Late cautions, lack of pace lead to ho-hum day for JGR

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Denny Hamlin’s solid Daytona Speedweeks – a win in the Sprint Unlimited, a win in the Budweiser Duels, and a runner-up in the Daytona 500 – had many observers believing the Joe Gibbs Racing driver could keep it up at Phoenix, a place that has been good to him in recent years.

But instead, Hamlin’s struggles on restarts plagued him late during Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500 and the Virginia native faded to a 19th-place result after running in the Top 10 with around 60 laps to go.

Altogether, it was a so-so day for JGR, who was led by Kyle Busch (pictured) in ninth and had Matt Kenseth finish 12th in his return to PIR following the fall 2013 race that effectively finished his championship hopes.

Bearing a colorful Skittles livery on his car, the “rainbow-powered” Busch was one of many that were unable to hang on speed-wise to the likes of winner Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the Team Penske tandem of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

“[We] just didn’t have the speed that we were looking for, especially getting off the corner,” Busch said afterwards. “[Crew chief] Dave [Rogers] and the guys made the car better during the day, but we just didn’t have the handle to run with the leaders.

“We had a seventh to 10th-place car today and brought it home in ninth. Looking forward to Vegas next weekend.”

Rogers himself echoed his driver’s comments, saying that Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team “put on a clinic” in Sunday’s event.

“We just didn’t have the speed to run with them,” he said. “We just couldn’t get our car balanced as well as they could.”

Kenseth was looking good for a Top-10 finish after making a green-flag stop with 71 laps remaining, but a few laps later, the caution came out and he was put a lap down.

He would get the wave-around to return to the lead lap but was 14th on the restart with 61 laps to go. In the remaining laps, Kenseth could only do so much.

“We had everything going okay and looked like we were maybe going to sneak out a fifth or sixth or seventh – somewhere in there – then the caution fell right after we pitted and put us a lap down,” he said.

“We [got the free pass] and then we were in traffic the rest of the day. I just couldn’t negotiate traffic. My car would be so aero-tight, I couldn’t really do anything. Just couldn’t really go forward.”

The scene now shifts to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Kenseth is the defending champion. Kenseth claimed four of his seven wins last season on 1.5-mile tracks such as LVMS.

Toro Rosso boss hopes to see Kvyat return to Formula 1

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Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost hopes to see sacked driver Daniil Kvyat return to Formula 1 in the near future, saying the Russian “deserves” a place on the grid.

Toro Rosso dropped Kvyat twice through the 2017 season due to poor form, with his final dismissal coming after the United States Grand Prix in October.

Kvyat is no longer part of Red Bull’s motorsport program and is exploring options both inside and outside of F1 for 2018, and Tost feels he could be energized by some time away before returning.

“I am still convinced that Daniil has a very high natural speed. He was sometimes even faster than Daniel Riccardo, but somehow last year and this year he couldn’t show the potential that is within him,” Tost told the official F1 website.

“He was involved in many incidents, but in his defence I also have to say that he had many reliability issues and that didn’t help build up confidence. Being the victim of too many incidents killed the performance he would have been able to show.

“Maybe a short break – to get organized again – and probably we will see Daniil back at his usual performance level with another team.

“Sometimes he was too aggressive at the beginning of the race. The first corner was his weak point. He wanted too much in the first hundred meters – success by any means!

“That puts you under pressure – unnecessary pressure – and that never works.

“I hope for him that he gets another chance, as I think he deserves to be in F1.”