Kevin Harvick Breaks Drought with Successful New Hampshire Defense

LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE – JULY 21: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer/National Forest Foundation Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 21, 2019, in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

LOUDON, N.H. – The drought is over.

Blanked for 21 straight races, Kevin Harvick was winless in 2019 until he held off Denny Hamlin on older tires to win Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The victory was Harvick’s fourth at the Magic Mile, most among active drivers and tied with Jeff Burton for most all-time. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang won his second-straight race at the one-mile flat track and his third in the last five events.

Crew chief Rodney Childers made the winning call to keep Harvick on track on older tires, when Hamlin pitted for right-side rubber on lap 266, under caution for Kyle Larson’s spin in turn two. Hamlin restarted fourth, quickly moved to second and chased Harvick for the final 29 laps.

On the final circuit, Hamlin got to Harvick’s bumper in turn one and gave the No. 4 Ford Mustang a tap, but Hamlin’s Toyota Camry couldn’t clear Harvick, who pulled ahead on the backstretch. Harvick hugged the bottom through turns three and four as Hamlin moved to the outside, trying to take advantage of the traction compound in the higher lane.

But when Hamlin pulled alongside, Harvick drove to the right, hitting Hamlin and slowing his momentum. Harvick crossed the finish line 0.210 seconds ahead of Hamlin, who had led 113 laps before making his final pit stop.

Even as he lined up for the final restart on lap 273, Harvick wasn’t sure Childers had made the right call, but the uncertainty disappeared when Harvick was first to the stripe.

“I didn’t think we had the best chance to win today but Rodney made a great call,” said Harvick, who led the last 41 laps. “We had a good car today. We just never could get track position. We stayed out there and ran a lot of good laps.”

Lapped traffic on the final two circuits enabled Hamlin to make up ground and made Harvick’s victory more difficult.

“I really didn’t want to see that traffic there at the end,” Harvick said. “It made my car tight when (Hamlin) got to me. He tried to move me out of the way down there and I knew that was coming, as close as he was. So I just stood on the brakes—half-throttle down the back straightaway.

“I was like, ‘You’re not getting under me again,’ and he drove to the outside of me and I waited until he got to the outside of me and put a wheel on him.”

As he watched a replay of the final lap, Hamlin was already second-guessing himself.

“Well, I kind of shoved him up a little higher and tried to get him out of the groove,” said Hamlin, who was in a backup No. 11 Toyota Camry after crashing his primary car in practice. “I’m kind of watching it back right now. I mean, yeah, I wanted to just tap him there, but I didn’t want to completely screw him. 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 call there at the end.”

Erik Jones finished third, overcoming contact with Alex Bowman’s Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on pit road and a subsequent speeding penalty. Ryan Blaney ran fourth, followed by Matt DiBenedetto, who posted his second top-five result of the season.

Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, and polesitter Brad Keselowski completed the top-ten. Busch led a race-high 118 of 301 laps but lost track position when he had to return to pit road under caution on lap 153 to fix a tire rub. He later hit the wall on lap 214 to cause the seventh of nine cautions but rallied to score a top-ten.

Busch won the first stage of the event, and eventual 11th-place finisher Aric Almirola took the second stage.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – 27th Annual Foxwoods Resort Casino 301

New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Loudon, New Hampshire

Sunday, July 21, 2019

                1. (14)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 301.

                2. (23)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 301.

                3. (4)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 301.

                4. (5)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 301.

                5. (7)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 301.

                6. (6)  Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 301.

                7. (26)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 301.

                8. (2)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 301.

                9. (8)  Joey Logano, Ford, 301.

                10. (1)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 301.

                11. (9)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 301.

                12. (22)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 301.

                13. (17)  Paul Menard, Ford, 301.

                14. (37)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 301.

                15. (25)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 301.

                16. (18)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 301.

                17. (24)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 301.

                18. (3)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 301.

                19. (13)  Daniel Suarez, Ford, 300.

                20. (16)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 300.

                21. (28)  Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 300.

                22. (27)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 300.

                23. (29)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 299.

                24. (30)  Matt Tifft #, Ford, 299.

                25. (32)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 299.

                26. (31)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 298.

                27. (33)  Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 294.

                28. (35)  Andy Seuss, Ford, 291.

                29. (12)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 290.

                30. (10)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 288.

                31. (34)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 287.

                32. (21)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 268.

                33. (15)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 264.

                34. (20)  David Ragan, Ford, 261.

                35. (36)  Austin Theriault, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 185.

                36. (11)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, Accident, 135.

                37. (19)  Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, Accident, 110.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  104.062 mph.

Time of Race:  Three Hrs, Three Mins, 37 Secs. The Margin of Victory:  0.210 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  Nine for 48 laps.

Lead Changes:  14 among seven drivers.

Lap Leaders:   B. Keselowski 0; K. Busch 1-36; B. Keselowski 37-47; E. Jones 48-50; K. Busch 51-77; E. Jones 78; K. Busch 79-110; B. Keselowski 111; K. Harvick 112-116; K. Busch 117-139; K. Harvick 140; A. Almirola 141-152; J. Logano 153; D. Hamlin 154-266; K. Harvick 267-301.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Busch four times for 118 laps; Denny Hamlin one time for 113 laps; Kevin Harvick three times for 41 laps; Aric Almirola one time for 12 laps; Brad Keselowski two times for 12 laps; Erik Jones two times for four laps; Joey Logano one time for one lap.