Brad Keselowski emerged victorious Sunday at New Hampshire in what for the most part appeared to be a one-on-one battle with Denny Hamlin.
The two drivers combined to lead 18 times for a combined 276 of the 301 laps with Keselowski taking the lead for the final time on Lap 221.
From that point, Keselowski stayed out front with his only concern hoping to make his fuel last to the finish – a situation several of the race contenders had to contend with as the race wound to a close.
The win is Keselowski’s third in the NASCAR Cup Series this season and the 33rd of his career, which ties him for 24th all-time with Fireball Roberts.
“We’ve had a lot of great races this year with the No. 2 car and we just haven’t really gone out and dominated a race, you know?” Keselowski said. “I was talking to Jeremy Bullins (crew chief) and said that’s what we really need to get to that next level. We’re right there – we just need to go out there and dominate a race. That’s what today was for us.
“I’m really proud of my team and what they did today. Had a great race car. It’s so great to be back racing in front of fans again. It feels like it’s been forever, so welcome back guys. I’ve had a good career but I probably needed a little kick in the ass. Jeremy and this whole team has been a kick in the butt for me to make me a little better and push me to find another level and we’re doing it so far.
“Really thankful I’m in great spot. I think it’s my fifth straight year with three wins but I don’t want us to stop here.”
Martin Truex Jr. finished third, Joey Logano was fourth and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five.
Completing the top-10 was Matt DiBenedetto, Aric Almirola, Cole Custer, Chase Elliott and Tyler Reddick.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, most of the lead-lap cars remained on the track. On the restart on Lap 192, Keselowski led the way followed by Hamlin and Logano.
Hamlin powered to the lead on the restart but Keselowski remained close behind. William Byron passed Almirola and moved into third.
On Lap 197, Kenseth had a tire go down and hit the Turn 3 wall as another caution was displayed. Most lead-lap cars remained on the track and Hamlin remained out front when the race returned to green on Lap 201.
Keselowski powered to the lead in Turn 1 on the restart as Byron challenged Hamlin for second.
Another flat tire sent Matt Kenseth into the Turn 3 wall on Lap 205 to force another caution. Many of the lead-lap cars pit but Elliott remained on the track and inherited the lead.
On the restart on Lap 209, Elliott was followed by Ryan Preece, Christopher Bell, Chris Buescher and Harvick. Logano lined up sixth.
John Hunter Nemechek hit the Turn 3 wall on Lap 213 which brought out the 11th caution of the race. Several lead-lap cars pit but Hamlin remained on the track and took over the lead.
On the restart on Lap 219, Hamlin was followed by Logano, Keselowski, DiBenedetto and Truex.
Keselowski worked his way around Hamlin in Turn 2 on Lap 220 to retake the lead.
With 60 laps remaining in the race, Keselowski had built up more than a second lead over Hamlin as Truex ran third.
Keselowski’s lead had expanded to more than 1.7-seconds over Hamlin with 40 laps to go in the race. Truex ran third, Logano fourth and DiBenedetto fifth.
With 20 laps to go, Keselowski held a more than 3-second lead over Hamlin as several teams were concerned if they had enough fuel to make it to the finish should the race remain under green-flag conditions.
Keselowski passed Hamlin on the final lap of a two-lap shootout and held on for the Stage 2 win, his sixth stage victory of the 2020 season.
Hamlin ended up second, Logano third, Almirola fourth and Byron rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, a few lead-lap cars decided to pit but Hamlin remained on the track and in the lead when the race returned to green on Lap 83.
On Lap 93, NASCAR displayed the caution as rain picked up in Turns 1 and 2. Hamlin remained in the lead but Harvick had moved up to second with Truex in third.
When pit road open, most lead-lap cars pit but Harvick remained on the track and inherited the lead. Truex’s team had an uncontrolled tire during his stop and had to restart from the rear of the field.
On the restart on Lap 101, Harvick was followed by Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace, Clint Bowyer and Reddick.
Hamlin moved back to second on Lap 103 and began closing on Harvick for the lead. Hamlin grabbed the top spot back on the following lap as Logano moved into third.
With 70 laps remaining in the second stage, Hamlin maintained about a half-second lead over Logano as Keselowski ran third.
Keselowski got around Logano in Turn 4 on Lap 129 to move into second, about 1.7-seconds behind Hamlin.
Hamlin and Keselowski swapped the lead on Laps 141 and 142 with Hamlin able to get back out front with a small but steady advantage.
On Lap 147, Keselowski reclaimed the lead from Hamlin coming off Turn 2.
Harvick became the first of the lead-lap cars to make a green-flag pit stop on Lap 167 to get new tires and fuel to make it to the finish.
On Lap 172, Bell spun coming through Turns 1 and 2 with a flat right-rear tire to bring out a caution soon after several drivers had made green-flag pit stops.
Most of the lead-lap cars pit and Austin Dillon was the first off pit road thanks to a two-tire pit stop. On the restart on Lap 177, Dillon was followed by Keselowski, Hamlin, Almirola and Byron.
Keselowski quickly moved into the lead on the restart as Hamlin moved into second.
Kenseth spun out on the backstretch on Lap 179 to bring out the seventh caution of the race. Only a handful of drivers elected to pit and the race returned to green on Lap 184 with Keselowski in the lead.
Hamlin went from ninth to the lead on a late restart and held off Truex to take the Stage 1 win, his fourth stage victory of the 2020 season.
Harvick was third, Bell fourth and Keselowski rounded out the top-five.
Almirola, who started on the pole thanks to a random draw, led the first two laps until Keselowski went to his inside and grabbed the top spot on Lap 3.
On Lap 16, Kyle Busch – running sixth at the time – suffered a flat right-front tire and hit the Turn 3 wall to bring out a caution.
Busch immediately too his No. 18 Toyota to the garage, parked his car and walked off, his race done for the day.
A handful of cars elected to pit but Keselowski remained on the track and in the lead when the race returned to green on Lap 22. Jones was penalized a lap for pitting outside the box during his stop.
On Lap 31, NASCAR displayed a caution to allow teams to check tire wear. Most of the lead-lap cars elected to pit but Keselowski stayed out again and remained in the lead.
When the race returned to green on Lap 35, Keselowski was followed by Hamlin and Reddick.
By Lap 41, Keselowski still led but Hamlin and Blaney were right behind him as the three ran 1-2-3.
With 20 laps remaining in the first stage, Keselowski remarkably remained out front on the tires he started the race with but Hamlin – who stopped for fresh tires – had moved into the second spot.
Hamlin finally got around Keselowski on Lap 57 to take the lead for the first time. On lap later, however, Keselowski was able to retake the lead in Turn 3.
Entering Turn 1 on Lap 61, Hamlin again got underneath Keselowski and reclaimed the lead while Blaney remained close behind in third.
Jimmie Johnson spun off Turn 2 after contact from Bowyer on Lap 63 to bring out another caution.
Several drivers elected to pit but Blaney stayed out and took over the lead. On the restart on Lap 68, Blaney was followed by Byron and Custer. Elliott was penalized for speeding during his stop and had to restart the race from the rear of the field.
After restarting ninth, Hamlin flew to front on fresh tires and reclaimed the lead on Lap 69.
Source: Read Full Article