New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, NH — July 21, 2019
Brad Keselowski(2) won the pole for today’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He edged Kyle Busch(18) by 15/1,000th of a second. The 301 laps that make up the 318.46 miles of the race will be hotly contested as the NASCAR Playoffs are fast approaching.
Stage lengths are 75/75/151 with Stage Points so valuable as drivers contend for the playoff positions that go to the non-winners in 2019. As of today, only eight drivers have qualified based on a Cup victory earned in 18 races to date. A total of 16 drivers qualify to extend their season with a run at the Championship. Just seven races left before the Playoffs begin at Las Vegas on September 15.
Despite being the second-fastest qualifier, Kyle Busch was dominating in Stage 1. Leading all but 15 of the 75 laps. Keselowski led for 12 circuits and Erik Jones(20) led 3 times around. Busch won the Stage with Jones 2nd. Keselowski used up his tires and faded back to 5th.
Stage 1 Results
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||5|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
More of the same in Stage 2 as Kyle Busch continued to dominate. On Lap 109 Daniel Suarez(41) slipped coming out of Turn 2 and collected Daniel Hemric(8). Both spun bringing out the caution flag.
During the pit stops under yellow, Jones was exiting his pit at the same time Alex Bowman(88) was pulling in to his. They made contact and Jones had to pit two more times to repair the damage to the front bumper and splitter. He restarted at the rear of the field.
As Jones was working his way back through the field he made contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) sending the Roush Fenway Racing Mustang into the wall and out of the race. Stenhouse was not happy with Jones, “The 20 ran over us. He’s been known to do that to us a couple of times now lately. He’ll get one coming his way before it’s over with, or at least before I’m through with it.”
Late Stage Caution
With seven laps to go in the Stage, Clint Bowyer(14) got loose out of Turn 4 and pinched Martin Truex Jr. up into the front stretch wall. The caution waved again. Fortunately, there was only minor damage to both cars and with repairs, they both continued in the race.
The late caution jumbled the field as teams employed different pit strategies trying to set themselves up for the final stage or gain as many Stage points as possible. Aric Almirola came away with the Stage win.
Kyle Busch was one of the drivers opting to pit during the late caution. On one of the few occasions he was out of the lead, Busch got tangled up in traffic, suffered minor damage and had to pit again during the Stage break.
Stage 2 Results
* Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
On the restart, Denny Hamlin(11) moved to the lead. He had started in the back of the pack after going to a backup car after an incident in practice.
Jones had worked his way back to the front of the field and ran second to Hamlin.
On Lap 213, Kyle Busch was working his way through traffic when he lost the front end and slid into the wall. The caution came out and Busch was able to make repairs and return to the track. However, his chances at the win likely disappeared.
Most of the field gambled that they would be able to make it to the end of the race and pitted for a final fill-up of Sunoco Racing Fuel. On the restart from the Busch incident, Kyle Larson(42) got loose and backed his car into the wall. Bringing out yet another yellow flag. It was a bonus for those worried about fuel mileage, as the caution laps helped save gas.
Good Timing for Newman
The yellow flag could not have come at a better time for Ryan Newman. After reporting he had lost a cylinder, Newman brought his car to pit road three times during the caution period. His crew was able to determine that a coil wire was the cause of the issue.
Repairing the problem was key for Newman who entered the race in the final playoff spot, just 3 points ahead of Daniel Suarez.
With 37 laps to go Larson again pounded the wall as the right rear tire on his race car let go. Damage to the front suspension sent Larson to the garage for the day. Which will not help his standings in the playoff points battle.
Most of the leaders chose to pit for fresh tires and insurance on fuel, including Hamlin who had led for 113 laps. Kevin Harvick(4), Jones and Martin Truex Jr.(19) stayed out. Hamlin lined up in 4th having taken two tires on his stop. Kurt Busch, the first driver to return to the track with four fresh tires restarted in 10th.
With 30 laps to go the green flag waved and Harvick, who has yet to post a win in 2019, drove off to the lead in Turn 1. Hamlin was able to move up to second and began to close the distance on the leader.
Harvick saw Hamlin chip away at his lead, but he held him off until they caught lapped traffic with two laps to go. With the white flag waving Hamlin was on Harvick’s bumper and gave him a nudge going into Turn 1. Side-by-side down the backstretch, Harvick drove deep into Turn 3 edging ahead. They banged into each other off Turn 4, but Harvick was able to keep the nose of his Ford Performance Mustang in front and capture his first win of the season.
Harvick’s win means one less playoff spot is available to those battling to make the post-season. But, it really does not change the status of those driver’s as Harvick was well up in the standings based on his performance to date.
Erik Jones finished third, he entered the race three points out of the playoffs. He left New Hampshire two points ahead of elimination. Ryan Newman’s crew may have saved his playoff life with the late-race engine repair. Although he dropped out of the Top 16, he is just two points behind Jones for the final spot. Daniel Suarez continues to hang tough, one point behind Newman. Suarez’s 19 place finish
|Rank||Driver||Points||Wins||Playoff Points||Above Cut|
|6||Martin Truex Jr.||618||4||22||In|
|Playoff Cut Line|
|19||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||427||0||0||-46|
Next week the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series makes their annual visit to Watkins Glen International for the Go Bowling at The Glen.
Results of the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
|6||19||Martin Truex Jr||6.406||301|
|36||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-166||135|