Joe Gibbs Racing proved they’re a powerful team at Charlotte Motor Speedway over the last two weekends, with Denny Hamlin winning the Sprint All-Star Race last weekend and Carl Edwards making his first appearance in victory lane for JGR and Toyota in this weekend’s Coca Cola 600. All four JGR Toyota Camrys placed in the top 12 at Charlotte on Sunday, while the three Xfinity Series drivers placed in the top 15 in Saturday’s Hisense 300.
Edwards qualified third in the No. 19 Subway Toyota Camry in the third position and spent much of the race’s first 100 laps battling inside the top ten. After getting shuffled out of the top 10, crew chief Darian Grubb made a fuel strategy call, bringing Edwards back to the front of the field. Edwards held off the competition during the final 21 laps of the race to earn his first victory since joining JGR prior to this season. The win was Toyota’s 300th victory across all three top NASCAR national Series.
“JGR is back and these Toyotas are great,” said Edwards post-race. “I was the slowest of the group tonight and I just had the best guys on the pit box here and did a great job. Subway – I will be having a Coke along with my sub sandwich this week and guacamole on that. ARRIS came on in a huge way to start this fourth team. Toyota took a chance on me – I went to Kentucky the other week and saw where these Camrys are built. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) has been behind me 100 percent. Sport Clips, Comcast, Sprint, all the fans – what a big day of racing. I can’t believe we won this race.”
Matt Kenseth started from the pole in the No. 20 DEWALT Toyota, leading early on but dropping outside the top ten shortly after lap 100. Kenseth was running seventh with 100 laps to go when he reported a strange vibration in his Camry; he was able to wait until a caution allowed him to come down pit road, but fell a lap off the pace in the process. He was given the lucky dog and returned to the lead lap on Lap 329. Kenseth and the No. 20 team stretched their final fuel run to earn a fourth-place finish.
Denny Hamlin started fifth in the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota, battling inside the top ten for much of the night. Late in the race, Hamlin pitted from the lead with 38 laps remaining after reporting a possible loose wheel. As other leaders began to pit late in the race, Hamlin climbed back into contention, but several cars, including Edwards, made their fuel strategy work. Hamlin earned an eighth-place finish in the 600 to go with his All-Star win.
Kyle Busch started his first points race of the season from 17th in the No. 18 Skittles Toyota, quickly moving into the top ten and, by Lap 135, into the top five. Busch joined several other leaders in the pits for one last splash of gas, but six cars ahead of him extended their fuel run to 64 laps, leaving Busch just outside the top ten with an 11th-place finish.
“I’m a little surprised that I feel as good as I do, you know,” said Busch. “I was expecting to be a little bit more beat up and tired, but honestly, I’m not. I don’t know if that’s – there could be two sides to that. If you go week-to-week-to-week you could grind yourself out and you get tired, whereas I just took a three‑month vacation so my body feels pretty good and it’s only been beat up in the gym. Other than that, you know, I feel like this was a good night and a great accomplishment. I feel like coming back this quick, you know, was a huge task, but I can’t thank everyone enough, everyone at OrthoCarolina. I think those guys did a fantastic job helping me and pushing me and getting me to where I needed to be. Without them, I wouldn’t be here probably.”
Greg Biffle finished second, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in third; Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top five.
Hamlin was runner-up to Austin Dillon on Saturday in the Hisense 300 at Charlotte. Hamlin started fourth in the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, leading once for 19 laps. Daniel Suarez finished sixth in the No. 18 ARRIS Toyota from the 19th starting spot, while Erik Jones started seventh and finished 15th in the No. 20 GameStop Toyota.
Kasey Kahne finished third, followed by Regan Smith and Darrell Wallace Jr.
The Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series are joined by the Camping World Truck Series this weekend at Dover International Speedway, Thursday through Sunday, May 28th through 31st. Keep up with the action at joegibbsracing.com.