Harvick holds off Hamlin for New Hampshire win
By Rick Minter / Andrews McMeel Syndication
The final laps of Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway showed that Kevin Harvick’s nickname, “The Closer,” still applies.
Harvick took the lead during the final caution period with 35 laps remaining by staying on the track while Denny Hamlin, who had led the previous 113 consecutive laps, went to pit road for two new right-side tires.
On the restart, Harvick held the lead while Hamlin quickly moved from his fourth starting position to second place. Despite the fresher tires, he never got close to Harvick until the final lap, when he bumped him in Turn One and pulled alongside.
The two ran essentially side by side down the backstretch, with Hamlin on the outside. As Hamlin moved to the outside of Harvick off Turn Four, Harvick turned right to protect his position, and Hamlin could not overcome the move.
That allowed Harvick to scoot away and get his first win of the season and his first since last fall at Texas Motor Speedway. It also was the first win of the season for his four-driver Stewart-Haas Racing team.
Harvick said he expected both bumps from Hamlin and moved to the inside of the track, where he hadn’t been running, to keep Hamlin from knocking him out of the way.
“I knew [Hamlin] was going to take a shot,” Harvick said. “I would have taken a shot. I just stood on the brakes and tried to keep it straight. I just didn’t want to get him back on the inside and let him have another shot. I at least wanted to be in control of who was going to have contact in [Turns] Three and Four.
“It was a heck of a finish, closer than we wanted.”
Harvick said he wasn’t sure his crew chief, Rodney Childers, was making the right call when he left him on the track with old tires with more than 30 laps left to run.
“I was really questionable about how that was going to go, and the thing took right off,” he said. “The only thing that was not good for us was we got the traffic and my car started pushing. … [The no-pit-stop call] was our only chance. I would have never done it, but that’s why [Childers] is on the box and not me.”
Hamlin, who was smiling afterward despite coming up short, said he was willing to bump Harvick but not outright wreck him.
“I wanted to just tap him there, but I didn’t want to completely screw him,” he said. “I at least wanted to give him a fair shot there. Down the backstretch, I kind of let off, and I’m like, ‘All right, well, I’ll just pass him on the outside and kind of do this thing the right way,’ and once I had that big run, he just turned right. But I would do the same thing. It was a fun race, and congratulations to him and his team. They made a great [no-pit-stop] call there at the end.”
Hamlin also lamented the fact that his primary car, which he wrecked in practice on Friday, was much faster than the backup, which he nonetheless drove from the rear to lead 113 laps, second only to Kyle Busch’s 118. “This is nowhere near the car I wrecked on Friday,” he said.
Erik Jones finished third, giving his playoff hopes a major boost, while Ryan Blaney took fourth over Matt DiBenedetto, who scored an impressive top-five finish for his underdog No. 95 team. It was the second top-five of his Cup career and his second in the past five races, the first being a fourth-place at Sonoma Raceway.
“I reiterate it, but it took a lot of people for me to get this deal,” DiBenedetto said. “I’ll never go a day without appreciating it. It’s awesome. Great day for the team.”
PHOTO CAPTION:Kevin Harvick and his son, Keelan, celebrate Harvick’s victory with a live, but restrained, lobster following Dad’s win at New Hampshire on Sunday.Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images for NASCAR