LOUDON, N.H. –– Brad Keselowski and his No. 2 crew found the magic at “The Magic Mile” on Sunday afternoon, outlasting Denny Hamlin, and also having saved plenty of gas along the way, to win the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Keselowski dueled with Hamlin throughout the majority of the event, both drivers with a stage win through the first two stages. Hamlin led 92 laps in the race, but Keselowski led 184, including the important on, lap 301, collecting his third victory of 2020, and 33rd of his career.
“We’ve had a lot of great races this year with the 2 car, but we just haven’t really went out and kind of dominated a race,” Keselowski said post-race. “Talking to Jeremy Bullins and like, ‘Man, what do we need to get to that next level? We’re right there. We need to go out and just dominate a race,’ and that’s what today was for us with the Western Star/Alliance Parts Ford Mustang.
“I’m really proud of my team and the effort that they gave today. A great race car and to all of Team Penske, thank you. It’s so great to be racing back in front of fans again. It feels like forever, so welcome back, guys.”
The lone NASCAR Cup Series race in New England area, New Hampshire Motor Speedway welcomed a fraction of fans back into the stands. Some venues have been fan-free, while only a handful have welcomed some fans back during the COVID–19 pandemic.
The final green flag run of the race was 83 laps long – by far the longest run of the day – and showcased the possibility of fuel mileage coming into play. Some sputtered on the final lap, but most everyone kept the pedal down and made it without issue. Keselowski was able to navigate the traffic and keep the speed, and held off Hamlin and the rest of the field for the win.
“I’m just really thankful,” Keselowski said. “I’m in a great spot here and hungry for more wins. I think this is my fifth straight year with three wins, but I don’t want to stop here. I want us to keep going and I know this team can do it.
Aric Almirola, by virtue of the random draw, started on the pole position. Almirola led the field to the green, but Keselowski made it known early that he would be one of the ones to beat.
Early in the race, Kyle Busch hit the wall, and the damage was enough to knock him out of the event, marking his third DNF of the 2020 season, and first since the second Pocono race.
Keselowski stayed out while others opted to pit under the early cautions, up until the final caution of the first stage when Jimmie Johnson spun off of Turn 2. With Keselowski pitting, that opened the stage up for anyone to win, but it was Hamlin taking advantage to take the green-checkered flag.
In the second stage, a brief rain shower slowed the field just before lap 100. The rain was light enough that the track stayed dry, and after a few laps, the field was racing green once again.
A few more cautions marred the midsection of the event, including one for a flat tire on Christopher Bell’s car, and a spin by Matt Kenseth. At the end of the stage, Hamlin led the field on the final lap, but Keselowski kept in it, and beat Hamlin back to the line for the stage win.
The beginning of the final stage saw a pair of spins, both from the No. 42 of Kenseth, who pulled it into the garage after the third one. John Hunter Nemechek arguably had the hardest hit of the race at lap 214, ending his day with just under 90 laps to go.
When the race restarted with 83 laps to go, Hamlin led, but Keselowski lurked not too far behind.
Keselowski ended up taking advantage a few laps in to the final run, but Hamlin kept it close as long as he could. Hamlin tried as many different lines as he could to make the move back to the lead, but the No. 2 was too powerful, and eventually, Keselowski began to pull away.
The race stayed green until the checkers, and there was even enough gas in the tank for Keselowski to celebrate his victory.
Only six races remain until the 2020 playoffs, with a doubleheader at Michigan International Speedway on deck next weekend.
William Byron currently owns the final transfer spot over Tyler Reddick, but only by 15 points.
— New Hampshire Motor Speedway (@NHMS) August 2, 2020
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