Kevin Harvick went to victory lane for the sixth time this season Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after deciding he needed to use the bumper on Kyle Busch.
With the advantage off the race’s final restart with 40 laps to go, Kyle Busch was hunted down by Harvick as the laps wound down. Doing everything he could to manage his lanes, Busch was repeatedly nudged and bumped from behind before Harvick finally shoved him out of the way for good with seven laps to go.
Harvick squirted away by almost two seconds to secure the win. Busch finished second.
“I just didn’t know if I was going to get there again and felt like that was my best opportunity to do what I had to do to win,” said Harvick. “I didn’t want to wreck him but didn’t want to waste a bunch of time behind him.”
Asked to react to Harvick’s repeated nudges, Busch said “it’s fine.”
“That’s racing,” he began. “We had a really, really poor performance today. Our Interstate Batteries Camry just wasn’t there, wasn’t there all weekend. We kept fighting the same things all weekend long and we could never make any gains on it all through practice, and we kind of struggled with it through the race. Adam [Stevens, crew chief] made some really, really good calls and adjustments to try and keep improving it.
“My pit crew is flawless, they gained us all those spots on pit road to get us out front to get us in that position to have a shot to go after the win. We controlled the restart and drove away by a little bit but we weren’t the best car on the long run, all them SHR cars were really, really good today, they were all fast.
“It was going to be hard to hold him off and I was backing up and three, four, five corners in a row and with a faster car I’m not sure he had to do it, but he did, it’s fine. How you race is how you get raced.”
Aric Almirola finished third with Martin Truex Jr. fourth and Chase Elliott fifth. Almirola led 41 laps on the day and was in control before the final caution came out, but time lost on pit road and then a bad restart ended his chances to contend for the win.
The rest of the top 10 were Ryan Newman, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson.
Kurt Busch started the rain-delayed race from the outside lane, pinning Martin Truex Jr. on the bottom to where Busch could clear him and lead the first lap.
After smooth sailing early, Landon Cassill brought out the first caution on Lap 14 when he crashed for the second time during the weekend in Turn 3. The caution then flew again on Lap 20 when AJ Allmendinger had a tire go down, backing his No. 47 Chevrolet into the Turn 1 wall.
The green flag came back out on Lap 24 and Kurt Busch was still out front when the competition caution flew on Lap 35.
Staying out under the caution, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enjoyed a brief stint at the front of the field before being overtaken by Truex. Truex led until the stage break, picking up his sixth stage win of the season.
Holding serve during pit stops, Truex started the second stage still in command of the race lead.
Unchallenged for much of the stage, Truex saw competition in the form of Elliott inside the final 22 laps. Elliott would take the lead on Lap 133 and go on to his first stage win of the season over Kurt Busch and Truex.
Kurt Busch nipped Elliott at the exit of pit road to grab the lead for the start of the third stage. After leading the way for 57 laps, teammate Almirola took over on Lap 212.
Green flag pit stops began with less than 80 laps to go, kicked off by Daniel Suarez. Kurt Busch lost time to the leaders when he had to stop to avoid hitting Ryan Blaney, who was exiting his pit stall as Busch started to turn into his.
Once the stops cycled through, Harvick found himself ahead of teammate Almirola. Harvick had the advantage of slightly fresher tires because he pitted a few laps before Almirola. But it didn’t last long as Almirola retook the lead with 69 laps to go.
Clint Bowyer’s impact against the wall with 45 laps to go erased Almirola’s lead and ended Bowyer’s day. It was further disappointment for Bowyer after being penalized under the previous round of pit stops for pitting outside the box and losing a lap.
Under the caution for Bowyer’s accident, Almirola lost the lead on pit road and came out third. Kyle Busch jumped into the lead and Harvick maintained second. The green flag came back out with 40 laps to go and Kyle Busch launched away from the field before engaging in a battle with Harvick.
The Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 had seven caution flags for 31 laps and 10 lead changes among seven drivers.