Matt Kenseth won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Sunday. His win of eight seconds over his teammate Denny Hamlin was the most un-dramatic thing to happen Sunday. The race was disaster for several Chase drivers and included a six minute red flag. Here’s how it all went down Sunday at New Hampshire.
Carl Edwards, who swept the poles at Loudon this year, led the field to the green just as he did in July. Kevin Harvick, in desperate need of a good finish after finishing 42nd the week prior, started second on the inside. Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch battled for third; Keselowski got the spot, Kyle Larson fell into fifth. By lap 15, Harvick was pressuring Edwards for the lead. Harvick was finally wrest the lead away from Edwards on lap 20. Kurt Busch was in third, Keselowski fourth, and Jimmie Johnson fifth.
Harvick was catching the rear of the field by lap 21. Edwards and Harvick made contact during the pass and by lap 27 Edwards had dropped to fourth with a rear tire rub. Harvick’s lead over Kurt Busch was 1.7 seconds, by lap 31 the lead was over 2 seconds. Keselowski went to second on lap 33.
The first caution of the day came out on lap 36 when Aric Almirola in 16th lost a tire and hit the wall entering turn 1. The leaders all came in for the first stops of the day. Harvick was the first off pit road, Keselowski was second, followed by Kurt Busch, and Denny Hamlin. All had taken only two tires; Edwards came out fifth, the first with four tires.
The green came back out on lap 43. Harvick want back to the lead, Keselowski grabbed second, Kurt Busch fell into third, Hamlin was fourth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fifth.
Caution two came out on lap 47 when Landon Cassill, whose car had been smoking earlier, lost an engine. The leaders all stayed out. Green flew on lap 52. Harvick shot to the lead, Keselowski to second, Kurt Busch to third, Hamlin was fourth, Johnson fifth.
Caution three came out on lap 60 for Tony Stewart who had made contact with several others back in the field while fighting for position and lost a tire. The leaders stayed out as the first in for a stop was Jeff Gordon in 12th. The green came out on lap 64. Harvick went back to the lead, Keselowski was second, Kurt Busch was third, Johnson fourth, Hamlin fifth. Earnhardt took fifth from Hamlin on lap 68. Johnson went to third on lap 74. Earnhardt followed to take over fourth from Kurt Busch two laps later. Harvick’s lead was 1.6 seconds by lap 83. The race settled down and by lap 104, there were 29 cars on the lead lap as Harvick’s lead over second place Keselowski was 3.3 seconds.
Caution four came out on lap 120 when Alex Bowman slammed the turn 3 wall. The caution came just as the field was preparing for green flag stops. The leaders all came in. The top six all took four tires. Harvick was out first, Keselowski second, followed by Johnson, Earnhardt and Kurt Busch. Joey Logano looking for track position, took only two tires and came out seventh.
Green flew on lap 124. Earnhardt and Keselowski dueled for second as Harvick went to the point. Behind them the top ten were shuffling for position. Johnson was the biggest loser as he got hung out and fell to eighth. By lap 129, Keselowski was second, 1.4 seconds behind Harvick, Earnhardt was third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch. Hamlin went to fifth on lap 136, Kenseth to third on lap 148. Hamlin moved up to fourth on lap 153.
Kyle Busch, who won here in July, saw his day end in disaster on lap 159 when he lost a tire and hit the turn 4 wall hard; caution five came out. The leaders all came in for stops. Harvick came out first taking only two tires, Edwards was second, Casey Mears who took fuel only was third, followed by Keselowski who had been blocked from leaving his pit momentarily and Martin Truex Jr. fifth. The drivers from sixth back all took four tires. Edwards was hit with a penalty for removing equipment, the fuel can, from the pit box; he started at the tail end of the longest line.
The green flew on lap 164, Harvick went back to the lead, Keselowski was second, Kenseth was third, Kurt Busch was fourth, Earnhardt fifth. Truex, with two tires began to fall back, by lap 170, he was eighth. Edwards restarted 26th.
