Harvick takes advantage on final restart, punches ticket to Round of 12
By Tyler Head
September 26, 2016
LOUDON, N.H. – Kevin Harvick didn’t have the best car, but he did have the best restart when it counted at the “Magic Mile.”
Harvick started 19th and methodically worked his way into the top-five by the halfway point, but didn’t race for the lead for much of the race.
That all changed on the race’s final restart when Harvick shot his No. 4 Ditech Chevrolet past Matt Kenseth with five laps to go.
Harvick never looked back on his way to victory in the Bad Boy Off Road 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. With the win, Harvick has secured a spot in the Round of 12 in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
“Man, that worked out really good,” Harvick said after his 34th series victory. “The car was pretty good on the restarts. Once we got clean air there at the end, it wound up being really good up front. I’m just really proud of our team. They did a great job.”
THROUGH THE FIELD
Kenseth was forced to settle for second after leading 105 circuits around the one-mile track. Chase contenders Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five.
Martin Truex Jr., who earned a spot in the Round of 12 with a win at Chicagoland last week, appeared to have the car to beat after pacing the majority of the first half of the race. After leading 141 laps however Truex was shuffled back to seventh when the checkered flag dropped by cars with fresher tires.
“We’d raced with Matt [Kenseth] so hard for the lead there for such a long time that I just kind of burned my tires up, and then really had trouble getting going on those last two restarts, lost a few spots,” Truex said after the race.
“It was unfortunate to have a car that good all day long and then come home seventh, but all in all, it was a fun day.”
Austin Dillon didn’t have a day worth writing home about, but we’re writing about it anyway.
Why? Dillon spent much of the race a lap down and outside the top-20, but was able to claw his way from 23rd up to 16th in the final 45 laps. So, instead of being a daunting 12 points behind entering the elimination race at Dover, Dillon is just five points behind 12th place Kyle Larson.
Chase drivers claimed 13 of the top-16 positions. Kasey Kahne was the only non-Chaser in the top-10 when the checkered flag flew; he brought the No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet home in ninth.
THE CHASE PICTURE
As mentioned above, Harvick and Truex have secured their spots in the top-12 with their wins. Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch all have at least a 15 point advantage over 13th place Jamie McMurray, the first driver outside the cut line.
12th place Kyle Larson leads McMurray and Dillon by just five points. Tony Stewart faces a much steeper challenge after his 23rd place finish at New Hampshire; he’s 11 points outside the top-12 in 15th.
Meanwhile rookie and dark-horse Chris Buescher and the No. 34 Front Row Racing team face almost certain elimination if they are unable to win at Dover. Buescher is 16th in the standings after his 30th place finish in Loudon, 30 points outside the top-12.