Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Denny Hamlin Overcomes Crustacean Fear for First Win of 2017 at Loudon

Who’s in the headline – Joe Gibbs Racing went past the halfway point of the season without a victory. That changed in the first race of the second half as Denny Hamlin took advantage of some strategy calls and track conditions at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to score his first win of the season. Hamlin led the final 34 laps of the race to grab the giant lobster.

Martin Truex Jr. captured his 15th stage win of 2017, but finished third after leading 137 laps at New Hampshire. (Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

What happenedMartin Truex Jr. led the first 78 laps of the event. Kyle Busch pitted on a caution just prior to the end of the first stage, which cost him a few points, but positioned him to lead the entire second stage. Truex led a good portion of the first half of the final stage before suffering a cut tire that put him back in the pack. Busch, however, was poised to grab the win until he had two different speeding penalties late in the race. Hamlin had a fast pit stop on the last caution of the race and JGR teammate Matt Kenseth took two tires from the lead. That allowed Hamlin to make an on-track pass for the lead and ultimately, drive away from Kenseth and Co. for the victory.

Why you should care – JGR was very strong last year with a eight wins by the time the checkered flag flew at Loudon the first time. This year, New Hampshire is their first win. The team has shown speed, but they have struggled to run a consistent race without strategy or pit mistakes. With Hamlin finally in Victory Lane, that may be the piece that opens the flood gates to put JGR back on pace to battle for the title. The Ford camp seems to be struggling for speed, though, the Stewart-Haas Racing teams had a decent day, with each of the four cars finishing in the top 13.

What your friends are talking about – The talk of the weekend, once again, was sticky crap on the racetrack. VHT, PJ1, sticky goo, tacky stuff, whatever it is called, was sprayed on the track at the edge of the apron and in the third groove. A wider swath was put down on the bottom groove before Saturday’s racing and then, it was reapplied come Sunday morning after drivers said it wore off after the XFINITY Series race. The television commentators did everything they could to make it sound like it is normal to screw around with the track surface. The problem is the car needs to change, not the tracks.

The news from Matt Kenseth last weekend has just scratched the surface of Silly Season. Rumors are rampant that Kenseth will be in the No. 88 car next year. While you never want to say it isn’t happening until the plans are officially announced, it certainly seems like Rick Hendrick is leaning far harder on going with someone in house.

Joey Logano had a failure in the rear of his car Sunday. It appears as though something failed with the left truck arm. It looked curious enough to NASCAR that they decided to take the part back to the R&D center to analyze it further.

Rumblings in the garage area not only include questions on driver locations for 2018, they also revolve around teams. Richard Childress Racing may be facing next season without longtime sponsor Menards. The word circulating in the garage is that Paul Menard and the associated Menards sponsorship, are considering packing up and heading to Team Penske/Wood Brothers Racing for next year. As always, it depends on what sponsorship the team can find that will determine if RCR continues with three teams or cuts back to two.

Brent Dewar was promoted to President of NASCAR this past week. Dewar served as the COO of NASCAR since 2014. He’s been instrumental in the implementation of the charter system, track partnerships, the tile sponsor and broadcast partnerships. Dewar is the fourth person to hold the title of President of NASCAR. This move is part of Brian France’s vision of a more strategic and inclusive NASCAR.

Frontstretch and the entire NASCAR community extends our deepest condolences to Darrell, Michael and the entire Waltrip family on the passing of their mother. Margaret Waltrip passed away on July 12 at the age of 90.

Richmond International Raceway is being re-branded as Richmond Raceway as part of a $30 million capital improvement project. The re-branding and new logo are designed to greater emphasize the connection of the racetrack to its roots in local racing in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Who is mad – Logano is fighting an uphill battle since his encumbered win at Richmond. New Hampshire holds a special place for Logano as it is where he scored his first win. Unfortunately for Logano, his weekend was just another in the string of many setbacks that have befallen him over the summer. A broken rear suspension piece cost him 32 laps and dropped him further from the final playoff spot on points.

