Kevin Harvick Advances To The Round of 12 With New Hampshire Winby Hunter Thomas September 25, 2016
LOUDON, N.H. – With five laps to go, Kevin Harvick took the lead away from Matt Kenseth and claimed his third victory of the 2016 season during the Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Harvick only led eight laps en route to his 34th career win, but they were the laps that counted. A late-race caution came out on lap 292, and that set the field up for a five-lap dash to the finish. On the restart, Harvick was able to stay with leader, Matt Kesneth out of Turn 2. As the two drivers battled down the backstretch, Harvick in the No. 4 ditech Chevrolet SS dove underneath Kenseth and took the lead away in Turns 3 and 4. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver never looked back and scored a win that will automatically catapult him into the Round of 12 in the Chase.
“I just want to thank all our sponsors and everyone at the shop who works on the Stewart-Haas Racing cars,” Harvick said. “Man, that worked out really good. The car was pretty good on the restarts. Once we got clean air there at the end, it wound up being really good up front. I’m just really proud of our team. They did a great job.”
Matt Kenseth, who led 105 laps throughout the afternoon, had to settle for a runner-up finish. The good news for Kenseth is that he sits fourth in the Chase standings, 21 points ahead of Kyle Larson, who holds the 12th and final transfer spot into the Round of 12.
“I didn’t do a very good job,” Kenseth said. “I let Kevin (Harvick) lay back on me and NASCAR said something about the restart before that and I have no idea what I did wrong. I probably shouldn’t have had that in my mind so I made sure I got rolling early and I spun the tires a little bit and he got half a car length anticipating it and just did it perfect and beat me through one and two and cleared me. It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have worried about what they (NASCAR) said and just got to turn one first.”
Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five. Carl Edwards finished sixth. After leading a race high of 141 laps, Martin Truex Jr. finished seventh. Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson finished out the top-10.
There were 14 lead changes among eight leaders, and throughout the afternoon, the Bad Boy Off Road 300 saw only six cautions. None of the cautions involved more than one car.
As for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, Brad Keselowski currently leads Martin Truex Jr. by one point; however, Truex Jr. is already locked into the Round of 12 with is win at Chicagoland Speedway. Kyle Busch is third, two points back from the lead, and Kenseth is nine points back. No one besides Truex Jr. and Harvick are safe heading into the third and final race of the Round of 16.
Kyle Larson holds the 12th transfer spot but is only by five points ahead of Jamie McMurray and Austin Dillon, who sit 13th and 14th. Tony Stewart is 15th, only nine points back from Larson. Chris Buescher enters the next race having to basically win to have a realistic shot at transferring to the Round of 12. Buescher is 30 points back from the 12th position.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will visit Dover International Speedway on Sunday, October 2 for the Citizen Soldier 400. The final race of the Round of 16 will broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 2 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images