Kevin Harvick held off Denny Hamlin to score his first win of the season in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Harvick, who won eight races a year ago, finally made it to Victory Lane fighting off Hamlin to the checkered flag.
“I caught traffic and that was our worst nightmare, my tires started to chatter,” Harvick explained. “I shot the middle and I knew he was gonna hit me, that’s what you’re supposed to do on the last lap. I tried to slow down and keep him on my bumper so he couldn’t shoot off.”
Harvick scored his fourth career New Hampshire win. He snapped a 21-race winless streak with the victory. He led three times for 41 laps, including the final 35.
Hamlin did his best to get to Harvick, including making contact but was forced to settle for second.
“We were so good up front, it seemed like we couldn’t get past that barrier of wake of 3 or 4 car lengths,” said Hamlin, who came from the rear of the field in a backup car. “I didn’t want to completely screw him, like he knocked the 18 out there last year, I just wanted to get him up a groove and give us a fair shot into Turn 3.”
Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and Matt DiBenedetto rounded out the top five.
Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski completed the first 10 finishers.
Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola won the first two stages. Stage Points
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now heads to Pocono Raceway next Sunday.
How Harvick Won: Crew chief Rodney Childers kept Harvick on track rather than pit for fresh tires when caution came out 37 laps from the finish. That track position proved to be the winning call. Hamlin had two fresh tires and did rundown Harvick with the two making contact at one point but it wasn’t enough to wrestle the lead away from the Stewart-Haas Racing driver who went on to collect his first checkered flag of 2019.
Who Had a Good Day: Hamlin, driving a backup car, scored his ninth top-five finish of the season and second straight…Jones had his best career New Hampshire finish and second straight third-place finish…DiBenedetto notched his second career top-five finish both coming in the season’s last five races…Newman, also driving a backup car, came back from a mechanical issue to finish in the top-10 in five of the last six races.
Who Had a Bad Day: Austin Dillon made hard contact with the wall and later had another issue with a flat tire…His RCR teammate Daniel Hemric exited the race early after an incident with Daniel Suarez after Chase Elliott’s car put water down on the track with a broken pump….Jimmie Johnson had a similar water pump issue that also took out his power steering…Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had a tire go down, made hard contact with the wall and left the race was severe damage…Kyle Larson was involved in a couple of incidents including with 37 laps to go when a tire went down and he spun into the wall.
What Else Happened: Extremely hot temperatures, the application of traction compound to the racing surface and the impact of this year’s rules package added up to a day that saw tight competition and a lot of drivers experience ups and downs. Track position and pit strategy were key components to gaining spots but there were also many opportunities on track for drivers to gain ground.
Quotable: “The 20 (Erik Jones) ran over us. He’s been known to do that to us a couple times now lately. He’ll get one coming his way before it’s over with, or at least before I’m through with it,” Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after leaving the race with a damaged car after slamming the wall.
Notables: Harvick scored his 46th career victory to tie Buck Baker for 16th on the all-time win list…It was the 52nd win for Stewart-Haas Racing…Harvick tied Jeff Burton for most New Hampshire wins at four.