With a 22 race winless streak, Kevin Harvick was not going to be denied a second lobster at New Hampshire.
Harvick had to hold off Denny Hamlin to win his first race of the season, and the first win for his team, Stewart-Haas Racing.
“(Hamlin) got to me, he tried to move me out of the way down there, and I knew that was coming as close as he was,” Harvick told NBCSN at the start/finish line. “So I just stood on the brakes and I’m like half throttle down the back straightaway. I’m like, ‘You’re not getting under me again.’ And he drove to the outside of me and I just waited till he got near me and I just put a wheel on him.”
Hamlin finished second after leading 113 laps, all of them in the final stage. He took the lead after his teammate, Kyle Busch, had trouble and cut a tire and slammed into the wall in Turn 1. He went on to finish ninth but for Hamlin, it was more dejection that anything.
“I kind of shoved (Harvick) up a little higher and tried to get him out of the groove,” Hamlin told NBCSN after the race. “I wanted to just tap him there, but I didn’t want to completely screw him. I at least wanted to give him a fair shot there. Down the backstretch, I kind of let off, and I’m like, all right, well, I’ll just pass him on the outside and kind of do this thing the right way, and once I had that big run, he just turned right. But I would do the same thing. It was a fun race, and congratulations to him and his team. They made a great call there at the end.”
Erik Jones finished third, followed by Ryan Blaney and Matt Dibenedetto rounding out the top five.
Kyle Busch dominated the first stage and half of the second stage and finished ninth.
We had a good car all day,” Busch said after the race. “Just got into it on a restart I guess with Larson and that got us damage and that got us behind the eight ball. We would have been on strategy with where (Denny Hamlin) was the whole rest of the day, but we had to fix damage.”
Jimmie Johnson was having a decent run when his power steering began having issues and the seven-time champ had to come in and fell multiple laps down and out of contention.
Well, it was certainly a letdown, to say the least,” Johnson said after the race on NBCSN. “We had some issue with the power steering and the water pump pulleys. I thought it might have been from some contact on a restart. I got in the back of the car in front of me. They told me that wasn’t the case. So, I assume some debris got in the pulley system and took out my power steering and the water pump as well. So, it’s just unlucky on that front. Certainly, the wrong time of the year to have some bad luck. It looked like the guys I’m worried about in the points didn’t have the best day either, so maybe I got a pass on this one. I’m just disappointed, to say the least.”
The Cup Series heads to Pocono for the second race of the season at the Tricky Triangle where Kyle Busch will try and sweep the series in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.