Harvick Takes Bad Boy Off Road 300
After a rough start to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, Kevin Harvick came to New Hampshire Motor Speedway on the elimination bubble entering Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300. With Matt Kenseth looking to become the first driver to ever win three straight Cup races at NHMS, Harvick played the spoiler, using a great restart to drive past Kenseth and into the Round of 12.
"When you get in these situations it is fun to be able to succeed," said Harvick, who jumped from 13th in the standings to an automatic advancement into the next round. "It is kind of like an addiction, you get to compete at this level and you love the rush and I'm just proud of everybody on the team."
It was the third of the season and the 34th of his career for Harvick, who was making his 100th start for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch - all Chasers - finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Carl Edwards rebounded from a late pit road commitment penalty to finish sixth, while Martin Truex Jr. followed up his win last week in Chicago with a seventh-place finish despite leading a race-high 141 laps.
"We raced with Matt for so long at the end I burned the tires up. It was unfortunate to have a car that good all day and lead that many laps and come home seventh, but the team gave us a great car," said Truex. "It was tough racing, hard racing. I felt I could push the issue a little more, but I didn't want to have contact. He is a teammate, so it would have been an awkward meeting on Tuesday if I knocked him out of the way for a second win in the first round."
Jimmie Johnson finished eighth and Kyle Larson finished 10th. Kasey Kahne (ninth) was the only non-Chaser to finish inside the top-10.
Chasers finishing outside the top-10 include Chase Elliott (13th), who was a top-five car for much of the day, Denny Hamlin (15th), Austin Dillon (16th), Jamie McMurray (19th), and Chris Buescher (30th).
Tony Stewart, who is also in the Chase, finished 23rd in his final race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Fans held up oversized Stewart cut-outs of his face to honor the retiring three-time NHMS Cup winner during driver introductions and on Lap 14.
Kenseth, who led 105 laps and much of the last third of the race, took the outside line on a late restart. Harvick wasn't going to be fooled, though, and stayed with Kenseth through the "Wicked Fast Restart Zone" all the way into the first turn, where he eventually overtook Kenseth for the lead and pulled away for the victory.
"I didn't do a good job on that last restart," said Kenseth. "He was laying back, which you should to get a good run, and I spun the tires. I don't want to say I don't care about points, but it is the farthest from my mind. In a position to win and had preferred position on the restart - I just totally didn't get it done, which is disappointing."
With just next weekend's race at Dover International Speedway remaining in the three-race opening round, Harvick joins Truex as the only drivers locked into the Round of 12.
"For 10 weeks you have to perform at the top level and give all that you have," said Harvick. "It's just that time of year. Now we need to focus on what we need to do to keep the momentum going."
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