NASCAR Barometer: Hamlin Earns Season’s First Joes Gibbs Win

NASCAR Barometer: Hamlin Earns Season’s First Joes Gibbs Win

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

A Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota landed in Victory Lane on Sunday in New Hampshire, but it wasn't the one most expected. Denny Hamlin drove a consistent and conservative race to take advantage of his position and wound up out front, holding off Kyle Larson in the final laps of Sunday's race. He earned the win for which the organization has been searching, and Toyota's step forward in performance played a big role in that resurgence. Hamlin was quick throughout the weekend but wasn't the fastest car in Sunday's race. He held station and went mistake-free to score the all-important breakthrough and book a spot in the championship playoffs.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway awaits the teams this week, and there are a number of teams with pressure mounting. Kyle Busch is still winless but will aim to leverage Hamlin's victory to his benefit. Joey Logano's woes are still in full effect, and the Penske Racing organization as a whole now appears to be behind the Joe Gibbs Toyotas. The Brickyard 400 is one of the biggest races of the season, and taking the checkered flag there could salvage many seasons.

UPGRADE

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin hasn't had his name called out much this season, but the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was on his game in New Hampshire. The Toyota driver was running solidly inside the top five through much of Sunday's race, which is what it takes to walk away with victories. Both of the top cars he trailed through much of

A Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota landed in Victory Lane on Sunday in New Hampshire, but it wasn't the one most expected. Denny Hamlin drove a consistent and conservative race to take advantage of his position and wound up out front, holding off Kyle Larson in the final laps of Sunday's race. He earned the win for which the organization has been searching, and Toyota's step forward in performance played a big role in that resurgence. Hamlin was quick throughout the weekend but wasn't the fastest car in Sunday's race. He held station and went mistake-free to score the all-important breakthrough and book a spot in the championship playoffs.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway awaits the teams this week, and there are a number of teams with pressure mounting. Kyle Busch is still winless but will aim to leverage Hamlin's victory to his benefit. Joey Logano's woes are still in full effect, and the Penske Racing organization as a whole now appears to be behind the Joe Gibbs Toyotas. The Brickyard 400 is one of the biggest races of the season, and taking the checkered flag there could salvage many seasons.

UPGRADE

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin hasn't had his name called out much this season, but the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was on his game in New Hampshire. The Toyota driver was running solidly inside the top five through much of Sunday's race, which is what it takes to walk away with victories. Both of the top cars he trailed through much of the afternoon suffered trouble, which paved the way for Hamlin to get out front and hold off Kyle Larson for the win. He's now the first Joe Gibbs Racing driver to visit Victory Lane this season. He also has six top 10s from 11 career starts at the Brickyard, including three consecutive top fives heading into this weekend's event.

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex inherited the pole in New Hampshire when Kyle Larson failed inspection for the second week in a row. The driver of the No. 78 then went on to capture the first stage win, his 14th of the season, but wasn't able to seal the deal this time. A tire issue dropped him out of the lead in the final segment, but there was time remaining to recover. He was able to work his way back into the top five before the final laps of the race but wasn't able to reel in Larson or Hamlin to challenge for the win. Truex has three top-10 finishes from his last five Indy starts, and fantasy owners have to expect he'll have a good car again this week.

Kyle Busch – Busch won the second stage of Sunday's race in New Hampshire but still came up short of a race win. He owns the second-most stage wins behind Truex, but those won't mean much if he fails to find a victory and misses the playoffs. That situation may be unlikely, but the erosion of his confidence as he remains winless is real. He was well out front in the lead when speeding on pit road caused him to serve a drive-through penalty, which put him a lap behind on Sunday. That mistake certainly cost him the victory and had him watching as teammate Hamlin claimed honors for the team. However, Busch has won both of the last two races at the Brickyard, leading 149 of the 170 laps last season.

