Matt Kenseth had what it took Sunday. Kenseth led 38 total laps, including the most important, the last 30, to win the New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Sunday. It was Kenseth’s 38th career win and his second consecutive at the Loudon New Hampshire track after he won last there last fall. Here’s how it all went down Sunday.
After winning his first pole of the season and his first at New Hampshire Jimmie Johnson led the field to the green, defending race winner Kyle Busch lined up on the inside. At the end of lap 1 Johnson was finally able to move to the lead as Kurt Busch made it three wide for a moment before settling into third.
Kyle Busch dove under Johnson exiting turn 4 on lap 2 and got the lead from Johnson as they started lap 3. Martin Truex Jr. settled into fourth behind Kurt Busch with Joey Logano fifth. Denny Hamlin took fifth from Logano on lap 6.
Ten laps in the lead for Busch over Johnson was just over a second. Kevin Harvick grabbed fifth on lap 15. Truex went to third on lap 21. Up front leader Kyle Busch was starting to lap the back of the field on lap 25. Harvick grabbed fourth from Kurt Busch on lap 25. Hamlin followed a lap later for fifth. The lead for Busch up front was just over 3 seconds at lap 30. By lap 31 Johnson and Truex wee dueling for second. Truex got the spot on lap 32. Harvick was looking for third and passed Johnson on lap 35.
Because of a morning rain shower NASCAR called for a competition caution around lap 35 and that caution flew on lap 36. The top six took only two tires; Kyle Busch was out first followed by Truex, Hamlin, Logano Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart. Johnson, the first of those with 4 tires came out in seventh.
The restart came out on lap 41. Kyle Busch took the lead on the inside as Hamlin worked on Truex for second. By the end of the lap Truex had second, Johnson settled into third. Hamlin was third, Edwards fourth and Kurt Busch fifth.
Some of those who had taken for tires during the first pit stop struggled. Chief was Johnson who fell from seventh to 12th in just a few laps. Harvick had issues with an air gun and restarted outside the top 10; he was back up to ninth by lap 57.
Unlike the first run, Truex kept Kyle Busch close. The lead was just over a half a second by lap 70. Matt Kenseth was fifth by lap 72 as the four in front of him; Kyle Busch, Truex, Hamlin and Edwards.
Kenseth took fourth from Edwards on lap 79. Up front in traffic, Truex was all over the back of Kyle Busch. Harvick went to fifth on lap 81.
By lap 86 Truex and Busch were side by side for the lead. Hamlin lurked close behind the top two. Truex took the lead on lap 89. Hamlin took second a lap later. Behind them Johnson finally cracked the top 10.
Kenseth went to third on lap 97; Harvick was soon looking for the spot from Busch. Harvick had fourth from Busch on lap 99.
The second caution came out on lap 100 when Chris Buescher spun along the backstretch. Buescher didn’t hit anything and was able to continue. The leaders all pitted. All the leaders took four tires. Truex was out first, followed by Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Johnson.
Hamlin, Harvick and Kenseth all had issues during their stops. Hamlin came out eighth, Kenseth 10th and Harvick 11th. During the caution, a light rain began to fall. The sun was soon shining and the track stay dry.
The green came back out on lap 109. Truex rocketed to the lead s Kyle Busch fell into second. Kurt Busch and Keselowski dueled for third with Kurt Busch taking the spot. Chase Elliott was soon in fourth and on by lap 11 Kurt Busch was second, Kyle Busch was third, Elliott fourth and Keselowski had been relegated to fifth. Keselowski stayed close and had fourth back by lap 116. Johnson followed a lap later. Elliott defended though and soon the two were side by side for the spot. The lead up front was just over two seconds. Elliott held on to fifth.
Kurt and Kyle Busch were fighting for second with Kyle Busch getting the spot back on lap 122. Harvick had recovered to ninth by lap 133. Hamlin had fallen to 10th.
By lap 136 Keselowski was up to third, Kenseth had recovered to fourth, Kurt Busch had fallen to fifth. Truex’s lead over Kyle Busch was just under a second.
Kenseth went to third on lap 149.
