HARVICK COMES OUT ON TOP IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
After a strong 2018 Monster Energy Cup Series season, Kevin Harvick has been looking for his first win in 2019, and after a late race battle with Denny Hamlin at New Hampshire it finally came to him.
Much like last week at Kentucky, a big story before the was the application of PJ1 to make new lines for cars to go, and it proved what it could do almost immediately. Drivers Ryan Newman, Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson, and even Hamlin all had to start at the back. Brad Keselowski, with no issues, went on to get the pole, a position he wouldn’t hold for too long. Kyle Busch took the lead from Brad and in the matter of ten laps had got out to an over a second lead. With Busch going as fast as he was, he started to catch the back of the field in a hurry, which allowed Keselowski to catch back up and compete for the lead. As the two got to Bubba Wallace, Keselowski held Busch up the track to use Wallace as a pick and get the lead back while Busch also lost second as well to Martin Truex Jr.
Shortly after, Austin Dillon lost a tire and slammed the wall right as the leaders lapped him; bringing out the first caution. Erik Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took only two tires in the pits to get the front row on the restart. Stenhouse spun his tires and held up the bottom line; allowing Kyle Busch to get underneath Jones to get back to the lead. After a close call with almost caution after Austin Dillon lost another tire and got into the wall; Kyle Busch went on the win the first stage.
Busch kept the lead going into Stage 2 after getting two tires and gets out to a good gap. With thirty-nine laps to go in the stage, Daniel Suarez got loose into the corner after getting into some fluid from Chase Elliott’s car and hit Daniel Hemric; bringing out the caution and ending Hemric’s day. Everyone pitted except for Harvick as Erik Jones had to pit again as he got into Bowman on pit road. On the restart, Harvick couldn’t hold off Busch for too long and lost the lead after a few laps. With thirteen laps left in the stage, Stenhouse lost a tire and slammed into the wall with a scary hit after Jones pulled up in front of him and tagged his right front. Aric Almirola and Newman stayed out and brought the field to green but not for long as Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr got squeezed into each other; bringing out the caution as Bowyer was being pushed sideways along the track by Truex. Almirola went on to outplay the whole field on the restart as he stacked up the whole field to slow everyone down and get to a hefty lead for the last few laps; picking up the stage win.
With a variety of strategies hitting the pits and Kyle Busch having to pit because of a tire rub, Denny Hamlin got the lead for a while as the field started to space itself out with only Kyle Busch making moves as he came back up through the field. Busch’s strong run was stopped after a tow issue got him loose and into the wall; no bad damage, but it ended the chance of a win and brought out another caution. After everyone came in to get four tires the yellow waved again right after the green after Kyle Larson divebombed Alex Bowman as he was coming down into the corner, sending Larson into the wall. When the green came back around, Hamlin got back to the front as Ryan Blaney settled into second. Gas Mileage talks came into play as most drivers were one or two laps short and they started to slow down their paces in doing so. Fuel was thrown out the window after Larson would lose a tire with thirty-eight to go, ending his race and continuing a tough season for him. Harvick took the risk of staying out to get the lead while Hamlin pitted. Hamlin got back to second on the restart, but he had to catch Kevin, who had pulled ahead to a good lead. While the battle for the lead was going on, Matt DiBenedetto, who had started seventh, put on another good show as he methodically pick his way up through the field while Newman, who had gone down a cylinder and had hit cautions in all the right times for his team to fix it, was moving right with him.
DiBenedetto finished fifth while Newman picked up seventh; the best finish for DiBenedetto at an oval and the fifth top ten for Newman in the last six races. As the laps wound down, Hamlin began to creep up to Harvick and get right on his back bumper with three to go. With two to go, Denny forced Harvick up the track to get below him and get the lead, but Harvick did a crossover to get right back by him. Even after a bit of contact going out of turn four on the last lap, Harvick was able to hold on and get his first win of the season, a playoff berth, and a nice lobster dinner.