Kyle Larson – For the second week in row Larson was forced to start at the rear of the field after failing inspection. Fantasy owners will be happy with finish differential points those starts earn, but other formats reward wins and laps led more. Those statistics go wanting when starting at the back. He was able to finish second, yet again but could be capable of more if he and the team avoid the mistakes that make their afternoons harder than necessary. Larson has yet to finish outside of the top 10 at Indianapolis, and it would be difficult to foresee him missing out on one of those top spots this weekend. He, like Truex, should be expected to be one of the favorites this week.

Jimmie Johnson – Johnson's front-row start in New Hampshire immediately went south when he received a drive-through penalty for a start-line violation. He crossed the start line ahead of the pole sitter, which isn't allowed. That penalty was not the best way to start the day, but the team persevered to walk away with a top-10 finish. After finishing 40th the prior week in Kentucky, the team regains some confidence and momentum as they head to one of the better circuits. Johnson is a four-time victor at the Brickyard, and fantasy owners shouldn't count him out too early this week. While other teams have had more blinding speed this season, Johnson has been consistent and capable of winning just about every weekend.

DOWNGRADE

Erik Jones – Contact on pit road left Jones with a left-front tire failure that put him into the wall and out of Sunday's race. It was a disappointing result for a driver who was just unveiled as Matt Kenseth's replacement at Joe Gibbs Racing for 2018 and beyond. The young driver has had a respectable season, but he'll probably wish to forget last week's early exit. This week will be Jones' first visit to the Brickyard. While he's definitely a driver to whom fantasy players should pay attention, this week may not be the best opportunity to play him in most formats. The second half of this season will present some better opportunities to make that move.

Joey Logano – Troubles at the rear of Logano's car put end to what should have been a good afternoon for the struggling driver still looking to overcome his encumbered win in Richmond. He ended up having to retreat to the garage for repairs for the problem and went down numerous laps to the leaders. He eventually returned to the race, but it was only a test session after that. His woes continue, and fantasy owners should approach choosing him with caution, as desperation to make the playoffs increases. Logano has led laps in the last four races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and picked up four consecutive top-10s, but he needs a win at this stage of the season.

Kasey Kahne – For yet another week, Kahne finds himself searching for answers versus celebrating results. The Hendrick Motorsports driver wasn't a factor at any point in the weekend and was classified in 28th position at the end of Sunday's race. He hasn't finished in the top 10 since Talladega, and he may be watching his time at the Hendrick organization run out, too. Results need to come for him to continue with the team, but no answers seem to be coming. This weekend presents another chance, but Kahne's recent Indianapolis statistics haven't been the best. He finished outside of the top 15 in the last two races there and only scored six top-10s at the track in 13 career efforts.

Ryan Newman – A spin late in Sunday's race ended Newman's chances of a top finish. He was able to keep the car off the wall, which enabled him to make up a little ground on his way to the finish. Next week is his home race, which he won in 2013, but his New Hampshire finish makes it consecutive races where he has failed to make the top 20. He crashed out of last year's Brickyard 400, too. While he has a win in his pocket for 2017, he's shaping up to be the underdog in the playoffs. With just six top-10 finishes at this point in the season, it's unlikely fantasy owners will want to rely on him on a regular basis.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Daniel Suarez – Suarez has improved as this season has progressed, and Sunday's top-10 finish in New Hampshire was evidence of that. He ran a relatively quiet race, which is his style so far in the series, but earned his fifth top-10 of the season and his first since Dover. The second half of this season is shaping up to be a great run for Suarez as he can leverage his experience from the first visit to many of the tracks in Cup equipment. Like most other tracks so far this season, Suarez has yet to visit Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It will be a new experience for this driver, but with the approach he consistently demonstrates each week he could be a valuable asset to fantasy rosters.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks selections for the Pennzoil 400 and Bahrain Grand Prix
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks selections for the Pennzoil 400 and Bahrain Grand Prix
NASCAR DFS:  Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube
NASCAR DFS: Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube
NASCAR Xfinity DFS: The LiUNA!
NASCAR Xfinity DFS: The LiUNA!
Pennzoil 400 Preview: West Coast Swing Begins
Pennzoil 400 Preview: West Coast Swing Begins