In a race that appeared to be in Aric Almirola’s hands in the final 45 laps, a late caution in the Foxwoods 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway essentially set up a finish between two of the top three title favorites.
Aggression prevailed on a day where rain seemingly encompassed the 1.058-mile speedway. Finally getting the green flag around 4:25 p.m. ET, pole-sitter Kurt Busch appeared to be the early race favorite.
Leading 94 of 301 laps, Busch’s bid for the win was derailed by a near crash on pit road with fellow Ford racer Ryan Blaney.
Meanwhile, Almirola’s car came to life during a long green flag run, taking the top spot within the final 50 laps before Clint Bowyer crashed into the wall between Turns 3 and 4. Consequently, the final pit stop proved costly for Almirola.
On the other hand, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick suddenly found themselves with a chance to score the win. During the final 10 laps, Kyle Busch’s advantage over a hard-charging Harvick evaporated like the rain at Loudon. Both past Cup champions navigated the high line at Loudon, not wanting to give an inch to each other.
With five laps to go, Harvick decided to use the chrome horn on Busch, rooting the Las Vegas native from the top spot in turn two. While Busch saved his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota from the wall, Harvick piloted his No. 4 Busch Beer Ford to his sixth win of the 2018 season.
To say the least, the Bakersfield, California native relished his late race move at “The Magic Mile,” living up to his moniker as “The Closer.”
“I just didn’t know if I was going to get there again,” Harvick said. “It felt like that was my best opportunity to do what I had to do to win. I didn’t want to wreck him but I didn’t want to waste a bunch of time behind him.”
Despite scoring wins at Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Dover, and Kansas, Harvick’s focus on a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title has been precise. On the other hand, the grizzled veteran noted how Loudon, Pocono, and Watkins Glen were tracks he hoped to improve on given his dominant regular season.
“Winning is important,” Harvick remarked. “You’ve got to take every opportunity you can. My car was better in the lane I needed to be in and as you get to the end there, you need to be aggressive.”
While Harvick, Busch, and Almirola earned podium finishes, Martin Truex Jr, Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-10.
Following a weekend in the Granite State, the premier division treks down to Pocono Raceway for the Gander Outdoor 400, where Kyle Busch looks to repeat his victory from last year. Round 21 of the season goes green shortly after 2:50 p.m. ET on NBCSN.