Kevin Harvick didn’t lead many laps Sunday, but he did lead the most important. Harvick held off Matt Kenseth to score the 34th win of his career and secured himself a spot in the next round of the Chase. The win came in his 100th start for Stewart-Haas Racing. Here’s how it all went down Sunday at New Hampshire.
With his sixth pole of the season and his third in the last four New Hampshire races, Carl Edwards led the field to the green; Martin Truex Jr. started second on the outside. Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five starters.
Edwards had a clear lead by turn 1, Truex fell into second, Johnson moved into third followed by Kyle Larson and Newman.
Last year’s winner, Matt Kenseth took fifth from his eight place starting spot on lap 3; Newman continued to fall back from his third place starting spot. Kenseth took fourth on lap 9. Fourteen Chase drivers were inside the top 16. Chris Buescher was 26th, Austin Dillon 28th.
Edwards began lapping traffic on lap 19. He lead was less than a half a second. Johnson took fourth on lap 24. Kyle Busch went to fifth on lap 29.
By lap 26, Truex was challenging for the lead. He took the lead on the frontstretch on lap 30. It only took a few laps for Truex to stretch out his lead. Kyle Busch went to fourth on lap 38. Kenseth was third by lap 56.
Buescher was lapped by leader Truex on lap 58. Kenseth took second on lap 59. There were 26 cars on the lead lap. Dillon went a lap down on lap 66. Green flag stops began on lap 75 with Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, both of whom were struggling; Newman pitted on lap 78 as did others deep in the field. The leaders began to put under green on lap 79 including leader Truex.
When the stops cycled through, Truex was back in the lead by lap 80 by 1.8 seconds. Kenseth was second followed by Johnson, Kyle Busch and Edwards; 21 cars were on the lead lap.
Kyle Busch took third on lap 88. The top ten runners were all Chase drivers.
Kevin Harvick had worked his way from 19th to six by lap 110. Joey Logano in 17th was lapped on lap on 114. Buescher went two laps down on lap 117.
In lapped traffic, Kenseth was nearing Truex for the lead on lap 121.
The first caution of the day came out on lap 124 for debris in turn 1. The leaders pitted. Truex won the race off pit road, Kenseth was second followed by Kyle Busch, Johnson and Harvick.
Green came out on lap 132. Truex was on the outside, Kenseth on the inside. Truex had a clear lead by turn 1; Johnson took second, Chase Elliott appeared in third; Denny Hamlin slid by as well for fourth, Kenseth settled into fifth.
Elliott was looking for second by lap 138. Kenseth got by Hamlin on lap 141 for fourth. He was looking for third from Elliot on lap 143; he had the spot on lap 144 fending off Elliott who tried to retake the spot. The lead up front was 1.8 seconds. At the halfway point there were 18 cars on the lead lap.
Harvick took fifth on lap 152. Kenseth took second on lap 156. Harvick was looking for third by lap 157, but Kyle Busch snuck up and grabbed fourth on lap 158. Elliott retook the fourth spot on lap 163.
The second caution for debris on the backstretch on lap 165. The leaders all hit pit road. The top two took only two tires; Truex followed by Kyle Busch. Kenseth was out third, followed by Elliott and Edwards.
Green came out on lap 172. Truex had the lead by turn 1, Kenseth took second, Kyle Busch stacked up the field behind them in third. When it sorted out, Busch had third, with Elliott close behind. Elliott took third on lap 175. Up front Kenseth was on the back bumper of Truex. Harvick went to fifth around Johnson on lap 178.
Kenseth took the lead on lap 179. Soon his lead was over a second and growing. Johnson was falling back and by lap 187 was seventh; Harvick took third from Elliott up ahead; Kyle Busch was fifth.
By lap 209 in lapped traffic, Truex was nearing the leader. Kenseth passed Logano to again put him a lap down on lap 210.
Another round of green flag stops started deep in the field on lap 215.
By lap 229, the top five were Kenseth, Truex, Harvick, Elliott and Kyle Busch.
Truex pitted on lap 232; Kenseth pitted a lap later. The stops had not cycled through and Danica Patrick was leading when caution three came out on lap 240 when Michal Annett got into the wall in turn 2. Kenseth was just behind; Truex was third, followed by Harvick and Elliott. Patrick pitted while the rest of the top 10 stayed out. Kenseth retook the lead.
On the restart on lap 248 Kenseth led on the outside, Truex was second followed by Harvick, Elliott and Kyle Busch. Patrick rejoined the field in eighth; there were 19 cars on the lead lap. Kenseth had a clear lead by turn 1, Truex fell into second Elliott was third, Harvick fourth, Kasey Kahne was fifth.
Truex was looking for the lead on the next lap. Harvick was looking for third by lap 254, he had the spot on lap 257. Up front, Truex and Kenseth were fighting for the lead.
Caution four came out on lap 264 when Michael McDowell who lost a tire shortly after contact with another car and spun. Logano got the free pass.
The top seven stayed out. Kyle Busch in eighth led a group in for stops. Hamlin and Edwards were penalized Hamlin for an uncontrolled tire, Edwards for a commitment cone violation. They were the first pit road penalties of the day.
The green came out on lap 268 Kenseth led into turn 1, but Truex was soon looking for the lead; Elliott was third, Harvick fourth. The two up front dueled for the lead. Behind Harvick took third on lap 270.
Kyle Busch, on four fresh tires moved to fifth from his eight place restart spot on lap 274. He took fourth a lap later. The lead began to stabilize as Kenseth began to stretch it out. Brad Keselowski who had been struggling most of the day had rallied to sixth.
Busch took third on lap 281. Ahead Truex began to reel Kenseth back in.
On lap 284, Trevor Bayne crashed in turn 3 and the fifth caution of the day flew. The top nine cars stayed out.
On the restart with 11 laps to go, Kenseth led from outside, followed by Truex, Kyle Busch, Harvick and Elliott. Kenseth led to turn 1 as Harvick followed on the outside and took second, Busch was third; Keselowski grabbed fourth from Truex.
With 10 to go, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. followed by Reed Sorenson spun exiting turn 2 and caution six waved. Jamie McMurray outside the top 15 was one of the few to pit.
Kenseth led from outside on the restart with 6 laps to go; Harvick was second, followed by Busch, Keselowski and Truex.
Kenseth and had a slight lead over Harvick in turn 1, but Harvick grabbed the lead entering turn 3. Kenseth stayed close as the laps wore down; Keselowski was third, Kyle Busch was fourth. With two to go, Harvick still had the lead as Busch and Keselowski fought for third; Kyle Busch had third as the field took the white flag.
Kenseth had nothing for Harvick as he went onto victory. Kyle Busch was third, Keselowski fourth, and Kurt Busch fifth.
Edwards was sixth, Truex seventh, followed by Johnson, Kahne and Kyle Larson.
Sunday marked the first race of NASCAR’s relaxed post inspection Laser Inspection Station standards; all 16 of the Chase cars passed.
The next race determines the 12 who will advance and the 4 who will be eliminated for the next round of the Chase. That race is the Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway next Sunday with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network starting at 2:00 p.m.
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