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NASCAR Cup: Kevin Harvick scores first win of 2019

LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE – JULY 21: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer/National Forest Foundation Ford, pits during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 21, 2019 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Kevin Harvick was able to to maintain his lead despite a side-by-side battle with Denny Hamlin on the final lap of the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday to claim his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the season and the first for Stewart-Haas Racing.

“We’ve run well enough a few times this year to win, but we’ve just made mistakes and to finally battle and get over that hump is a great day for everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and everybody on the 4 car,” Harvick said. ”I was really questionable about how that was gonna go and the thing took right off. The only thing that wasn’t good was we got the traffic and my car started pushing. I knew that he was gonna take a shot. I would have taken a shot. I stood on the brakes and just tried to keep it straight. I just didn’t want to get him back from the inside and let him have another shot. I wanted to at least be in control of who was gonna have contact in turn three and four. It was a heck of a finish, closer than what we wanted, but it was our only chance. I would have never done it (made call to stay out during final caution), but that’s why he’s (crew chief Rodney Childers) on the box and not me.”

The win was Harvick’s fourth at NHMS, making him the winningest driver at the track among active drivers.

Hamlin finished second after dominating the second half of the race. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones finished third, Ryan Blaney was fourth, and Matt DiBenedetto rounded out the top-five.

Hamlin gave up his lead when he pitted during the ninth caution of the race for a Kyle Larson wreck with 37 laps remaining. Harvick inherited the lead by being the first of three drivers to stay out. Hamlin restarted fourth but moved into second on the final restart.

“I felt like we had a great car all weekend and everybody had been doing a good job. We were just in a bad spot there with track position, and I didn’t think we were gonna win from where we were at, so sometimes you have to make those decisions and Kevin did a great job on the restart and holding his own,” Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers said of the late-race call to stay out. ”That track position was key today and clean air and just really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and everybody at Ford and everybody that has pushed hard for us all year to try to get our cars better and get back to victory lane.”

Hamlin started the race in the back in a backup car because of a crash in opening practice on Friday. He was up to ninth by the time the first stage ended on lap 75, and pit strategy got him to the front around the halfway point of the 301-lap race. He stayed out after the second stage ended on lap 150 to inherit a lead he maintained until Harvick’s strategy of staying out during the final caution.

Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch dominated the first half of the race. After starting on the front row next to pole sitter Brad Keselowski, Busch took the lead on the opening lap and led a race-high 118 laps by the time the yellow flag waved for the fourth time in the race for a Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spin on lap 136.

Busch first lost the lead during a lap 45 caution when Austin Dillon hit the wall. He restarted fourth after another JGR teammate, Erik Jones, and Stenhouse took only two tires. Keselowski also beat Busch out of the pits, despite taking four. But when the race restarted, Busch retook the lead and pulled away, taking a stage-one win.

Busch lost the lead, again, through pit strategy, when Harvick, Hamlin and Clint Bowyer stayed out during a caution for a Daniel Hemric/Daniel Suarez incident on lap 110, but like before, Busch retook the lead when the race restarted.

Busch never returned to the lead after the Stenhouse yellow flag. He restarted 10th behind nine cars that stayed out during that caution. He was back up to fifth by the end of the second stage as Aric Almirola took the stage win after staying out during two previous cautions.

Busch restarted 17th at the beginning of the third and final stage after 14 cars stayed out and a couple more took only two tires. Busch was up to seventh in the running order when he got into the wall, bringing out the seventh caution on lap 214.

Busch still managed a top-10 finish in eighth. Other top-10 finishers included JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr. in sixth, and Ryan Newman, who started in the back in a backup car after a practice crash and suffered an engine issue in the second half of the race. The problem was remedied with the replacement of an engine coil wire.

“Honestly, it was the most fun I’ve had all year in a race car, and that’s mostly because we had a good, competitive Oscar Mayer Ford,” Newman said. ”I slid through the box. We had a bad coil wire. We had a bunch of things that set us back, being in a backup car, starting last and to have the finish that we did at a track that is usually difficult to pass at, but I will say that I did pass a few guys three-wide, and that doesn’t happen very often here. I’m proud of the team effort, and it’s something to build on, for sure.”

Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Keselowski finished ninth and 10th, respectively.

Below, is the complete finishing order of the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway:

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Posted by on July 21, 2019. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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