On Friday night, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag in the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway, claiming Toyota’s 100th win in the series. The driver of the No. 20 Hisense Toyota Camry earlier in the day earned his first Xfinity Series pole of the season, and went on to lead 248 of the race’s 250 laps.
“It was a great day – right from the very start I knew I had some great speed. That’s the key to victory,” said Hamlin on the JGR website. “It’s no tricks or anything like that – it’s just you have to have a fast car. Mike (Wheeler, crew chief) and these guys, they gave me something special tonight and we were able to dominate with it. You don’t get these cars that often – almost never. Me and him and a car with Mike Ford (former crew chief) like this in the Cup Series a few years ago and then we had a flat with 15 (laps) to go. Of course, that runs through your mind with how you can mess this up, but luckily everything worked out for us and obviously it was a dominating victory.”
Hamlin’s two young teammates earned top 10 finishes on Friday night, with Erik Jones posting a fourth-place finish in the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota and Daniel Suarez finishing 10th in the No. 18 ARRIS Toyota.
Former JGR driver Joey Logano finished second to Hamlin Friday night, followed across the line by Regan Smith in third. 2014 series champ Chase Elliott rounded out the top five.
Matt Kenseth was the only JGR driver to pick up a top 10 finish in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond, which was pushed back from Saturday night due to weather in the area. Kenseth, who started eighth, finished seventh in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, and was also the top-finishing Toyota driver in the field.
Carl Edwards started 18th in the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota, going on to finish 19th. Hamlin started on the outside pole in the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota but battled an ill-handling car throughout the race, going on to finish two laps down in 22nd. David Ragan started 10th in the No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota, also fighting handling issues on his way to a 23rd-place finish.
“I felt like we were pretty solid on Friday and obviously a lot has changed since Friday – track conditions and weather – but when they dropped the green flag we just weren’t as good,” said Ragan. “I was a little suspect that we could have had a bad set of tires to get going, but it wasn’t. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and our M&M’s Crispy Toyota team, they threw a lot of stuff at it all day and we did make it better, but when you start that far off a 400-lap race goes by really fast and I felt like if we could have started where we ended we would have been a little better. At the end of the day, we just didn’t start that good and we really worked hard at it.”
Kurt Busch won the Toyota Owners 400, followed by Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson; Jamie McMurray and Logano rounded out the top five.
The Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series get back on track at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend, Friday through Sunday, May 1st through 3rd. Keep up with the action at joegibbsracing.com.