Kyle Larson goes from last to second for the second week in a row. Pushing the limits is what all of the teams have to do to win in the super regulated environment that is Cup racing these days. Unfortunately for Larson, the team tried to monkey with something that was not supposed to be adjustable. That move to the back might not have been that much of a hindrance to Larson winning, but it didn’t make his day any better. When the playoffs come around, the No. 42 team is going to be a factor. But they are going to have to keep it closer to the vest to win a title.

Who is happy – Rookie Daniel Suarez may have been third among the JGR contingent at Loudon, but he scored his second sixth-place finish of his career. He continues to improve after having been thrust into the Cup Series thanks to Carl Edwards’ retirement. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the No. 19 team score a win before the end of the season. Suarez is also happy because the process to secure a green card has begun for him.

After a 15th-place run last week, Danica Patrick came home 13th Sunday for her second best run of the season. Patrick certainly hears the talk about her future in the sport and the strength of the SHR camp has her in contention for some strong finishes as the season winds down. Whatever the future holds, Patrick is continuing to improve her finishes and, if this trend continues, will mark her fifth straight year of improved average finishes.

When the checkered flag flew:

Denny Hamlin scored his 30th career win in his 417th career start.

This is Hamlin’s first victory of 2017.

Hamlin has three career triumphs at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

30 victories puts Hamlin alone in 25th on the All-Time win list, two behind Dale Jarrett.

Kyle Larson finished second for the seventh time in 2017.

This is the second consecutive race where Larson started shotgun on the field and finished runner-up.

Larson has been the first loser twice in seven career races at Loudon.

The second place run is Larson’s 13th of his career. He’s tied with Donnie Allison, Clint Bowyer, Morgan Shepherd and Curtis Turner for 54th on the All-Time runner-up list.

Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the podium on Sunday with his sixth top three of the season.

Truex has two career third place runs at New Hampshire.

In his career Truex has finished first, second or third 36 times. That is good enough for 60th on the All-Time list.

In the last three races Toyota has led 870 laps at New Hampshire. Chevrolet has led 29 while Ford has led three.

Hamlin’s victory is the 210th by the No. 11 in the Cup series. That is the most by any number in the history of NASCAR.

Rookie of the Race was Daniel Suarez. That is his eighth such win of the year. Daniel Suarez has eight and Ty Dillon has three.

Nineteen races into the season there have been twelve different winners this year. With seven races left before the playoff cutoff, if there are six new winners, someone with a win will not make the playoffs. That said, there most likely won’t be 17 unique winners. For now you have Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. tied with most wins of the year with three. Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., with two wins, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, and Denny Hamlin with one each. In the twelve winners Joey Logano is not eligible for the playoffs by virtue of his triumph being considered encumbered at Richmond. Logano will have to win again to make the playoffs based on a victory.

The remaining six drivers in points and their position:

  1. Kyle Busch
  1. Chase Elliott
  2. Jamie McMurray
  1. Clint Bowyer
  2. Matt Kenseth

The drivers who have scored playoff points so far this season and their total:

Martin Truex Jr – 29

Jimmie Johnson – 16

Kyle Larson – 13

Brad Keselowski -13

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 10

Kevin Harvick – 8

Ryan Blaney – 8

Denny Hamlin – 7

Ryan Newman – 5

Kurt Busch – 5

Austin Dillon – 5

Kyle Busch – 5

Chase Elliott – 2

Matt Kenseth – 2

Joey Logano – 1

What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)

The sticky crap made for multiple racing grooves over the first half of the race. It wore off by the second half and the track got back to more of the old Loudon. It still provided a little variety as the laps wound down but, in the end, passing was nearly impossible over the final 100 laps. Two on-track passes for the lead and a spread out field for most of the second half led to an average rating for this weekend’s event. That means three cold Granite Ledge Stouts from Canterbury Aleworks.

Where do you point your DVR for next week – The series heads to the world’s most famous race track next weekend. It is time for the 24th Brickyard 400. Coverage begins at 2:30PM Sunday, July 23rd on NBC. It can be seen on the NBCSports App as well. The race can also be heard on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway network and on SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

“The problem is the car needs to change, not the tracks.”

Thank you!!!!!!!!!! You’re catching on!


People have been saying this for the longest time now, but Nascar is the only one that apparently can’t see this. Instead they insist on using gimmicks to improve the racing. Well they can’t make fun of Indy Cars push to pass anymore, since in order to have good racing in Nascar they need to apply goop on every track to do it.

