Denny Hamlin led a trio of Toyotas across the finish line of the Gander RV 400 at Poconos Super Speedway on Sunday as Joe Gibbs racing swept the top three spots for the second time this season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with the first being the season opener at Daytona.
“I’m so proud of the whole team for putting me on a great strategy there, pit stops, everything.” Hamlin said. “This was a perfect team effort this weekend. We really identified our weaknesses from the first race, and we went to work as a driver and a team, and I think we’re better for it.”
Hamlin didn’t make his move to the front until lap 131 of a scheduled 163, but once he gained the front-row view he held on for the final 32 laps to win his third checkered flag of the year by a slim margin over teammates Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr.
William Byron took fourth, earning the top spot for both Chevrolet and Team Hendricks Motorsports, and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-5 in his No. 42 Credit One Camaro.
With only five races left in the regular season stage strategies dominated the early portions of the race with Kyle Busch picking up his eighth stage win of the season to cut into Joey Logano’s points lead, and seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson grabbing a valuable stage two victory to pull within twelve points of the final playoff spot.
Johnson, who finished fifteenth, remains just outside the playoff picture in 17th place and is still looking for his first win of the year, announced after the race that Cliff Daniels would be taking over as the crew chief for No. 48. Daniels was instrumental in Johnson’s 2016 Cup Series championship and the team hopes to recapture that spark before the end of the regular season.
Hendricks Motorsport teammate Chase Elliot, who secured his spot in the postseason with a win at Talladega, continued his summer woes with a pair of accidents over the weekend and a last place finish to continue a seven week stretch that can only be described as terrible as he has wracked up 3 DNFs and finished 20th or worse in five races.
“It’s been a rough month, little over a month now. It’s just an unfortunate rough patch,” Elliott said. “I think we were running in the top-10 there when we crashed. I feel like we were finally getting our car going. I thought we were doing a good job of it. I don’t really know what to do about that, but just move on.”
Elliott will look to reset his season at the site of his first cup series victory when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Goes Bowling at the Glen on Sunday, Aug. 4 at Watkins Glen International for the second road course race of the season.