Joe Gibbs Racing drivers hit stride in playoffs: ‘It’s go time now’

RICHMOND, Va. — After leading almost half of Saturday night’s race at Richmond Raceway, Denny Hamlin seemed like he required simply 2 more laps.

The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota motorist led 197 of the 400 laps in the 2nd NASCAR Cup Series Round of 16 playoff race at the 0.75-mile oval, however the last round of green-flag rest stop positioned Hamlin behind colleague Martin Truex Jr. With 5 laps staying, Hamlin was approximately 2.7 seconds behind Truex. The last margin of success was 1.417 seconds.

A couple more circuits around the brief track may have been the technique for the Chesterfield, Virginia, native.

“We got a little bit off track with our car in the middle of the race, but there in the end, we definitely made the right adjustments and was coming, just a little bit too late,” Hamlin stated. “We had a couple slow stops under green. That’s kind of the difference.”

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It was a 1-2-3 sweep during the night’s end for JGR motorists, staking their claim early in the 2021 NASCAR Playoffs after Hamlin made success last Sunday at Darlington Raceway to lock himself into the next round. Christopher Bell completed third.

Christopher Bell Richmond

Christopher Bell Richmond

Bell noted his target points position coming out of Richmond was 20 markers above the removal line. Now sitting 17 points ahead with the podium outcome, his focus is on avoiding of difficulty next Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“Yeah, I feel good about it, and Bristol is a really good race track for our company and me,” Bell stated. “It‘s just you can get caught up in stuff so easily at Bristol. It’s nice to have a buffer and hopefully we can go to Bristol and have an uneventful event.”

RELATED: Bell: ‘Got a good finish out of it’

Kyle Busch was likewise in the blend front in the closing phases, however a pricey pit-road speeding charge in the last stint of rest stop dropped the No. 18 Toyota motorist back to a ninth-place surface, the last automobile on the lead lap. Busch has an eight-point buffer over the removal line heading into Bristol.

Hendrick Motorsports showcased the most dominant speed throughout the routine season, however it’s now JGR who seems shooting off on all cylinders at the correct time. Kyle Larson is the only Hendrick motorist locked into the Round of 12 up until now, while protecting champ Chase Elliott is 19 points above the removal line.

Alex Bowman and William Byron are on the outdoors searching in. Bowman is connected with Kurt Busch for 12th, while Byron is 18 points listed below the removal line.

“Well, it’s go time now,” Hamlin stated. “Ultimately it’s the time where you’ve got to bring your best. All JGR teams had fast cars for all of us today, and we just — I really wish we would have got two in a row, but regardless, still a great day for our team.”

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.