Monday, September 28, 2015

Kenseth wins at New Hampshire, Harvick digs bigger hole

Fifth win of the season for Matt Kenseth.
LOUDON, N.H. -- Oh, by the way, Matt Kenseth won the Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

He now has an impressive five victories in 2015 and a ticket to the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But the storylines of the Sylvania 300 focused on the losers, the ones who didn't take advantage of opportunities -- the ones whose bad day was only slightly better than that of Loudon the Lobster, which gets sacrificed for a glorious team meal after appearing in Victory Lane with the winner.

Kevin Harvick left the most upset as the leader of 216 of the 300 laps in the race only to run out of fuel with three laps remaining around the 1.058-mile oval. Instead of rebounding from a 42nd-place finish in the opening race of the Chase by earning that automatic bid to the next round, Harvick now finds himself in a boatload of trouble.

Harvick is in danger of having a season of great stats -- he'll be the guy who had a great regular season when he posted 18 top-5s in 26 races with 10 runner-up finishes to go with two wins -- and have nothing to show for it.

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New Hampshire Results

Toyota Racing Post Race Quotes

· Toyota driver Matt Kenseth was victorious in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

· The victory was the second-straight win for Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) to begin the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship playoff. Camry driver Denny Hamlin won the opening Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway last weekend.

· JGR has now piloted their Camrys to 10 wins in the last 13 NSCS events.

· Kenseth started 13th and led the field three times for 27 laps (of 300) to capture the win – including the final three laps after Kevin Harvick ran out of fuel.

· The victory marks Kenseth’s fifth win of the season – the most in the 2015 NSCS year – including four victories in the last two months.

· The Camry winner was followed to the finish line by his JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin (second).

· In addition to the one-two finishes by Kenseth and Hamlin, respectively, JGR’s Carl Edwards (fifth) also tallied a top-five result on the 1.058-mile track.

· Hamlin led once during the race for 21 laps and Edwards led the field on one occasion for 19 laps.

· After two of 10 Chase races, three JGR drivers rank first through third in the championship point standings – Kenseth (2099 points), Hamlin (2093) points and Edwards (2089). In addition to the top-three ranked competitors, Camry drivers Kyle Busch (13th, 2056 points) and Clint Bowyer (16th, 2018) are also competing in the 16-driver Chase field.

MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st

Were you surprised to get this victory?

“We had to be there to win. These Dollar General guys did a great job today. We didn’t pit that one time and I was like, ‘Ahhh,’ and Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) was like, ‘It’s fine, relax.’ We made it to the front faster than we thought. I was giving it everything I’ve got and I thought he (Kevin Harvick) was going to beat us and he had a better car today, but I guess he was a little short on fuel. This is unbelievable. This feels unbelievable. Thanks to everybody – thanks to Dollar General, DeWalt, Toyota, TRD (Toyota Racing Development) – I say it all the time, but we’ve got great partners. I really appreciate these guys a lot and thank the Lord for putting me here. This has been so much fun.”

How will you approach Dover now that you have a win in the first round of the Chase?
“It’s funny, it doesn’t change. I thought about it a little bit today and we were running second to Kevin (Harvick) and third behind Denny (Hamlin) and I’m like, ‘Well, this is first round and if you get all top-10s then you’re going to advance. Then I’m like, ‘Forget that, you have to work and try to catch them and beat them.’ These things are just too hard to win. We’ll go there and bring our good stuff and try to run as good as we can next week and go on from there.”

What can you say about the roll that Joe Gibbs Racing has been on recently?
“The thing about rolls and momentum, it can stop at any given moment so you have to enjoy it while it’s here. I’ve been enjoying driving this 20 car and working for Coach (Gibbs, team owner) and Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and this whole group. It’s been awesome and I think we still have some more coming. It feels good.”

How does it feel to get the win at New Hampshire and transfer to the second round of the Chase?
“Last time we were here, we didn’t win again for 50 races so I hope that doesn’t happen again. It feels great to win here, a lot of great race fans here at New Hampshire. We had a great car today – Kevin (Harvick) definitely had the field covered and Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) did a great job on pit strategy there and those new tires paid off better than we thought to get up through the field and was able to keep the pressure on enough and he came up a little short.”

Did you expect Kevin Harvick to run out of fuel?
“Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) kept saying he was low on fuel, but you never know unless they really run out. I was trying to run hard, but I was trying to save a little bit. I got racing Denny (Hamlin) pretty hard and I wanted to save the tires a little bit, but I also know I needed to get by him to pressure the 4 (Harvick). That was as hard as I could run. I was planning on running up there and trying to pass him, I just couldn’t get there. Kind of resigned to finish second with about four or five (laps) to go there. I couldn’t get much closer and he ran out with a couple to go.”