Hamlin took over fifth on lap 185 as Harvick’s lead up front was 1.7 seconds. Caution six came out on lap 192 for debris. The leaders all came in for stops. The top six took only two tires as Harvick was the first to take four. Kenseth was first off pit road, Johnson was second, Logano third, Earnhardt fourth, Clint Bowyer fifth and Stewart sixth. During the caution, Kyle Busch came back out from the garage after 36 laps.
Green came out on lap 197. Kenseth took the lead as Harvick dove to the apron entering turn 1 picking up two spots. On lap 200, Johnson slowed with a left front tire down. Johnson went a lap down to 27th. Harvick was fourth on lap 204, when Danica Patrick spun entering turn 1 after contact with Ryan Newman. She spun down the track and was hit hard by the Toyota of David Ragan, caution seven came out, but do to a lot of debris the red flag was soon displayed; both drivers were uninjured.
After a short red flag period of six minutes, the caution was brought back out. The top 17 stayed out. Those from Paul Menard in 18th and behind pitted. The green came back out on lap 210; Kenseth took the lead, but Harvick shot past Earnhardt and took over second; Earnhardt went to third, Keselowski fourth.
Harvick had no problem taking the lead on lap 212, just as Brad Moffitt spun on the backstretch and caution eight came out. This time all the leaders came in with the exception for Kenseth. Keselowski and Kurt Busch took two tires and fuel led off pit road, followed by Harvick who took only fuel but was slowed when he nearly collided with Larson as he was leaving his stall.
Kenseth was leading, Hamlin was second, Jamie McMurray third, Stewart was fourth with Greg Biffle fifth. Keselowski was eighth, Kurt Busch 10th, Harvick restarted 12th.
Hamlin took the lead on lap 218. By lap 220, Keselowski was back to fifth, Harvick was up to ninth. On lap 224, Harvick moved to seventh. Keselowski moved to fourth on lap 227. Harvick was fifth by lap 232. Caution nine came out on lap 237 when Justin Allgaier lost a tire and crashed. He was able to make it to the garage.
Kenseth and Hamlin pitted, along with McMurray, Logano and Truex.
Biffle, Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Edwards stayed out and were the top four when the green came back out on lap 241. Biffle hung onto the lead as NASCAR stated the restart was under review. Keselowski was pressuring Biffle for the lead when NASCAR penalized him for a restart for violation. He was shown the black flag on lap 245. Keselowski came in for a stop and go on lap 249 he reentered 25th on the lead lap. With Keselowski gone, Harvick moved up and took the lead on lap 251. Hamlin was third, Kurt Busch fourth and Kenseth fifth. Hamlin went to second on lap 253 and was soon tracking down the leader. Having pitted on lap 239, Hamlin had no issues with fuel mileage as Harvick did.
With 36 laps to go, Hamlin had fallen back and Kenseth was looking for the spot. Harvick’s lead up front was nearing a second. On lap 273 Kenseth made the pass and took over second. He was soon reeling in Harvick in first.
With 15 to go, Harvick’s lead was a half a second. With 10 to go, the lead was still the same. Harvick ran out of fuel with three laps to go and pitted; Kenseth took the lead as Earnhardt and Kurt Busch ran out of fuel as well. Kenseth went on to win by just over eight seconds over his teammate Hamlin; Logano was third, Biffle held on for fourth and Edwards was fifth.
Johnson was fifth, Gordon seventh, Truex was eighth with Kasey Kahne and Newman rounding out the top 10. Kurt Busch was 19th,Harvick was scored 21st one lap down, Earnhardt was 25th, and Clint Bowyer 26th. Kyle Busch was the lowest finisher in the Chase coming home 37th. The full results can be found here. The win was a series high fifth win of the season and the 36th of Kenseth’s career.
Kenseth is atop the Chase standings, followed by Hamlin, Edwards, Logano, and Johnson. Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, Harvick and Clint Bowyer occupy the final four spots and face elimination from the Chase next week. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the final race of the Elimination round, the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway next Sunday with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network at 2:30 p.m. ET.