NASCAR Cup: Kevin Harvick wins at New Hampshire
Kevin Harvick celebrates after winning the Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 25, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Last weekend’s Chicagoland Speedway Chase opener was somewhat of a struggle for Kevin Harvick. He had a fast car but was unable to get back on the lead lap after getting trapped a lap down by an ill-timed caution. The 2014 Sprint Cup champion bounced back Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, claiming his third win of the season and winning the Bad Boy Off Road 300, the second race of the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup, to secure his advancement to round two, coming up in a couple of weeks.
“That was a game of inches last week,” Harvick said. “We wound up getting a lap down there, and I had a good car. I had a fifth or sixth-place car and just wound up not being where we needed to be, but all in all, we wound up where we should have been last year, this year.”
Harvick started the race in 19th position and methodically worked his way toward the front to make an appearance in the top-five a few laps after the completion of a cycle of green-flag pit stops just past lap 75. Matt Kenseth took runner-up honors after winning the last two races at NHMS, and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch, finished third. Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five.
Toyota drivers combined to dominate the race. After pole sitter Carl Edwards led the first 30 laps, Martin Truex Jr. took over the top spot on lap 31. Kenseth took his turn up front, taking the lead from Truex on lap 179. By the end of the race, Truex was credited with a race-high 141 laps led, while Kenseth was credited with leading 105 laps in the 300-lap race.
“We were pretty good today,” Kenseth said. “These guys did a good job, but we just didn’t get that last adjustment in and goot loose trying to hold of Martin (Truex Jr.). The 78 (Truex) was better than we were, and I just burned the right-rear off trying to hold him off.”
Kenseth was the leader for the final restart of the race with six laps remaining, with Harvick next to him on the front row. A lap after the restart, Harvick took his first lead of the race and drove on to the win.
“I just want to thank all our sponsors and everyone at the shop who works on the Stewart-Haas Racing cars,” Harvick said. “Man, that worked out really good. The car was pretty good on restarts. Once we got clean air there at the end, it wound up being really good up front. I’m just really proud of our team. They did a great job.”
Truex lost positions on the final restart and wound up seventh, just behind Edwards.
“I was trying to race as hard as I possibly could without getting into him (Kenseth), and he wasn’t making that easy, but that’s his job as the leader,” Truex said. “This race track is — it’s hard to pass at all. It’s really hard to pass on when you have two cars that are very equal. I felt like we were a little bit better than him at that point in time, but not better — not good enough to just drive by him.”
After starting on the pole and leading laps early, Edwards was assessed a pit-road penalty for a commitment-line violation with just over 30 laps remaining. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin also received a penalty for an uncontrolled tire during the same caution. He wound up finishing 15th.
Finishing eighth through 10th were Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson.
A handful of Chase drivers struggled throughout the race. Chris Buescher remained in the Chase basement as the worst finisher among the 16 Chase drivers, finishing 30th, two laps down.
Fellow Chasers Joey Logano and Austin Dillon also struggled. Both drivers fell off the lead lap early. They took wave-arounds during the second caution of the race on lap 166 to temporarily get back on the lead lap. Both were, again, a lap down soon after lap 200. Logano got back on the lead lap, for good, with a free pass during a caution with 32 laps to go, and Dillon got back on the lead lap later in the race. Logano wound up 10th and the finish and Dillon was 16th.