NASCAR: An unlucky race for Harvick, Kenseth takes the win

September 27, 2015
Event Reports
George Sugarman

The second race of The Chase took place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and was won by Matt Kenseth who conquered the track in a tactical win against Kevin Harvick. Reigning Sprint Cup champion’s luck turned its back on him again as he lost all fuel with just three laps to go. The 300-lap long Sylvania 300 started 20:21 local time with Carl Edwards on pole followed by Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson in top five. Jeff Gordon started the race from tenth, in his record-breaking 789th Sprint Cup start. Carl Edwards kept the lead in the first lap, but Harvick was right in his tail. On lap 20 Landon Cassill made an unscheduled pit stop for undefined problems causing his car to smoke, and on the same lap, Harvick overtook Edwards for the lead. By lap 25, Edwards dropped to fourth after rubbing with Harvick during the overtake. The new leader extended his lead over Kurt Busch to 1.5s, and by lap 30, the lead was already more than 2 seconds, but this time over Keselowski who jumped to second.

First caution of the race came out on lap 37 after Aric Almirola hit the outside wall when his right front tire went off. Many cars including both race leaders went to the pits, but Brad Keselowski went on, taking the first place. But, as Keselowski went to the pits, Cole Whitt was the new leader as the driver who pitted last, completing the cycle. Harvick returned to the lead, and the race restarted on lap 44. The second caution came out on lap 48 when Cassill went to the garage with smoke coming out of his vehicle. The second caution period ended on lap 53. A blown left front tire of Tony Stewart caused the third caution of the race on lap 60. Jeff Gordon decided to pit during caution, and so did Clint Bowyer. The race restarted on lap 65.

Not much happened in the following laps and Kevin Harvick entered lap 101 as the leader. Fourth caution came out on lap 120 after Alex Bowman hit the wall near the pit entry. The race was over for him and many drivers including Kevin Harvick went to the pits. As the pit cycle completed, Harvick returned to first position, completing 100 laps in the lead. The race restarted on lap 125 with Harvick quickly moving away from Keselowski.

Fifth caution came out when Kyle Busch hit the wall. Car #18 went in the garage and Kevin Harvick exited pit road as the leader. The race restarted on lap 166. Debris on the track brought the sixth caution on lap 192, and Kevin Harvick used the opportunity to get four new tires for the third part of the race, which was a move that cost him the lead, since Matt Kenseth won the race off pit road. He was followed by Jimmie Johnson, Dale Jr. and Joey Logano. The race restarted on lap 197 and Dale Jr. jumped to second soon after the restart.

Two thirds into the race, Harvick was on fifth and Jimmie Johnson lost a front tire, pitting on lap 201 without causing the caution. Harvick continued improving and was soon on fourth. Seventh caution came out on lap 205 when Danica Patrick lost control of her car after getting bumped by Ryan Newman. The car hit the outside wall and returned to the middle of the track and then collided with David Ragan who just couldn’t avoid her. As a result of the crash, the race was red flagged for excessive debris.

Even though the crash looked quite serious, nobody was injured and the race was soon restarted. The race went green on lap 210 and Kevin Harvick resumed his quest for reclaiming the lead, taking it away from Kenseth on lap 212. During the same lap Brett Moffitt caused eighth caution when he hit the wall. Harvick pitted for refuel only and almost collided with Kyle Larson who was entering his pit just as Harvick was exiting. The race restarted on lap 215 with Matt Kenseth in the lead and he was followed by Hamlin and Jamie McMurray. With 82 laps to go, Hamlin took over the lead from Kenseth.

Ninth caution came out when Justin Allgaier hit the wall on lap 237 and Denny Hamlin pitted for tire change and refuel. Greg Biffle stayed out and went to the lead with Keselowski and Harvick behind him. The race restarted with 58 laps to go with Greg Biffle managing to keep the lead. However, the restart was under review and Keselowski was issued a drive through penalty, which pushed Harvick to second, right onto Biffle’s rear bumper. With 49 laps to go, Harvick overtook Biffle and went back to the lead. Denny Hamlin soon improved to second and got very close to Harvick with 40 laps to go. Matt Kenseth got to second with around 26 laps to go and started putting pressure on Harvick, hoping that he’ll run out of fuel.

In the final laps, both drivers quickened up the pace and Kenseth was trying to burn up all of Harvick’s fuel. That happened with three laps to go as Harvick went to the pit road. Harvick rejoined a lap down and Kenseth won the race, followed by Hamlin, Logano, Biffle and Carl Edwards in top five. Jimmie Johnson recovered and made it to sixth. Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman finished in top ten, while Harvick ended the race in disappointing 21st.

The win granted Kenseth a place in the second round of the chase. Carl Edwards leads the pack and is tied with Joey Logano. Kyle Busch, Menard, Harvick and Bowyer are currently below the line. With one race to go in the first elimination cycle, the stakes are set high and we expect an extremely exciting race so stay tuned!

Complete results can be seen here.

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