It was Sprint Cup’s first race of the season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Toyota made a bold statement that its teams would be anxious to return in September for one of the 10 Chase races. Between the Toyota teams of Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing, a Camry led all but two of the race’s 301 laps.
Gibbs’s Kyle Busch led 133 laps followed by Furniture Row’s Martin Truex Jr. with 123. Busch’s teammates Denny Hamlin led five and Matt Kenseth led 38 laps, including the all-important last lap that gave him his second win of the season.
Only two drivers broke the hold that Toyota had on the top spot all day. Jimmie Johnson in a Chevrolet sat on the pole but was only able to lead the first lap before giving up the lead for good. Brad Keselowski led the other lap in a Penske Racing Ford.
While Gibbs and Toyota were still celebrating the dominating win and showing by its teams, NASCAR officials announced that Kenseth’s race-winning Camry failed post-race inspection. The car did not meet compliance in the laser inspection station (LIS) that measures multiple tolerances on the car. The car will undergo further scrutiny this week at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C. The remaining top-five finishing cars of Tony Stewart, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle along with the random selection of seventh-place finisher Ryan Newman all were put through the laser inspection station after the race and all of those cars passed without any problems.
There have been other cars that have failed the laser inspection station both before and after the race this season, but this is the first time that a race-winning car has failed to make it through the post-race inspection. Penalties can include the taking away of points, suspensions for crew chiefs and monetary fines.
Since this is the first time that a race-winning car failed to past the inspection, NASCAR will have a hard decision to make when handing down a penalty. The sanctioning body can also take away any of the benefits that come with a win that could include bonus points awarded for wins to begin the Chase.
CHASE NOTES: Brad Keselowski was the only driver going into New Hampshire that had guaranteed his spot in the Chase based on his points position and as a winner (four) of multiple regular-season races. Gibbs’s drivers Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards joined Keselowski with guaranteed spots in the Chase with their finishes on Sunday. Both drivers are multiple winners this season and are high enough in the points at this time that they cannot math- ematically fall outside of the top 30 regardless of their finishes over the final seven races leading up to the Chase.
EARNHARDT’S CHASE WATCH: Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat out Sunday’s race at New Hampshire after experiencing concussion-like symptoms. His chances of making the Chase will decrease with every race that he sits out, as he does not have a win. NASCAR will no doubt give him a wavier for the races that he has to sit out, but he must still finish in the top 16 in points to secure a spot in the Chase since he has yet to win a race. He fell two positions this week to 16th and now has a slim 14-point lead over Trevor Bayne in 17th.
PIT NOTES: The top-three finishers (Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Joey Logano) all had something in common after the New Hampshire race. All three at one time in their careers drove for Joe Gibbs Racing and all three won a race at New Hampshire while driving for Gibbs. All three also won in Gibbs’s No. 20. Stewart will be one of the favorites this weekend at Indianapolis, as he has two wins, seven top-5 and 11 top-10 finishes in 17 races at the Brickyard.
Event: Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400.
Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5 mile quad-oval, 9o of banking in the turns).
Date: July 24, 3 p.m.
Defending Champion: Kyle Busch.