Loudon, N.H. — Denny Hamlin held off Kyle Larson over the final laps Sunday in the Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to send Joe Gibbs Racing to victory lane for the first time this season.
One of the top organizations in NASCAR, JGR had yet to have any of its four drivers win until Hamlin took the lead with 33 laps left and held off the hard-charging Larson on the final lap.
Hamlin needed his 30th career Cup victory to secure a spot in NASCAR’s version of the postseason and end a winless streak that stretched to last September at Richmond.
“Definitely needed a win for the organization, for myself,” Hamlin said.
Larson had a sensational run from the rear of the field, where he was forced to start because he failed inspection after he won the pole. Larson lost his points lead last week and his crew chief was suspended after failing a post-race inspection at Kentucky.
Hamlin crashed the No. 11 Toyota in practice and was forced to race in a backup car. It seemed to suit him just fine at New Hampshire.
Martin Truex Jr., was third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick.
JGR won seven of the first 12 races last season and Carl Edwards was 10 laps away from a possible championship when he crashed out in the finale. Daniel Suarez replaced Edwards this season and Hamlin, Kenseth and Kyle Busch have made strong runs at the checkered flag, they just couldn’t find the winning formula until New Hampshire.
“It’s not from a lack of trying,” Hamlin said.
JGR also announced this week that Erik Jones (Byron, Michigan) would replace two-time Daytona 500 champion Kenseth in the No. 20 next season. With Hamlin sending the crowd into a frenzy by burning the tires down, Sunday was simply a reason for the organization to celebrate.
Hamlin scampered away from the lobster traditionally awarded to the winner in victory lane.
Larson was second and nearly caught Hamlin — after a trying week.
Larson’s team was penalized 35 points this week, erasing what had been a one-point advantage over Truex in the driver standings. Truex, who led 137 laps, leads the standings by 38 points over Larson.
Larson’s pole-winning time was disallowed because of an unapproved rear deck fin lid.
“NASCAR’s kept a closer eye on our team, in particular,” Larson said. “Had to go to the back. I don’t think that really affected us which I think is a good thing. The little stuff we got in trouble for so far hasn’t affected our performance. We’ve got to keep working hard on the areas on our race car that are legal and find more speed that way.”
Josef Newgarden raced to his second Toronto IndyCar title in three years Sunday, dominating on the streets surrounding Exhibition Place.
Newgarden came out in front on Lap 25 after a crash by Tony Kanaan caused a caution and maintained an advantage of over two seconds for the majority of the rest of the race.
The American has five career victories, also winning in Alabama in April.
Newgarden gave Team Penske its 193rd victory, the most of any team.
Alexander Rossi was second, and James Hinchcliffe finished third in his hometown race for the second straight year.
Kanaan had his brakes lock up while leaving the pits and connected with the protective tires in Turn 1.
The caution caused the top-three cars of Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal to fall back.
Thundershowers were a threat throughout the race but held off. It started out sunny and humid, then clouded over during the event and it rained lightly at a few points.
Esteban Gutierrez, the rookie who crashed late in qualifying Saturday, was cleared to race after experiencing concussion-like symptoms.
Just like his tire, Sebastian Vettel’s championship lead was shredded at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone, England.
A 20-point lead was slashed to a single point by Lewis Hamilton after the Mercedes driver led from start to finish to cruise to a fourth win of the season as Vettel capitulated halfway through the season.
Vettel was never in realistic contention for victory, but he was still third entering the penultimate lap — a finish that would have ensured 10 points still separated him from Hamilton.
But Silverstone witnessed a remarkable collapse, a final twist on an afternoon of thrilling racing.
A front-left blowout on Vettel’s Ferrari sent rubber remnants of the tire flying across the track as the four-time world champion crawled back into the pits for repairs just in time.
Vettel finished seventh and collected the points that kept him on top heading into the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 30.
MIS August races
What: NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400
When: 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 13
Where: Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn
Defending champion: Kyle Larson
Support race: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Saturday, Aug. 12, 1 p.m. (FS1)