One week after a disappointing start to the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Kevin Harvick clinched his spot in the quarterfinal round of NASCAR's playoffs with a win Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Harvick passed Matt Kenseth on a restart with five laps remaining to win the Bad Boy Off Road 300 for his third victory of the season. Kenseth finished second, with defending Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch third, Brad Keselowski fourth and Kurt Busch fifth.
Kenseth and de facto-teammate Martin Truex Jr. dominated much of the afternoon, combining to lead 246 of 300 laps. They were running first and second, respectively, when two cautions over the final 14 laps erased their advantage.
On the second-to-last restart, Truex slid backwards while Harvick moved into the second position. And when an accident involving Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Reed Sorenson occurred on Lap 292, Harvick found himself lining up to the inside of Kenseth, who chose the outside lane. On the decisive restart, Kenseth hesitated momentarily, allowing Harvick to stay alongside into Turn 1 then make the winning pass into Turn 3.
"We were able to time that last restart really good and I was able to keep the right side tires above the hash marks going into Turn 1," Harvick said. "That was really the key for me to get the car and get off the brake and get back to a little bit of throttle."
Pole-sitter Carl Edwards finished sixth, followed by Truex, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, and Kyle Larson. Truex, who won the opening Chase race last week at Chicagoland Speedway, led a race-high 141 laps on Sunday.
The win guarantees Harvick will advance to the Chase's second round despite a disappointing 20th-place result at Chicagoland. The 16-driver playoff field will be trimmed by four following next week's race at Dover International Speedway.
Harvick's current situation entering Dover is vastly different compared to a year ago when he needed a win to stave off elimination after crashing at Chicagoland and running out of fuel while leading late at New Hampshire. In a commanding performance where he led all but 45 laps, Harvick rolled to victory at Dover.
"Oh, it's definitely going to be nice," said Harvick of not having to worry about elimination at Dover. "One of our main goals this year was to not stretch ourselves out so bad. I feel like the performance of the car and the things that we're doing are good enough to be competitive, and we just need to not make mistakes and go from there."
BAD BOY OFF ROAD 300 RESULTS
|7||2||Martin Truex, Jr.||Toyota||300||Running||141|
|24||21||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.||Ford||299||Running||0|