Joe Gibbs Racing’s Sprint Cup Series division heads to New England for the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, September 22nd. Chase for the Sprint Cup points leader Matt Kenseth makes an historic start at NHMS – his 500th career Cup Series start – and looks to earn his first win at the 1.058-mile track.
Kenseth, in the No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Tools Toyota Camry this weekend featuring a special 500th start paint scheme, has 13 top 10 finishes in 27 previous starts at NHMS, including a ninth-place finish in July for JGR. He’s coming off his sixth win of the season in last weekend’s Chase-opening race at Chicagoland Speedway, and credits a strong JGR team for getting him this far.
“I think you have to be really good everywhere to be able to win a championship,” said Kenseth. “It’s been a record season for me. I’m obviously the same guy, the same driver. It’s obviously about Joe Gibbs Racing, the guys working there, Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and the group and everything. Denny (Hamlin) has always been great at Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway). Kyle (Busch) has been great there. I’m looking forward to getting there and trying to do better because I feel like I’m the weak link. Our speed was a little off at Daytona in July, so I’m a little worried about going to Talladega. But honestly, I feel good everywhere we go.”
Kyle Busch, in the No. 18 M&Ms Peanut Butter Toyota, has one win, seven top 10s and a pole in 17 previous Cup Series starts at the track, but has also been active in NASCAR’s other top series at NHMS: four wins in eight Nationwide Series starts and three wins in seven Camping World Truck Series starts. Busch finished runner-up to Kenseth in Sunday’s rain-delayed race at Chicagoland, and the duo sits 1-2 in points.
“Chicago was a great night for Joe Gibbs Racing,” said Busch. “I think having the 18 and the 20 running up front shows that we’re capable of doing that. Matt, I tell you, Matt is really, really good at mile-and-a-half racing. He is fast. He’s won a lot of them this year. I typically in the past haven’t been great at it, but certainly this year have been better at it. It’s a testament to us all learning, sharing information, and getting better. I think Denny (Hamlin) had a good run going, too. It’s a process. Our program seems to be working well with the mile-and-a-half tracks, but also Matt has won on a short track as well with Bristol. Optimism in the final 10, which half of them are mile-and-a-halves.”
Hamlin, in the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota, is missing the Chase for the first time in his career, but he’ll be among the most competition cars at New Hampshire. In 15 previous Cup Series starts at NHMS, he has 10 top 10 finishes, including two wins, and an average finish of 8.8 – the best among active drivers.
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