Brad Keselowski dominated the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, leading 184 laps of the 301-lap race, on his way to his third win of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season and his second-career victory at NHMS.
“We’ve had a lot of great races this year with the 2 car, but we just haven’t really went out and kind of dominated a race,” Keselowski said. ”Talking to Jeremy Bullins [crew chief] and, like, ‘Man, what do we need to get to that next level? We’re right there. We need to go out and just dominate a race,’ and that’s what today was for us with the Western Star/Alliance Parts Ford Mustang. I’m really proud of my team and the effort that they gave today. A great race car, and to all of Team Penske, thank you. Its so great to be racing back in front of fans again. It feels like forever, so welcome back, guys.”
Keselowski took his race-winning lead on lap 221.
“This is the same tire and similar track to Phoenix [site of the season-finale], and we know that’s what you’ve got to do to win this championship,” Keselowski said. ”You have to go win Phoenix, and we put on a great showing today. I’m pumped. I really am. The playoffs are a long ways away, and they’re gonna be tough, but this is certainly a good sign.”
Hamlin ran second to Keselowski the rest of the way to finish second. Keselowski and Hamlin combined to lead most of the race, with Hamlin leading 92 laps. No other driver led more than 10 laps.
“We just kind of were second there to the 2 [Keselowski],” Hamlin siad. “We could really do well on restarts, and we were going back-and-forth. Wow, that was some really, really good short-track racing, there. Hopefully, the fans liked what they saw there with me and the 2 for most of the day. Some great side-by-side racing. We treated each other fair, and it’s good that we got one-two out of it.”
Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. finished third after a pit-road penalty for an uncontrolled tire during a lap-93 caution for rain. Although there was enough precipitation to slow the race, the even was never red-flagged.
“We ran second in the first stage and had a tire get away on pit road; had to come from the back,” Truex said. “That definitely made things a lot more challenging. Had a decent Sport Clips Toyota, just wasn’t quite driving like we needed it to, and then, it kind of burned the tires off after 25 or 30 laps. We could hang with them, and we would fall consistently off the 2 and the 11 [Hamlin]. Third-best car and we finished third so all in all, a good day. Just have to find a little bit more. Just missed the balance a little bit today. Love coming up here to Loudon and this was a fun day.”
Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano finished fourth and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five.
“For us here at Loudon, for me, personally, this has been a challenging race track, and to be able to kind of work through it and have a solid run, I feel good about that,” Logano said. ”We pitted when we probably shouldn’t have, and then, we fuel-only’d to get our track position back, and then, the run went long, so the fuel only made us loose and we had seven or eight laps more on our tires, which ended up costing us, there, on that long run. We needed a caution. Congratulations to Brad, Team Penske. That’s great. I want to win at my home track, but nice to have a solid run.”
Logano pitted because of a miscommunication in the final third of the race. Another caution came out soon after, though, and Logano was able to take fuel only to get off pit road first for a brief lead.
Hamlin and Keselowski were the stage winners. Hamlin won the first 75-lap stage after taking the lead on lap 70. Keselowski led 57 laps of the opening stage after taking the top spot from pole sitter Aric Almirola on lap three.
Roles were reversed in the second 100-lap stage. Keselowski was the stage winner after Hamlin led a stage-high 65 laps to Keselowski’s 36.
While two JGR drivers finished in the top-five, one of Hamlin and Truex’s teammates — reigning series champion Kyle Busch — was absent for most of the race. Busch, still looking for his first win of 2020, 20 races into the season, wrecked because of a flat tire on lap 16. The early-race retirement resulted in a last-place finish, his seventh finish outside outside the top-20, so far, this season.
“I blew a right-front tire for some reason,” Busch said. “I have no idea why. Way too early in the going for anything to be wrong or even to build enough brake temp or brake heat. I don’t know. Just hate it for our Pedigree team, and the fight that we’ve been having this year seems to be continuing. Last time I was here in a Pedigree car, we blew a right-front tire for no reason, as well, too. Just seems to be our luck with the Pedigree scheme for some reason here at New Hampshire. It’s still 2020, but sooner or later, we have to turn this stuff around.”
Despite and 83-lap green-flag run to the checkered flag to end the race, Sunday’s event was marred by a total of 11 cautions, three of them for Matt Kenseth incidents. After bringing out three cautions between lap 179 and lap 204, Kenseth went to the garage and was out of the race.
Matt DiBenedetto finished sixth, Almirola was seventh, Cole Custer eighth, and Chase Elliott was the highest-finishing Chevrolet driver in ninth. Tyler Reddick finished 10th.