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


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.

Supercross: Enzo Lopes will race with ClubMX in 2024

Lopes ClubMX 2024
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Coming off his best Supercross season to date, Enzo Lopes has re-signed with Muc-Off / ClubMX Yamaha and will race for the team in 2024. The deal is for Supercross only.

Enzo Lopes won his heat race in Denver and finished fourth in the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

Lopes debuted in the Supercross series in 2019 on a Suzuki and scored his first top-10 finishes in his last two starts of that season. Showing consistent improvement, he earned six top-10s in eight Main events the following year and finished fifth in the 250 East standings. In 2022, he scored his first top-five at Daytona and finished in the top five in points again.

“I am happy to be returning to ClubMX for another season,” Lopes said in a press release. “It is like family to me there and that is very important. Although I had many options, staying where I am makes the most sense for many reasons. The bikes are great, the people are great, the tracks are amazing, and I am surrounded by people that care about me. We all want to win and together we will get there.”

While he improved his season-best performance by only one position this year, it was nevertheless a breakout season. Lopes barely missed the podium three times in 2023 with fourth-place finishes at San Diego, Seattle, and Denver.

His strong performance him rumored to be speaking with factory teams.

“We could see the growth from Enzo every time he gets on the bike,” said team owner Brandon Haas. “We all knew it was just a matter of time before he would be noticed by everyone, and we are proud of him on many levels. He had some heat race wins and qualified fastest at three events this season. It would be hard not to be noticed going that fast. He had a big decision to make and we are glad he chose to stay with us at ClubMX.”

Lopes had three podium finishes in heat races this year, including a win preceding his fourth-place finish in Denver.

Lopes will join Jeremy Martin, Phil Nicoletti and Garrett Marchbanks, who announced a two-year extension with the team in January, at the ClubMX team.