Denny Hamlin took the lead shortly after the final restart and held off a hard-charging Kyle Larson in the closing laps to win the Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
With all the lead lap cars hitting pit road under the seventh and final caution, race leader Matt Kenseth exited pit road first by taking two right-side tires. This cost him two laps after the ensuing restart with 35 to go when Hamlin got underneath him to take the lead exiting Turn 4.
With nine to go, Larson cut the gap down to under a second. Lapped-traffic slowed his run towards the front, proving crucial to Hamlin scoring his 30th career victory in 417 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts.
“I was just trying to do everything I could to pace,” Hamlin said. “I knew he (Larson) had a very fast car. It just seemed like we were able to get off the corner pretty good and I just ran kind of a pace there which I felt comfortable with. And just in case we had a restart, they wanted to burn the tires up.
“Proud of this whole FedEx Office team, backup car. I put us behind the eight-ball on Friday, but it’s cool to win one like this.”
Larson and Truex, who led a race-high of 137 laps, rounded out the podium.
“I thought I was catching him (Hamlin) at a good pace, but once I would get closer to him, I would get in his dirty air a little bit and get tight,” Larson said. “But, I felt like if I had maybe five, eight more laps I could have gotten to his back bumper and maybe did something. He is probably the best short track racer there is out here. Especially, when it comes to short, flat tracks, but for me to get beat by him is not a cool thing, but I’m proud of that because Denny Hamlin, like I said is really good at this stuff.”
“We were strong for the majority of the race but at the end we lost some speed and couldn’t get to the leader,” said Truex. “The last restart we got the inside lane, restarted third. It wasn’t the place to be, obviously. I think the 11 (race winner Denny Hamlin) started fourth and that was really the place I would have liked to have been. And then we just didn’t get a good restart on the bottom and lost a couple spots and had to battle back and then just didn’t quite have the speed at the end of the race.
“All in all, it was a hard fought day. We had to come from 24th at one point. A good job by everybody and a solid third place effort. Just didn’t have enough there at the end.”
Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five.
Daniel Suarez, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-10.
Truex led the field to the green flag at 3:17 p.m. Johnson was handed a pass through penalty for beating race leader Truex to the line on the initial start.
Truex led from start to finish on his way to winning the first stage. He lost the lead under the stage break to Kyle Busch, who stayed out after pitting under the Lap 36 competition caution.
It was the same story as the first stage, just with Busch at the lead. He led from start to finish and won the second stage. Teammate Hamlin exited pit road the race leader.
Truex worked his way back to the lead on Lap 175, only to make an earlier than planned stop with 83 to go for a flat right-front tire. He un-lapped himself with 63 to go by driving past new race leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. He pitted from the lead with 55 to go, cycling the lead back to Truex.
Busch was handed a pass through penalty for speeding on pit road during this cycle of stops.
Kenseth drove down and edged out Truex at the start/finish line to take the lead with 41 to go.
Ryan Newman’s spin in Turn 2 with 40 to go brought out the seventh caution and set up the run to the finish.
Erik Jones brought out the second caution on Lap 41 when he suffered a left-front tire failure and slammed the wall in Turn 2. Cole Whitt brought out the third caution on Lap 68 when his engine expired in Turn 1. Austin Dillon brought out the fifth caution on Lap 88 when he made contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and spun out in Turn 4. Caution flew for the sixth time on Lap 151 for the end of the second stage.
NUTS & BOLTS
The race lasted three hours and 36 minutes at an average speed of 105.800 mph. There were 11 lead changes among six different drivers and seven cautions for 34 laps. There was also one red flag that lasted five minutes and 29 seconds during the first stage break.
Truex leaves with a 38-point lead over Larson.