Kenseth avoids the late-race chaos, wins in New Hampshire

Matt Kenseth went back-to-back at the Magic Mile on Sunday.

Kenseth avoids the late-race chaos, wins in New Hampshire
Race winner Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota's car sitting in Victory Lane after his win
Race winner Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Race winner Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Race winner Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Kenseth led the final 31 laps for the third consecutive win for Joe Gibbs Racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and his 38th career Cup victory. 

CLICK HERE for complete race results

Kenseth took the lead from Martin Truex Jr. in Turn 1 on Lap 257. Although he relinquished the point in the pits to his teammate Denny Hamlin on Lap 267 when the No. 11 elected to remain on the track, Kenseth moved back to the point on Lap 271 and held on to the finish. 

“Great team effort,” Kenseth said. “Jason (crew chief Ratcliff) made great adjustments today. I didn’t do a very good job of qualifying (18th) and after round one today it was pretty much money. We just had to get there. It was a fun day.” 

Kenseth had an 1.982-second lead over Tony Stewart at the finish. Joey Logano, who ran outside of the top 15 for most of the race, recovered to finish third. Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top 10. 

Pit road hiccup for the eventual race winner

Kenseth had a bit of a hiccup in the pits early on when he was blocked in his box during stops on the second caution. He entered third but exited ninth. But with the help of his crew, he was able to gain the track position he needed to win.

“That was my bad,” said Kenseth. “I slid a little deep in the stall, I knew Clint (Bowyer) was coming in there late. Luckily, I had a good car and could make up for it.”

The New Hampshire 301 ratcheted into high gear over the final 100 laps as the Fords and Chevys attempted to tackle the dominant Toyotas. Kyle Busch had a 1.7-second lead over Martin Truex Jr. when the third caution was called for debris on Lap 219. But that caution opened the door for four additional cautions which changed the field dramatically. 

“Probably the toughest part to be patient was when I was around second behind Martin, I could see that he was burning rear tires and I really wanted to go past him, but I needed to be a little bit patient,” Kenseth said. “It was hard to be back there for 20 laps or so until he slipped enough to where I could get by him. Other than that, just tried to take what it would give us and go from there.”

Truex, who led 123, reported his clutch had burned up before the restart and he was stuck in fourth gear. Although the team worked on the No. 78 over the next four cautions, he was unable to recover and finished 16th. Truex was one of the lucky ones. 

Trouble for the super sub

On Lap 272, Alex Bowman, who was subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr., had moved the No. 88 Chevy up to fourth. However, contact with Carl Edwards on pit road — and Kurt Busch on the track — inevitably cut a tire on his car and he wrecked in Turn 1.

“Thanks guys for letting me fill in,” Bowman told the crew after the race. “Sorry I ruined your day there.” 

Bowman finished 26th. 

“I can’t thank Hendrick Motorsports and all these guys enough," he said after the race. "They took me to my worst race track by far and made me look good. I just have to thank Mr. H. I had such an amazing time. Everybody, Greg (Ives, crew chief) and all the guys were so welcoming.  I hate the circumstances and really hope Dale is feeling well, but I had so much fun today.  Obviously, I hate that we didn’t get the finish we deserve, but I’ve raced with a lot of these guys for a long time. I raced around them I’ve never got to actually race with guys like Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, all those guys.  I had a lot of fun passing really good cars.  Just really thankful for Nationwide and all of Hendrick Motorsports for letting me be here.”

Four laps later, Kurt Busch ignited the sixth caution after contact with Brad Keselowski in Turns 3 and 4. Busch limped around the track to the pits. After the crew worked on the No. 41 Chevy, he restarted 24th — three positions behind Keselowski, who recovered for 15th. Busch finished 22nd — and maintained his streak as the only Cup driver to finish in the lead lap in all 19 races. 

The final wreck of the race occurred on the backstretch with 15 laps remaining. Newman made contact with Edwards, who in turn collected Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson. Although Newman recovered for his seventh top 10 of the season, Larson, Edwards and Kahne finished 17th, 20th and 25, respectively. 

Fight to the finish

When the cars lined up for the 11-lap shootout, Kenseth easily held onto the lead over Harvick, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, McMurray and Stewart. Busch, who had led 133 laps battled with Biffle and was shuffled back to eighth. With a masterful restart, Stewart gained two positions, then passed Logano at the line on Lap 298 for second. 

“Every restart you’re just hoping not to mess up and spin the tires too bad,” Kenseth said. “Thankfully, we had good ones and we had great power and we had good traction and we were able to get going pretty good in a straight line and then after a couple laps we were able to roll the middle and get away. These guys did a great job, I had an easy job today – these guys got it done for me.”

Kenseth moved up two positions to eighth in the standings with his second win of the season. However, the No. 20 Toyota failed the Laser Inspection System in post-race. Any potential penalty would be decided later in the week.

Kevin Harvick retains the Sprint Cup point lead by 14 over Keselowski. 

Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards are the only drivers officially locked into the Chase.

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