Is there anything stopping the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas with the recent streak of victories?
“Momentum and all that is a funny thing, it could stop at any given second. You never know what’s going to go wrong so enjoy it while it’s here and we’re enjoying it.”

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 2nd

How was your race?

“Our run was good. We had a really good car. Thought we had like a third, fourth-place car most of the day. Just never could get it to do quite the things I needed to do at the right time, so either way it’s still a really good run and it’s a good Chase start.”

How was the race?
“We had a pretty good race, really. I thought we had a top‑five car pretty much most of the day. At best I thought we were a second‑place car, at worst a fifth. We had everything kind of work out well there for us at the end. We came in, took tires and fuel with 60‑something to go, so we were good on fuel and we had good tires, and it really allowed us to be aggressive and get through the pack pretty quick and put some pressure on the 4 to try to make him run as hard as possible because we knew he was close. Overall a good day for the company, good day for us, and we’ll look forward to Dover.”

What is the secret to your success with the win last week and a second-place finish today?
“You know, we just have really been on a roll here lately, just getting good finishes and just everything is kind of clicking really well. You know, I wish we could get more race wins. That’s the greedy part about it. But either way, very proud of ‑‑ this is all because of the work that Toyota and JGR puts into our race cars every week. Very proud to be driving for them.

What happened on the last run of the race? Was there some type of problem with the car?
“Yeah, we had something going on with the right front. I’m not sure what it was and we’ll try to diagnose it, but it was something major, and so I had to back off and try to make sure I finished the race.”

What can you say about the roll that Joe Gibbs Racing has been on in recent weeks?
“Well, to sustain it is the hardest part, and I think that we’ve just got to keep working to make our cars better. Really, I don’t feel like we were dominant today by any means. Yeah, our cars finished one‑two, but I’m not sure that we had one‑two cars most of the day. So I think we’ve been very fortunate with some strategies and things that we’ve played that’s worked out in our favor. You know, you’ve got to just keep working. That’s the only way you can stay on top is to not rest.”

CARL EDWARDS, No. 19 Sport Clips Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 5th

How were you able to overcome the pit road penalty?

“My guys they never quit. We got the penalty just barely. My guys on pit road are the fastest and they’re that way because they push it, they let it all hang out. They had a little problem there. Just an awesome finish though for everybody at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), for Toyota, for Sport Clips – they came on board in a big way for us for here and Kansas. It’s what we needed. Now we go to Dover (International Speedway), have a little bit of fun.

What will be your approach to Dover?
“I think we’ve got a 33-point cushion, so if we can just go have a good solid run there it will be a fun day and we don’t have much to worry about. Just awesome for Matt (Kenseth) though I think for him to be able to win that race and not have any stress at Dover.”

How does it feel to be a part of this run by Joe Gibbs Racing?
“Yeah, everybody at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) just does such a great job working together. It’s really – it’s cool to be a part of it. Everybody does well and we’ve got every part of team working well. Everybody does a good job – the pit crew, the guys preparing the cars, the engines are great. It’s cool to be a part of it.”

ADAM STEVENS, crew chief, No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

What happened with the tire going down?

“We just came off almost a green flag run and the tires looked fine, the balance was a little off and then had that short run there and the handling went away and just blew a right front. It looks like it just had a slow leak and just overworked the shoulder and finally blew out, but the balance was free, so it’s not like we abused it – especially after we just went a fuel run, you know what I mean? Just one of those things that happens – sometimes you get a pinhole or run something over and we found the fence.”

Do you think you can still advance to the next Chase round on points?
“Sure, Dover (International Speedway) is a strong track for us. I didn’t see the count at the end of the race, but a bunch of guys ran out of gas there. We were going to run third there in Kyle’s (Busch) second race back and wrecked with a lap car, you know? I’m sure our cars have gotten better and Kyle’s gotten more in shape and knows what he wants a little better, so there’s no reason we can’t go there and have a good day. But you know things like this happen too. They happen to us and they can happen to anybody else, so it’s not a win at all costs situation at all, which is comforting.”

Did you have to calm Kyle Busch down after the race?
“No, just try to keep things in perspective for him and he was fine in there. He was fine. He’s bummed – he’s bummed that we weren’t a little bit quicker and he’s bummed we had a problem, but we can control the quicker part. We can’t control the problem or something like that.”

- Toyota Racing

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