Harvick Wins at New Hampshire, Advances to Second Round of Chase

by John Harlow On Sun, Sep. 25, 2016

Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images

LOUDON, N.H — Kevin Harvick had a perfect restart with six laps to go and outlasted Matt Kenseth to win the Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The win gives Harvick a ticket to the second round of the Chase to the Sprint Cup Championship.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver started 19th and worked his way into the top 10 before the first round of green flag pit stops. He moved his way through the field to settle into the top-five but wasn’t in the discussion of who would win the race until the final restart.

The race was dominated by Toyota drivers Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., and Matt Kenseth.

Edwards led the first 31 circuits before being overtaken by Truex Jr. Kenseth came into the picture just past halfway and battled with Truex throughout most of the second half of the race.

While they were battling for the lead, Harvick was running in fourth place when a caution for a Trevor Bayne accident in Turn 4 came out. On the restart, Truex couldn’t get going and Harvick used the outside lane to clear Truex and get into second place when a caution came out for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Reed Sorenson spinning off Turn 2 to set up the final shootout.

When the green came out, Harvick had a solid restart and Kenseth spun his tires allowing Harvick to pull away and claim the victory.

“Yeah, we needed a solid day, and really our car was good all weekend,” said Harvick. “As we went through practice yesterday, we just had some little things that we talked about doing this morning, and as we went through the race, made some small adjustments on the car, and there at the end we were able to keep ourselves up front with the track position, and they made a great call to leave us out two or three times. Our car would fire off really good on the restarts on the bottom.”

Kenseth held on for second, Kyle Busch was third, Brad Keselowski took home fourth and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five.

In the media center following the race, Kenseth took the blame for the final restart.

“I didn’t do a very good job,” he said. “I let Kevin (Harvick) lay back on me and NASCAR said something about the restart before that and I have no idea what I did wrong. I probably shouldn’t have had that in my mind so I made sure I got rolling early and I spun the tires a little bit and he got half a car length anticipating it and just did it perfect and beat me through one and two and cleared me. It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have worried about what they (NASCAR) said and just got to turn one first.”

Keselowski struggled in the early part of the race and was in danger of going a lap down on the first run and came back for a fourth place finish.

“The Miller Lite team worked really hard on our Ford all day long,” said Keselowski.  “We weren’t near as fast as we wanted to be, but great execution on pit road, great execution with the pit calls and then the last few restarts went our way with being in the right lane on the restarts, which is so, so important on these double-file restarts, but also just staying out of trouble. We’re not as fast as we want to be. We almost went a lap down at one point, but we kept our head down and got through it.”

Kurt Busch overcame a rough pit stop and overheating issues to finish fifth.

“We had everything thrown at us, even the kitchen sink at one point,” Busch said. “I feel like the way that this team and everybody felt like we needed to have a solid finish, but you just can’t ask for it. It felt like we were up against the odds and then the car ran great. Really proud of the overnight adjustments and what we did better this time around than when we raced here last time was restarts. I think that showed that Stewart-Haas racing, we went to work on that, Kevin (Harvick) got the win today, real happy for him and we got a great top five with the Monster Energy Chevy.”

Several Chasers struggled at New Hampshire. Joey Logano went down a lap early but eventually got the free pass and rebounded to an 11th place finish. Austin Dillon wrecked his primary car in the first practice and spent most of the race a lap down. He received the lucky dog on the Trevor Bayne accident and came back for a 16th place finish. Tony Stewart started 22nd and was in the top-15 when handling issues were too much to overcome and finished one lap down in 23rd. Chris Buescher struggled all afternoon and finished two laps down in 30th.

As the Sprint Cup Series heads to Dover, the four Chase drivers on the outside looking in are Jamie McMurray and Austin Dillon who trail 12th place Kyle Larson by five points, Tony Stewart sits in 15th place 11 points behind Larson and Buescher is 30 points behind the 12th spot.

 

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