LOUDON, N.H.— For the first time in the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Kevin Harvick was able to collect the checkered flag on Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
After a spirited battle with Denny Hamlin in the closing laps, the two got physical on the final lap, and put on a show for the New England crowd.
“We’ve run well enough a few times this year to win, but we’ve just made mistakes and to finally battle and get over that hump is a great day for everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and everybody on the 4 car,” Harvick said in Victory Lane.
“I was really questionable about how that was gonna go, and the thing took right off. The only thing that wasn’t good was we got the traffic and my car started pushing.
“I knew that he was gonna take a shot. I would have taken a shot. I stood on the brakes and just tried to keep it straight. I just didn’t want to get him back from the inside and let him have another shot. I wanted to at least be in control of who was gonna have contact in Turn 3 and 4.
“It was a heck of a finish, closer than what we wanted, but it was our only chance. I would have never done it, but that’s why he’s (Rodney Childers) on the box and not me.”
It’s been 21 races since Harvick visited Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway last season.
This marks Harvick’s first win of the 2019 season, and qualifies him for the 2019 MENCS Playoffs.
It was the Kyle Busch show in the first stage of the day.
After starting on the outside pole, Busch quickly moved to the top spot, leading the first 36 laps of the day.
Keselowski didn’t falter, however, and was able to take the lead back on lap 37, leading until the first caution of the day for an Austin Dillon tire issue.
Pit strategies shook up the top spots, and Erik Jones took the field back to the green. Busch made quick work of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, and took the green-checkered flag for Stage 1.
Busch continued his dominance well into the second stage, leading the majority of the laps.
The third caution of the day flew when liquid from Chase Elliott’s Camaro caused Daniel Hemric and Daniel Suarez to collide in Turn 1, ending Hemric’s race.
Even with the differing strategy that put Kevin Harvick into the lead, Busch was able to make another quick pass back to the lead on the ensuing restart.
The caution flew again when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. slammed the wall out of Turn 2. This set up for end of the second stage, where nine drivers decided to stay out.
Aric Almirola led the field back to the green, and through another caution that claimed Martin Truex, Jr. and Clint Bowyer, he was able to hang on to win Stage 2.
Before the end of the stage, Kyle Busch obtained a tire rub, which forced him back into the pits during the stage break.
Denny Hamlin took over the race to begin the final stage of the day. Hamlin led the field to the restart, and 113 laps straight.
Kyle Busch brought out the seventh caution of the day when he got out of the groove and collected the SAFER barrier.
The damage was not significant, but it did lose him valuable track position. Busch was never able to recover.
Caution eight flew when Kyle Larson backed his car into the Turn 1 wall on the restart. Larson brought out the ninth caution as well after blowing a tire and hitting the wall.
The second Larson caution set up the final pit stops and strategies of the day. Harvick, Jones, and Truex, Jr. stayed out, while Hamlin pitted for two tires and enough gas to make it to the finish.
Hamlin was able to make his way up to second, and stalked Harvick in the final laps of the race.
On the final lap, Hamlin put the bumper to Harvick into Turn 1. Harvick held on, and off of Turn 2, made his way to the bottom to control the exit of the corner.
Hamlin was able to get to the outside, but Harvick was able to hold him off, taking the win in the Granite State.
Kyle Busch gained eight points on Joey Logano at New Hampshire, but Logano still maintains the lead by only three points, now with six races remaining in the regular season.
The series heads back to Pocono Raceway next weekend for the Gander RV 400.
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