Matt Kenseth didn’t lead the most laps, but led the most important ones grabbing the lead with 30 laps to go and winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It was Kenseth’s 38th career win and his third at Loudon the last coming in the fall of last year when the series last visited.
“You’re always pleased to be in victory lane.,” Kenseth said.”The farther down the road you get, the better they feel for sure. “
“Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and the team over there made great, great adjustments today. I didn’t do a very good job qualifying and after round one today it was pretty much money, we just had to get there. It was a fun day.”
Most of the 301 laps belonged to Kyle Busch who lead 133 and Martin Truex Jr. who led 123. It was Truex who led late in the going. He lost that lead to Kenseth however on lap 257 and saw his hopes for victory end shortly after. During a round of pit stops under the races fourth caution, for debris, Truex whose team has lost races due to all manner of bad luck, reported that his transmission shifter had broken. On the restart, Truex who only had fourth gear, reported that his clutch had locked up. He fell back and out of contention. Truex would finish the day 16th.
Kyle Busch led early and was the class of the field leading a race high 133 laps. But on the final restart with 11 laps to go seemed to have issues with his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Busch fell from fifth in the final laps and finished the day eighth.
Kenseth overcame his own issues. A bad pit stop during the races caution on lap 100 dropped Kenseth out of the top five to a 10th place restart spot. The crew continued to work on the car, and Kenseth was able to hold off challengers on the final two restarts for the win. Kenseth now becomes one of five drivers to have two wins in 2016, his last coming at Dover.
“That was my bad,” Kenseth said of his pit road issue. “I slid a little deep into the stall and I knew Clint (Bowyer) was coming in there late. Luckily, we had a good car to make up for it.”
Among the top runners on the day many names who were outside the top 10 most of the day held on for top finishes thanks to using wave-arounds and not pitting the final laps. They included Tony Stewart who finished second and Joey Logano who held off a hard charging Kevin Harvick coming to the finish line for third.
“It was fun,” Stewart said. “The hardest part of the restarts was just which line you were in. If you were on the bottom you were at a huge disadvantage. You needed to be on that top line and needed to be able to hold them down when they got there. We restarted sixth on the outside that last time and that really was the key to getting us up where we were at the end.”
Greg Biffle too used the pit strategy for his fifth place finish.
“We will keep digging, we have some work to do on it,” Biffle said. We have a lot of momentum right now. We just worked hard at it. We got a lap down on that long run in the middle of the race but we were able to come back.”
Alex Bowman driving in relief of Dale Earnhardt Jr. who sat out the race with concussion-like symptoms , staged an impressive run in the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Bowman ran inside the top 10 for a short time but lost a tire after contact with Kurt Busch while racing for 8th on lap 273. He was able to continue and held on for a 26th place finish as the final car on the lead lap.
“It was amazing,” Bowman said of the experience. “I can’t thank Hendrick Motorsports and all these guys enough. They took me to my worst racetrack by far and made me look good.”
“I hate the circumstances and really hope Dale is feeling well, but I had so much fun today,” he added. “Obviously, I hate that we didn’t get the finish we deserve, but I’ve raced with a lot of these guys for a long time… I raced around them I’ve never got to actually race with guys like Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, all those guys. I had a lot of fun passing really good cars.”
Jamie McMurray was sixth, Ryan Newman seventh, Kyle Busch eighth followed by Denny Hamlin and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in tenth. The full results can be found here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next Sunday. Live coverage of the Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 will be on the NBC Sports Network starting at 2:30 p.m. ET, with the green coming out just after 3:00 p.m. ET.