow Toyota driver Kasey Kahne. Kahne would push Logano to the front of the field, but the two just fell short of putting the No. 20 Camry in Victory Lane as Logano went on to finish third. Meanwhile Busch would make it through the wreckage to restart 18th on the final restart and an impressive run would see him climb all the way up through the field to earn a fifth-place finish.

Meanwhile Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in the 36th position and was content to hang toward the back of the field through the first half of the race along with Newman. When the two decided it was time to go it was an impressive run to the front of the field as Hamlin pushed Newman’s No. 39 all the way to the front and the two took the lead with Newman getting credit for the lap led on lap 106. Hamlin and Newman would switch positions just a couple laps later so the FedEx team would get credit for a lap led. However, the rest of the evening saw Hamlin pushing Newman and for the final 50 laps the two were consistently at the front of the field. After a long green flag run, a late caution would create a green-white-checkered finish. The first attempt would see the Hamlin-Newman pairing take the lead, but an accident would quickly bring out another caution. The pair would restart second and fourth on the next attempt at a green-white-checkered finish which made it easier for Hamlin to get to Newman’s bumper. Unfortunately Newman would get a bit loose and the two were forced into the center of the track causing them to lose their momentum and several positions to the leaders on the final lap. As the field headed into the final turn a large accident would collect Hamlin and send him spinning across the infield grass. He would manage to still go on to finish the race in 13th position.

David Ragan captured the victory, while Matt Kenseth was second, Logano third, Kasey Kahne fourth, and Kyle Busch was fifth. There were six cautions for a total of 20 laps and 58 lead changes among 25 different drivers over the course of the 170-lap race, which was extended 10 laps for two green-white-checker attempts.

Joe Gibbs Racing PR

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