LOUDON, N.H. – For the second time in as many weeks, NASCAR fans were treated to an exciting last-lap battle for victory in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
This week, it was Kevin Harvick holding off a hard-charging Denny Hamlin for the win, and the HUGE lobster that goes to the winning team in Victory Lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway the past few years.
Harvick took the lead on a late-race caution when crew chief Rodney Childers made the call to remain out when others hit pit road for tires and fuel. From there, it was up to Harvick to hold off all challengers for the remaining laps to gain their first win of 2019.
But, Hamlin didn’t make it easy for him as he took his No. 11 Toyota to the inside going into Turn 1 on the last lap as Harvick shut the door on his effort. Then, coming out of Turn 4, Hamlin went to the outside of Harvick making contact with the No. 4 Ford’s right-rear quarter panel.
It wasn’t enough to turn the car as Harvick solidified his place in the Playoffs with the victory.
“I didn’t think we had the best chance staying out like we did,” Harvick said. “But, Rodney made a great call. We had a good car all day, we just couldn’t get the track position.
“He (Hamlin) tried to get me out of the way, and I knew that was coming as close as he was. I just stood on the brake so he wouldn’t get under me again. Then, I just drove to the outside.”
Hamlin, who led 113 laps, didn’t like finishing second but said he just didn’t want to take him out on the last lap.
“I tried to shove him a little higher to get him out of the groove,” he said. “I tapped him, but I didn’t want to totally screw him. It was fun.”
One driver who didn’t have fun in the end was Kyle Busch. For the second-consecutive race, the No. 18 Toyota driver led the most laps (118) but was hampered by a brush with the outside wall after his car got out of the racing groove during the Final Stage. He still managed to finish eighth.
Rounding out the top five behind Harvick and Hamlin were Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and Matt DiBenedetto for his second top-five finish in 2019.
The points leader remains Joey Lagano, followed by Busch, Harvick, Hamlin and Brad Keselowski. Ryan Newman is back into the Playoff picture after finishing seventh and leaping past Clint Bowyer. The finish also knocked Jimmie Johnson down to 17th, one past the cutoff of 16th.
This coming weekend, the Series heads to the Tricky Triangle of Pocono Raceway and will be joined by the Gander Outdoor Truck Series
Big Three Driver Does it Again in Xfinity Series
Christopher Bell backed up last year’s victory at NHMS by doing it again on Saturday. It was his fifth win of the year as he held off fellow Big Three driver Cole Custer, who was followed by Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Paul Menard.
This weekend, they head to Iowa Speedway to take on the fast-paced 7/8th-mile oval in the Midwest.