Matt Kenseth Goes Back-To-Back In New Hampshire With Win At The Magic Mileby Hunter Thomas July 17, 2016 0 comments
LOUDON, N.H. – Matt Kenseth led the final 30 laps of Sunday’s New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway en route to his second victory of the 2016 season.
UPDATE: Matt Kenseth’s car didn’t pass post-race inspection after failing to meet compliance in the laser inspection station.
Kenseth, the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry started mid-pack in 18th, but he quickly battled his way to the top-five and eventually to the front of the field. Kenseth led 38 laps throughout the afternoon, and in the closing laps, the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was able to survive three late-race restarts to hold on for his third career victory at the Magic Mile. The win also marks back-to-back victories at the track for the Wisconsin native. He won back in September of 2015 as well, the last time that the series had visited the speedway.
“This has never been one of my good tracks, but Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) has a great setup here and I have great teammates,” Kenseth said. “Certainly when I first got here, Kyle (Busch) and Denny (Hamlin) taught me a lot about this place that I applied every lap today. Just fortunate guy to be driving this thing, when they drive this good it definitely makes my job a lot easier.”
For the first 270 laps, the New Hampshire 301 was fairly smooth. Kyle Busch led on four occasions for 133 laps, and Martin Truex Jr. led five times for 123 laps. Although Busch led the most laps in the race on Sunday, he finished eighth. As for Truex Jr., he lost his shifter and came to the attention of his crew under a lap 265 caution for debris. Truex Jr.’s crew helped push him off pit road on several occasions. He also struggled on getting up to speed on the restarts. Truex Jr. went from possibly winning the race to holding on to finish a disappointing 16th.
“It’s not tough, it’s just that you’re a sitting duck and there’s nothing you can do to get going,” Truex Jr. said. “Unfortunately we got passed by a lot of cars and we pitted for tires on that last stop because we were starting all the way in the back on that restart there and we wanted to get some momentum going and make sure we didn’t destroy the race car getting in a wreck. We passed 10 cars in the last 10 laps so we had a good race car, just nothing to show for it today.”
The debris caution was only the start to a wild finish in New Hampshire. When the field went back to green with 33 laps to go, Alex Bowman, who was subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. had received a tire rub. On lap 274, the caution came out after Bowman’s left rear tire finally let go as he entered Turn 1. Bowman was running in the eighth position when he went hard into the outside wall. Ironically, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott also cut a tire and crashed at the same time in Turn 1 as well. Elliott had to settle for a 34th place finish, while Bowman finished 26th.
“I think the No. 19 (Carl Edwards) was backing up because he was blocked in as I was leaving the pit box,” Bowman said. “My left-rear hit his right-rear as I was leaving. It caved it in enough, we thought we would be fine, but obviously, when I got into the No. 41 (Kurt Busch) it was already going down. I got really loose, got up the race track and got into him. I hate that for Kurt. Obviously, just got loose had a tire going down and then it went down at about the start/finish line, I just tried to hang on to it. It is really unfortunate. They knew we were here for sure and I had a blast.”
On the restart with 24 laps to go, Kurt Busch was also a victim of a tire rub. Busch’s left rear tire let go while he exited Turn 4, bringing out the caution on lap 282. The final caution of the afternoon came out on lap 286, when Kyle Larson, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne got together on the backstretch. Newman made contact with Edwards, sending him into Kahne, who then clipped Kyle Larson. Although Larson was able to keep his No. 42 Target Chevrolet off the wall, he slid through the grass in Turn 3.
“They checked up in front of me and I got the No. 19 (Carl Edwards) and crossed him up and took about three other guys out,” Newman said. “But, that was ‘racing’ I guess, from my standpoint. Maybe they see it that way. Maybe they don’t. But, just let them know it wasn’t on purpose. It was a good run for our Whelen Chevrolet and it was a hard-fought day, man. We had about maybe a 15th place car and to finish where we did was definitely good.”
The final green flag of the day flew with 11 laps to go, and it was Matt Kenseth holding off a hard charging Tony Stewart for the win. Kenseth now joins Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson as the only drivers to win multiple races this season.
“I’ve got to be honest, eighth place isn’t where we want to be,” Kenseth said in reference his position in the current championship point standings. “We want to be in first place. I’m glad we got a couple wins. I know that qualifies us for the Chase, and that’s exciting, but that’s a few months down the road. So I’m just ‑‑ like I said, I’m excited we ran well last week, excited we ran really well this week, and just looking forward to going to Indy and hopefully continuing that momentum. It’s been an up‑and‑down year.”
Finishing just behind Kenseth and Stewart, Joe Logano just barely edged Kevin Harvick to the finish line for a top-three finish. Greg Biffle had a strong fifth place performance. Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. completed the top-10 in Sunday’s New Hampshire 301.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick continues to lead the championship point standings. He leads Brad Keselowski by 14 points. Despite the rough afternoon, Kurt Busch is only 34 points back from Harvick.
Up next on the schedule for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is the Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard on Sunday, July 24. Live coverage of the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will broadcast on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) at 3 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images