Kyle Busch was looking for the lead in heavy traffic and got it from Truex on lap 172. Both had been hung up behind Trevor Bayne who was trying to stay on the lead lap. After he was passed for the lead, Truex used a bumper to get past Bayne. Truex stayed close and soon again in traffic, Truex was hounding Busch for the lead. Harvick had moved his way to sixth.
Johnson pitted on lap 181 to begin a cycle of green flag stops. Hamlin followed a lap later. Harvick, Kyle Busch and Elliott pitted on lap 184 along with Truex and the rest of the lead group.
The top three remained the same after the stops. Kyle Busch led followed by Truex, and Kenseth. Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. Soon the lead was up to just over 3 seconds for Busch.
Harvick was back in the top five by lap 215 as the lead was just over two seconds.
The third caution of the day came out on lap 218 for debris. The leaders all pitted. Truex won the race off pit road, followed closely by Kyle Busch. Kenseth was third followed by Keselowski and Harvick.
The green came out on lap 227. Truex got to the lead but Kenseth was able to scoot by Kyle Busch for second. Harvick grabbed fourth, Keselowski settled into fifth.
Harvick was looking for second on lap 229. He put a bumper to Busch on lap 230 but Busch held onto the spot. Kenseth was looking for the lead by lap 238. Truex was able to defend and the two were starting to gap third.
On lap 257 Kenseth dove beneath Truex entering turn 1 and grabbed the lead. Soon Kyle Busch in third was getting close.
Caution four came out on lap 264 for debris. All the leaders pitted. Truex reported his shifter handle was broken. Kenseth was first off pit road followed by Kyle Busch, Harvick, Keselowski and Truex. All took only two tires. Truex reported that his clutch was now gone. Hamlin stayed out and had the lead when the green fell on lap 268. Kenseth and Hamlin fought for the lead as Truex pulled over behind and was soon 17th. The car of Elliott was showing smoke but continued,
Kenseth grabbed the lead on lap 271.
Alex Bowman lost a tire after contacted with Kurt Busch and hit the frontstretch wall and caution five flew on lap 273. Elliott also lost a tire in front and smacked the wall entering turn 1. Bowman was eighth when the crash happened. The driver racing in relief of Dale Earnhardt Jr., saw his chance for a top 10 end. Bowman was able to make it back to the pits, be repaired and continue.
The green came back out with 24 laps to go. Kenseth took the lead while Kyle Busch was able to get by Hamlin for second. Behind the racing was two and three wide. Kurt Busch started to show smoke with a tire rub. Up front, Tony Stewart took over third, Harvick went to fourth. Jamie McMurry and Hamlin battled for fifth.
The right rear tire for Kurt Busch finally went down and he nearly spun in turn 3 on lap 280; caution six came out. Hamlin, Keselowski and Truex pitted. A crewmember for Truex jumped in and made a quick repair to the shifter.
Kenseth led, Kyle Busch was second followed by Stewart, Harvick and McMurray when the green fell on lap 284. Kenseth got the lead, Harvick and Kyle Busch were side by side for second, but before the lap ended, the car of Kyle Larson was sent spinning on the backstretch coming to rest at the bottom of turn 3. Ryan Newman tagged Edwards, who then went up into Kahne, who then went into Larson. Everyone was able to drive away.
Truex pitted for more transmission repairs. Kahne, Larson and Edwards also pitted to repair damage. There green came out on lap 290. Kenseth got the lead while Joey Logano who had fought his way forwards all day took second from Harvick, Stewart was third; Harvick fell into fourth, Kyle Busch was fifth. Logano was showing tire smoke after contact with Stewart earlier.
Greg Biffle took fifth from Kyle Busch with 8 to go and Busch slipped and fell back to eighth. Up front Stewart was looking for second has Kenseth held a comfortable lead. With five to go the lead was nearing a second. With four to go Stewart had caught Logano and was able to make the pass. Harvick lurked close behind Logano. With one to go, the lead was two seconds, Harvick tried to get by Logano coming to the line but fell short. Greg Biffle was fifth.
McMurray was sixth, Newman was seventh. Kyle Busch eighth, Hamlin ninth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top 10. 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.