The call was made to keep Kevin Harvick on track for the run to the finish in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, and the former champion prevailed in what came down to a last-lap fight with Denny Hamlin.
Harvick held on, making it back-to-back wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as he claimed his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the season on Sunday afternoon. After getting a shove into Turn 1 on the last lap, Harvick and Hamlin drag raced down the backstretch before Harvick cut up in front of Hamlin in Turns 3 and 4 to beat him to the finish line.
“I didn’t think we had a chance to win staying out, but Rodney (Childers, crew chief) and those guys made a great call with our Busch Beer/National Forest Foundation car,” said Harvick of his 46th career win. “We had a good car all day, we just never could get track position. Stayed out there, ran a lot of good laps, I didn’t want to see that traffic there at the end — it really made my car tight — and he (Hamlin) got to me.
“He tried to move me out of the way down there,” Harvick continued, “and I knew that was coming as close as he was, 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 until he got near me and I just put a wheel on him.”
Childers kept his driver on track for the race’s final restart with 29 laps to go, the idea being that either Harvick would hold off the field and finally win or slide back to around seventh, which is where his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang had run most of the day.
Hamlin restarted third and set his sights on Harvick after getting around Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones. But Hamlin didn’t get to Harvick’s bumper until the final lap, closing the gap into Turn 1 and making slight contact with his back bumper. Harvick then went low, and Hamlin stayed higher in the groove in the final two corners.
“I kind of shoved him up a little higher and tried to get him out of the groove,” said Hamlin, who started at the back in a backup car and led 113 laps. “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, and then down the backstretch kind of let off and I’m like, all right, well I’ll just pass him on the outside and try to do this thing the right way.
“As I got that big run he just turned right — but I would do the same thing. It was a fun race. Congratulations to him and his team, they made a great call there at the end. It was fun … Shit. I don’t know. Second sucks.”
Jones finished third, with Ryan Blaney and Matt DiBenedetto rounding out the top five. The rest of the top 10 were Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, and pole-sitter Brad Keselowski.
Kyle Busch won Stage 1, his seventh stage win of the season. Aric Almirola, who finished 11th, won the second stage in a short dash to its conclusion.
The first half of the day had been dominated by Kyle Busch, who led a race-high 118 laps. However, multiple problems plagued Busch late in the day, such as losing his track position on pit road and even hitting the wall to bring the caution out.
There were nine cautions for 48 laps and 14 lead changes among seven drivers.