Joe Gibbs Racing came close to its first victory of the season in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, but once again fell short.
At this point in 2016, JGR already had six victories through the first nine races of the season.
The Toyota powerhouse hasn’t maintained its dominance in 2017 but had its most competitive race so far this season before late issues and a charge by Team Penske cost JGR a chance to grab the checkered flag.
Check out how the day went for each of the four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers at Richmond:
Hamlin served as the most consistent JGR Toyota, running in the top five for the majority of the race.As the race went on, Hamlin couldn’t keep pace with the Team Penske Fords of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.
As the race went on, Hamlin couldn’t keep pace with the Team Penske Fords of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.
“We were competitive and our car drove really good,” Hamin said. “We were just missing some of the speed from the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 22 (Joey Logano) – they run a little more sideways than what we run and they have more grip. I think we optimized our day for the most part and that’s about as good as we could do.”
According to Hamlin, his third-place finish was exactly where he expected.
“We couldn’t beat the 2 (Keselowski) and 22 (Logano) straight up, so it’s different and you just keep coming in and pitting for tires to try steal one even though we were a third place car. The strategy got all mixed up there and we were luckily able to get back up there and finish where we should have.”
The rookie JGR driver continues to gain experience in 2017 and battled back from a rough start that saw him as many as three laps down to get a top-15 finish.
The learning curve lessens each week as Suarez gains more experience and as the No. 19 JGR team learns more about each other.
“The first half of the race, it was very tough,” Suarez said about learning the track at Richmond. “In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, it’s just so difficult. You get behind one or two adjustments and then you get a lap down or two laps down and it’s very difficult to recover that. Luckily we got a lot of cautions right there at the end and I was able to overcome those laps that I was down. Very proud of the team. They never give up.”
Once Suarez and his team can get the car working in the first part of the race, they’ll get away from the late recoveries he’s had at Phoenix, Auto Club, and today at Richmond.