The Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway looked to be a washout. Rain is forecast for the next 10 days in the New England area. Then a window in the weather opened and NASCAR quickly dried the track. Racing began just before 4:30 pm, 2 hours later than the original starting time.
Kurt Busch(41) won the pole and last week’s winner Martin Truex Jr.(78) starts beside him on the front row. With 7 races left before the NASCAR Playoffs begin, the fight for Playoff positions is heating up.
Stages of 75 laps, 75 laps, and 151 laps make up the 301 laps around the 1.05-mile track. Rain is still a possibility, the race becomes official at the conclusion of Stage 2.
Kurt Busch drove to the lead on the start. Only 13 laps went on the board until Landon Cassill(00) hit the wall on the backstretch. Bringing out the first caution of the day. After the restart, the field put 2 more laps up and A J Allmendinger(47) did the same thing. Hitting the wall on lap 20. Both cars retired to the garage, out of the race.
Through all the on-track action Busch maintained the top spot. Until NASCAR displayed a competition caution on lap 36 to allow teams to inspect tires after the rain washed down the track. Several cars stayed on the track having pitted during the accident cautions. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) held off a charge by Jimmie Johnson(48) to take the lead on the restart. Staying out is a smart move for Stenhouse Jr. A stage win and the 10 points that go with it would be huge. Stenhouse Jr. started the race 9 points out of the final Playoff spot.
However, on Lap 52, Truex Jr. took the lead. He held the top spot to the end of Stage 1.
Stage 1 Results
* Ford Fusion Drivers
Stenhouse Jr. did not earn a point in Stage 1 and neither did Paul Menard(21). He started the day 23 points below the Playoff cut line. Alex Bowman(88) holds the final Playoff spot currently. But, he is struggling on the tough New Hampshire oval.
After Stage ending pit stops Chase Elliott(9) beat Truex Jr. off pit road. The Busch brothers and Johnson make up the remainder of the top 5. Elliott surrendered the lead as the race went back to green with Truex Jr. again moving to the front.
With 20 laps to go in Stage 2, Elliott drove to the front. He had to hold off the pole sitter, Kurt Busch, to earn his first Stage win of the year.
Stage 2 Results
* Ford Fusion Drivers
Six Blue Oval drivers in the Top 10 at the end of Stage 2.
The Final Stage
The race off pit road after the Stage ending caution was close. Kurt Busch just nipped Elliott at the line. The rest of the top 5 remained unchanged for the start of the Final Stage. Joey Logano(22) made the big move exiting in the 6th spot.
On Lap 212, Aric Almirola(10) drove past teammate Kurt Busch for the lead. The first time Almirola led a lap at New Hampshire. With 75 laps to go Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall. He was able to make it to pit road without the caution coming out. The damage to the car likely will cost Stenhouse Jr. in his battle with Bowman for the final playoff spot.
Clint Bowyer spun out in Turn 3 bringing out the caution with 45 laps to go. The field pitted for new tires and fuel. Kyle Busch(18) exited first, jumbling the front of the field. Kevin Harvick(4) came out 2nd with Almirola 3rd. Truex Jr. 4th and Kurt Busch 5th.
When the green flag waves, the “Big Three” Kyle Busch, Harvick, and Truex Jr. run in the top 3 spots. Harvick ran down Kyle Busch and with 7 laps to go they were nose to tail. He gave Busch a bump moving him up out of the groove. Harvick drove past and took the victory to move ahead of Bush 6 victories to 5. The win also moved Harvick ahead of Kyle in Playoff Points 32-30.
Stenhouse Jr. lost 19 points in the battle for the final Playoff spot. He is now 28 points behind Bowman. Menard also lost 3 points and sits 29 points out of the final position. Ahead of Bowman, Elliott, in 15th position, is 48 points clear. Johnson sits 58 points up on Bowman’s 16th and final qualifying position.
Results of the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire
|4||78||Martin Truex Jr.||7.107||300|
|30||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-5||295|
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||722||4|
|Playoff Cut Line|
|17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||425||0|
* Ford Fusion Drivers