We knew Toyota would be strong this weekend at Watkins Glen. Heading into Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen, Joe Gibbs Racing finished 1-2-3 last weekend at the Pocono Raceway. In the only other road course race run this season, they finished 1-2. In last year’s race at Watkins Glen, they finished 2-3-4-5.
On Sunday, the put three cars in the top four again. Like last year, they didn’t win either.
Martin Truex Jr. led the way for the Toyota camp in coming home a narrow second to Chase Elliott. It was his third straight top two finish at the Glen and fifth top two result in his last six road course starts.
But, two more JGR drivers kept steaks going themselves.
Denny Hamlin in his No. 11 Toyota this weekend at the Watkins Glen International
Denny Hamlin finished third in his No. 11 Toyota for his third top four finish in his last four Watkins Glen starts. But, Hamlin said that he finished where he deserved as he had a third place car all weekend.
“We were just a couple tenths off each lap,” Hamlin said after another top five finish. “They were just a little better. I fought the bus-stop all day, I was just a third-place car all weekend and it showed up by finishing third. We optimized the most we were going to get out of our Camry right there. Good day for JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) as a whole – two, three, four — 18 (Kyle Busch) we know was fast, but had issues. This keeps momentum for us, but just wish we were a little better. Overall, not bad.”
To go along with his results, Hamlin now has four consecutive top five finishes on the season as well and five top five finishes in his last seven overall starts on the year too.
“Just been better as a whole,” Hamlin said of his recent success. “Just communication getting better, everything is getting better. I’ve got a first-year crew chief (Chris Gabehart) that’s finding his feet right now and our communication is good. He’s showing up to the race track and bringing me a fast car. I’m driving them as hard as I can. It’s all working right now.”
Erik Jones practices his No. 20 Toyota for Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen
His teammate Erik Jones is also driving good. Jones, earned a fourth place finish in his No. 20 Toyota for his third straight top 10 in Watkins Glen and fourth straight top four finish of the season too.
“It’s good to keep it all going,” Jones said of his momentum. “Watkins Glen is kind of the wild card in there. Being a road course and everything, we’ve been on some tracks that have been really good to us and Watkins Glen has been good to us, but you still never know what can happen on strategy. It worked out the best it really could. I made a mistake yesterday, we started too far back and just took us all day to get the DeWalt Camry up front. I felt like we had a fifth-place car all through practice and we were able to get a little better finish than that. It’s nice to keep that streak going and now going to two places – Michigan next week and then Bristol where I think we can win. We have some really good momentum behind us these months. You can’t keep running up in the top-five every week and not win a race. That’s what I keep telling myself and hopefully we can do it here soon”
Jones, has made up 67 points in four races now. He headed to the Kentucky Speedway in mid July 13 points behind the cutoff. He leaves Watkins Glen 54 points above it.
“Real close,” Jones said on if he can focus on race wins, not points moving forward. “We’re right on the edge of that. We’re over a race up so we can definitely have a race where things don’t necessarily go our way, but we don’t want to get in a spot here with two races to go where we’re back in position where we have to really salvage points. We’ve done a great job this last month-and-a-half of carving our way back into it and really getting towards the top of the non-winners in the Playoff picture, which is a good feeling. Where we should be and where we belong – it’s nice to be up there. Points are off the mind a little bit more than they have been the last few weeks.”