Joe Gibbs Racing came into Richmond struggling, but optimistic they could win for the first in 2017. As a team, JGR had won the last three Richmond races and short tracks play into the team’s wheelhouse, but the Toyota Owners 400 was a very mixed bag for the team.
Matt Kenseth led nearly half the race from the pole but late-race contact resulted in a cut tire and a 23rd-place finish. Kyle Busch was fast enough to win, but suffered two crippling pit-road penalties that cost him the victory. Rookie Daniel Suarez had a decent day, finishing 12th, while Denny Hamlin was best of the four JGR drivers with a third-place run.
But after the race, Hamlin, a three-time Richmond winner, was unhappy with the speed in his Toyota and said the team hadn’t improved.
“We haven’t gotten better ,” said Hamlin. “We’re right where we were. I mean, if we go to a mile‑and‑a‑half (track) next week, we’re just as far off as what we were a week ago. Literally it’s just a short track, and so driver can make a little bit more difference in
aerodynamics and skew and all that stuff doesn’t matter quite as much, but it’s still an issue for us. You’ve still got to have raw speed.”
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