Kenseth Makes it Two in a Row
Matt Kenseth went 27 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts without a win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In his last six races at the Magic Mile, Kenseth has now visited Sunoco Victory Lane three times - the latest coming in Sunday's New Hampshire 301, his second straight win at the 1.058 oval.
"This used to be one of my worst tracks and now we are very strong," said Kenseth, who also won in September of 2015, the last time the Sprint Cup Series stopped in Loudon. "I was looking forward to coming here because we have run really well here since I joined Joe Gibbs Racing."
Kenseth became the first driver since Kurt Busch in 2004 to win back-to-back starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It was the second victory and eighth top-10 finish in 2016 for Kenseth. Tony Stewart, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five.
For Tony Stewart, today's finish was more evidence that his final Sprint Cup season will be memorable. This is Stewart's 19th top-10 finish in 34 career races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and his first top-five finish at the Magic Mile since he won the Sept. 25, 2011 Chase race. Stewart went on to win the championship that season. Sunday was Stewart's fourth top-five in his last five starts, which includes a win at Sonoma Raceway on June 26.
"I'm just a race car driver - I don't care about all the hoopla, I just want to go out there and race well," said Stewart, who will make his final start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September. "I think this was the best tire Goodyear brought here in the 18 years I have been here - you could race all over the track. We have something to build on for when we come back."
For Logano, it was his eighth top-10 finish in 16 career races at the New England native's home track. Logano now has four straight top-fives at NHMS, including a win in the Sept. 21, 2014 Chase race.
"We were awful to start the race," said Logano, who noted he spent most of the race driving with Stewart. "But we went backwards together and came up through the field together. I'm proud of our team. We had a never-quit attitude and that really paid off today."
Kyle Busch, who led 190 of 200 laps in Saturday's AutoLotto 200 XFINITY Series race, put on another dominating performance for the first half of Sunday's New Hampshire 301. Busch led a race-high 133 laps, but his car faded down the stretch, finishing eighth.
Martin Truex Jr. also had a strong afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, leading 123 laps. But a malfunction with his shifter late in the race left the No. 78 Toyota Camry limping to a 16th-place finish.
"There are a lot of positives that we can take out of today," said Truex, who has just three top-10s in his last 16 starts at New Hampshire. "It's a big relief to come here and run well. We've got a good idea and game plan now to come here and run good in September and be good in the Chase."
Alex Bowman, who was the replacement pilot for Dale Earnhardt Jr. (concussion-like symptoms) in the No. 88 for Hendrick Motorsports, was a top-10 car for much of the afternoon, but finished 26th.
"This was an amazing day. I can't thank the Hendrick team enough for making me look real good at one of my worst tracks by far," Bowman said. "I wish the circumstances were better and I wish Dale a speedy recovery, obviously, but I had a lot of fun today and am very grateful for the opportunity."
Ryan Blaney (11th) was the highest finishing rookie. Fellow rookie Chase Elliott was running strong most of the day, but blew a tire late in the race and finished 34th in his Sprint Cup Series debut at NHMS. Kevin Harvick leads the point standings by 14 points over Brad Keselowski.
No driver has ever won three races in a row in the Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire, but Kenseth will have an opportunity to achieve that feat on Sept. 25 in the New England 300.
"It is the usual suspects you got to beat if you want to win a race - (Harvick), (Jimmie Johnson), my teammates, the Penske guys," Kenseth said. "No one is growing by leaps and bounds and driving away from all of us. It's going to be a battle every time we go out."
To see if Kenseth can make it three in a row, purchase tickets to the September New England 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend by stopping by our ticket office, visiting the speedway website at www.nhms.com, or calling our ticket hotline at (603) 783-4931.