Bill B

At least we will only have to endure Loudon one time next year.

Another unnecessary competition caution. The way NASCAR has been adding these every week for dubious reasons is really getting annoying.

It’s arguable whether the “sticky crap on the race track” really does much to improve the racing or if there is a placebo effect where people believe the racing is better because they are being told it will improve the racing. Whatever happened to just having a track, having people show up to race on it, and see who does the best?


Now did I miss something? I flipped over to the race, were they patching a hole in the track?

I was scratching my head too abut the competition caution.

Interesting how Johnson jumped the start of the race and was penalized for it. Slick Rick’s payola checks must not be arriving quick enough in Daytona beach to garner his the wink wink from officials.

Again, isn’t Truex’s tam a satellite of Gibbs?


Why is everyone asking about the TV time out…er “competition caution”? It’s a safety issue so the teams can come in and change the tires and check for excessive wear because it rained since the last race at the track. Like all the teams do. We know how much Brian is a nut for safety..

Bill B

LOL… trying to get a job with NASCAR’s head office?


They ran a race on that track after the rain stopped and then put that sticky stuff down on track da night or sun am. No mother nature involvement in changing the tack conditions, just human intervention. Na$car must had gotten a whopper of a des on the track goop.


I’m waiting for the “competition caution” because it’s too sunny and the tires are overheating. There will still be teams that don’t change them.



Bobby DK

Read the news last night and saw Hamlin won. Went to you tube to see any highlights and one of the pop up vids was ” Hamlin’s awesome victory burnout”. Clicked it and watched him totally destroy both engine and car. Anybody else see what a waste of money and man hours? Is that an encumbered car now?


John Menard and his everlasting quest to buy Paul a NASCAR career. Menard has gone from a total embarrassment when his Cup career started to Mr. Ehh. I get why the Wood Bros. would take his money if Blaney moves over to Penske. I’m wondering if Penske gets extra Menards $$$ for a third Blaney car to do this. I wish they could make a rule for “silver spoon” drivers that if Daddy wants to buy you a Cup career, they have to fund a second car for an actual driver.

Bill B

In the past it seemed like drivers weren’t expected to bring their own sponsorship with them in order to get a ride. It seemed like the owner/team would find the sponsors. The new normal seems to be that drivers need to buy their rides with sponsorship money they bring in themselves. Being talented is secondary to the money. Another reason why NASCAR isn’t taken seriously by fans of other sports. Pretty soon, all the rides will be bought.


Ok,since Earnhardt Jr is retiring, does that mean the “replacement” driver will have to bring sponsors, or are Jr.’s spnsors rating? I’m sure sponsors will have a huge role in who the replacement driver is in the 88.

Bill B

I don’t think we know the answer to that. Change the driver and everything has to be renegotiated. Mountain Dew probably won’t be willing to pay as much for Bowman or Kenseth as they would with Jr. That’s why the decisions/announcements are coming slowly, because the legal/contractual side of the business takes a lot of time. Once Jr vacates all his sponsors can bolt (assuming the contract was written specifically for Jr being the drivers).


But with Edwards ride, sponsors were signed and Edwards did promo work, then decided to leave
. Suarez has those sponsors. I can’t imagine contracts for fees were renegotiated at that late hour.

Bill B

Big difference is that rumor has it that Arris (a Mexican company) wanted Suarez (a Mexican driver) in the car anyway. While I don’t believe it, many have speculated that Edwards was forced out to make room for Suarez at the sponsor’s request. Either way if the sponsor is happy with the replacement driver then the contract is easier to work out.

Tom B

When Denny started his Cup career it was noted that he was very good on flat tracks. He was a 15-1 shot in Vegas for both races at Pocono in 2006. He swept Pocono. He also has wins at Martinsville, New Hampshire and other short flat tracks. The commentators never mentioned that he is a short flat track specialist. They always tell you who is the road racing and restrictor plate favorite. Poor analysis and facts about drivers from the racing broadcasters.
I think the win should be encumbered. No way he could pass post inspection after that obnoxious burnout.

Share via