Posted By: David Morgan – Follow at @damorgan86
September 27, 2015
Though it looked like Kevin Harvick was well on his way to a rebound win after his disastrous finish at Chicagoland last weekend, fuel mileage ended those hopes as Harvick ran out of fuel with just three laps to go.
Harvick’s fuel issues paved the way for Matt Kenseth to take over the lead and set sail for the win, his fifth of the season. Kenseth’s win gives Joe Gibbs Racing two cars secured into the Contender Round of the Chase after Denny Hamlin won last weekend.
“We had to be there to win. These Dollar General guys did a great job today. We didn’t pit that one time and I was like, ‘Ahhh,’ and Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) was like, ‘It’s fine, relax.’ We made it to the front faster than we thought. I was giving it everything I’ve got and I thought he (Kevin Harvick) was going to beat us and he had a better car today, but I guess he was a little short on fuel. This is unbelievable. This feels unbelievable. Thanks to everybody – thanks to Dollar General, DeWalt, Toyota, TRD (Toyota Racing Development) – I say it all the time, but we’ve got great partners. I really appreciate these guys a lot and thank the Lord for putting me here. This has been so much fun,” said Kenseth.
Kenseth was followed to the finish by Hamlin, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, and Ryan Newman
Harvick would fall to 21st place by the finish after leading 216 laps on the day. He now remains 15th in points, 23 points out of 12th, making next week’s race at Dover a virtual must win.
Just like Chicago a week ago, the other Chase drivers were not immune to trouble and trouble struck for several of the Chase drivers during Sunday’s race.
On lap 159, Kyle Busch cut a tire and slammed into the Turn 3 wall, causing major damage to his No. 18 Toyota. Busch would end the day in 37th, 38 laps down putting a major damper on his Chase hopes.
Busch did not speak to the media after the race, but crew chief Adam Stevens addressed the No. 18 team’s day at New Hampshire, saying: “We just came off almost a green flag run and the tires looked fine, the balance was a little off and then had that short run there and the handling went away and just blew a right front. It looks like it just had a slow leak and just overworked the shoulder and finally blew out, but the balance was free, so it’s not like we abused it – especially after we just went a fuel run, you know what I mean? Just one of those things that happens – sometimes you get a pinhole or run something over and we found the fence.”
The second Chase driver to have an issue was Jimmie Johnson, who cut a left front tire during the midway part of the race. Though Johnson was able to make it to pit road with minimal damage, he would go a lap down at that point. Johnson would get his lap back and rebounded to a sixth place finish.
Rounding out the Chase drivers who had problems was Brad Keselowski, who was black flagged for jumping the restart on lap 245. Keselowski jumped ahead of race leader Greg Biffle on the restart and after NASCAR reviewed the replay, the black flag flew for Keselowski to make a trip down pit road to serve his penalty. By the time the checkered flag flew, Keselowski would finish the day in 12th.
“I got the chance to do something again for the first time. The first person to ever be penalized for jumping a restart when I didn’t pass anyone, so that’s a new one, but we moved on and we made the most of a good day with the Miller Lite Ford and got a solid finish that hopefully will make our Dover a little bit easier, so that was good,” said Keselowski.
When asked if NASCAR made an example out of him, Keselowski simply responded by saying, “Yeah.”
Other Chasers also had fuel issues late in the race including Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (25th) and Kurt Busch (19th).
The race was slowed by nine cautions, including a red flag at lap 204 after Danica Patrick was spun by Ryan Newman into the Turn 1 wall. After Patrick struck the wall and was coming back down the track, she was struck a second time by the No. 55 car of David Ragan, which peeled the side of Ragan’s car back and scattered the energy absorbing foam across the track. Patrick was having a decent run at the time as she was spun from 12th place, but would end the day in 40th.
“I definitely got hit and I think that when I got hit in (Turns) 1 and 2, by the car (No. 55 of David Regan) and not the wall, it seemed like the worst of it. But, it’s such a shame. We were having a good race and the car was definitely pretty decent. We took two tires on that last stop and it was definitely a little bit too loose, but I was kind of waiting for it to come to me and (Ryan) Newman has always been super fair and I know that he was working to get by me. But, it sounds like maybe Jeff (Gordon) got into him, or something. It’s that time of year. It’s the Chase and people are racing hard and they want everything they can get and maybe Jeff couldn’t see exactly where he was in relationship to the No. 31 (Newman) and me. But I did not get the good end of the stick,” Patrick said.
“That was a hard hit. Thankful to the NASCAR safety initiatives over the years – everything is good to go. We had had kind of a rocky day in our Aaron’s Toyota – had an unscheduled pit stop earlier, a loose wheel, got the Lucky Dog and felt like we had just kind of gotten back in rhythm. I saw the 10 car (Danica Patrick) and I was just hoping and I thought that she would hold onto her breaks and maybe not come back down the track as quick and as violent as she did. I guess if I wouldn’t have hit her, she would have probably hit the inside wall, but all in all I’m good to go and I wish she would have just held onto the brakes,” said Ragan.
Next week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Dover for the final race of the Challenger Round of the Chase. With Kenseth and Hamlin locked into the next round, the final 10 transfer spots will be determined at the Monster Mile. Of those not locked in, the points ahead of 13th are as follows: Carl Edwards (+33), Joey Logano (+33), Jimmie Johnson (+27), Ryan Newman (+18), Kurt Busch (+17), Brad Keselowski (+16), Martin Truex, Jr. (+15), Jeff Gordon (+12), Jamie McMurray (+2), and with the final transfer spot, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (+1).
The four drivers on the outside looking in are Kyle Busch (-1), Paul Menard (-1), Kevin Harvick (-23), and Clint Bowyer (-39).
Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Race Results