Auto racing roundup: Kevin Harvick ends drought with Cup Series win

Auto racing roundup: Kevin Harvick ends drought with Cup Series win

July 21st, 2019 by Associated Press in Sports - Nascar

Kevin Harvick celebrates with a burnout after winning Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Kevin Harvick was in victory lane Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after ending a winless run that stretched to the end of last season.

Kevin Harvick was in victory lane Sunday at...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

LOUDON, N.H. — Kevin Harvick used a late bump-and-run move to win last year's NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Repeating as champion required another bump, but there was little time for a run before Harvick crossed the finish line 0.210 second ahead of Denny Hamlin on Sunday.

"It turned into a wild finish," Harvick said after his first victory of the season and the 46th of his Cup Series career

Harvick gave Hamlin a late opening when he had trouble navigating a group of cars that were off the lead lap. After nearly catching him on the back stretch, Hamlin made another run through the final two turns but couldn't regain the lead.

"I just told him we were leaving on a tow truck or winning the race today," said Harvick, who hadn't won since last November at Texas Motor Speedway.

Driving a backup car after crashing during a practice lap Friday, Hamlin led 113 laps in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota Camry, but he couldn't catch Harvick after pitting on a caution after Kyle Larson blew a tire on the 265th lap.

"I just could not break that barrier," Hamlin said. "I could not get him to make that one little slip to give me the bottom."

The 43-year-old Harvick led the final 41 laps in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford to earn his fourth victory at the mile oval and tie a record set by Jeff Burton.

Harvick won at New Hampshire last year after his late bump knocked Kyle Busch out of the lead. On Sunday, Harvick had a late bump again, but this time it was nudging Hamlin just enough to the side coming out of the final turn.

"I'm like, you're not getting under me again. And he drove to the outside of me, and I waited until he got near me, and I just put a wheel on him," Harvick said.

JGR driver Erik Jones was third, with Team Penske's Ryan Blaney fourth and Leavine Family Racing's Matt DiBenedetto fifth. Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman, Busch, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowsi — who started in pole position for the first time in two years — rounded out the top 10.

Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron's 12th-place finish was the best showing for a Chevrolet as Fords and Toyotas led the way to the checkered flag.

Logano, a Connecticut native who was trying to win at the place he calls his "home track," has a three-point lead over Busch in the season points standings. Counting Harvick, nine drivers have clinched playoff berths with six regular-season races still to go before the 16-man field is set.

Xfinity Series crew chief dies

NASCAR paid tribute to crew chief Nick Harrison, who died overnight after Saturday's Xfinity Series race.

The sanctioning body announced Harrison's death during the drivers' meeting before the race Sunday and honored him with a moment of silence. No details were given.

Harrison, 37, was the Xfinity Series crew chief for Justin Haley, who finished 13th in Saturday's race. In Harrison's first season with Kaulig Racing, Haley has two top-five finishes and a dozen top-10 performances.

Haley has also run three Cup Series event this season with Spire Motorsports and earned his first win on the top-tier circuit in a weather-halted race early this month at Daytona International Speedway.

"Not just a crew chief, but a friend to everyone who knew him," Haley wrote on Twitter. "I, and everyone at Kaulig Racing are devastated. He will be greatly missed."

Harrison was a veteran crew chief with all three NASCAR national series since 2006. His teams won five Xfinity Series races with drivers Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Paul Menard, who were all driving Sunday.

"We all lost a friend last night. We love you Nick Harrison. You were a leader, and a great friend to all," Busch posted on Twitter. "Nick really helped me rebuild my career when I was at a low point. RIP."

IndyCar: Tennessee driver stretches series lead

NEWTON, Iowa — With his series points lead in danger, Josef Newgarden strengthened his hold on the IndyCar season title chase with yet another blistering run at Iowa Speedway.

Newgarden led 245 laps of 300 laps and won the weather-delayed Iowa Corn 300 early Sunday with a performance that resembled his dominant showing on the same short oval in 2016, when the driver from Hendersonville, Tennessee, led a series-record 282 laps.

This was his fourth victory of 2019 and the 14th of his career, and it pushed his series lead over Alexander Rossi from four points to 29 with five races left this season.

"We've got to keep going," said Newgarden, who won the series title two years ago. "It's a long way."

Scott Dixon, whose 2018 season title was the fifth of his career, gave Newgarden a push after benefiting from a late caution and rallied to finish second. James Hinchcliffe, who won in Iowa a year ago, finished third and was followed by Simon Pagenaud, Spencer Pigot and Rossi.

The affable Newgarden was a bit testy after Friday's qualifying — despite earning the third spot on the grid — because he knew how fast the Team Penske No. 2 Chevrolet could be. When it was finally time to race, he went out and proved it.

Newgarden pushed past teammate Will Power just ahead of a 25-minute red flag for rain. Newgarden was never seriously threatened after that, and when his crew nailed its final pit stop with just less than 50 laps left, the race was all but over.

"I was a little down yesterday. I thought we had the pole car, and we didn't get it right," Newgarden said. "I was so focused on making sure we got it right.

Dixon might be a long shot for a sixth title, but the Chip Ganassi Racing driver showed yet again why he's one of the best in series history by reaching the podium with a car he seemingly fought all night. Although in 16th place and a lap down at one point, Dixon stayed out on a late caution and got within three seconds of Newgarden down the stretch.

"Holy smokes. We were in second. I thought we were in 22nd," said Dixon, who is fourth in the season standings — 40 behind third-place Pagenaud and 98 out of the lead. "It's a huge credit to the team. They definitely pulled one out there."

It was far from a typical night at the track.

The skies opened up about an hour before the scheduled green flag, and heavy rain and lightning pelted the speedway for more than an hour. It continued to drizzle after two weather cells moved through, along with consistent cracks of lightning in the area.

Track staff used Air Titans to dry the oval, but they struggled to eliminate spots where water seeped through the pavement. The green flag finally dropped at 10:45 p.m. local time — only for a red flag to be called 56 laps in for more rain.


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