Kenseth, who won for the fifth time this season, stalked Harvick over the tense final laps.
Harvick burned it all. That’s the way the ball bounces in racing but how both Harvick and the team handle it moving forward could define not only this Sunday but the rest of the soon-to-be 40-year-old driver’s stellar career. I thought about it a little bit today and we were running second to Kevin (Harvick) and third behind Denny (Hamlin) and I’m like, ‘Well, this is first round and if you get all top-10s then you’re going to advance.
For Harvick, it was a dissapointing finish to an otherwise great day. “Bad ending”, he posted on Twitter. “I think we’ve been very fortunate with a few strategies and things that we’ve played that’s worked out in our favor”. But he is not the only driver who can make a few history over the weekend, as the points race continues. However, in the same vein, only race winners Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth are already locked into the next round, and conceivably anyone else in the top sixteen could see their season end next weekend. NASCAR granted Busch a waiver to make the Chase provided that he win a race and make his way into the top 30 in points after the September 12 race at Richmond worldwide Raceway.
“We had better tires and I was doing everything I could to close the gap”, Kenseth said. “And there at the end, the auto was at its best, and Matt was able to put the pressure on the 4 and bring home the victory”.
Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, Harvick and Clint Bowyer are the four drivers on the brink of elimination. You can cheer them on for putting their driver in position to win every week; however, going 2-for-15 on Victory Lane with those top-3 opportunities combined this season, mixed with a few ugly mistakes like we saw in the closing laps of New Hampshire is beginning to rub the shine off this once-special combination. The Hendrick Motorsports driver finished 25th.
Despite leading 216 laps on Sunday, Harvick, the defending series champion, heads to next Sunday’s Chase race at Dover nearly certainly needing a victory at a track where he has never won in order to escape the Challenger Round of the Chase and keep his title hopes alive. It should have been a non-issue, which is why we weren’t anxious.
“We came in, took tires and fuel with  to go, so we were good on fuel and we had good tires”. Greg Biffle tried to become the first non-Chase driver to win during the postseason but was overtaken by Harvick late. However, anything could happen and if Busch could win at Dover, all four of Joe Gibbs’ drivers could be moving on.
Busch would miss the first 11 races of the season but made an fantastic, and quick, recovery returning to Sprint Cup racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.
“It’s killed”, he said over the radio.
Fourth in the standings entering the race, Busch dropped to 13th in points after he finished 37th.
“You know“, Hamlin said, “we just have really been on a roll here lately, just getting good finishes and just everything is kind of clicking really well”. Keselowski came in for a stop and go on lap 249 he reentered 25th on the lead lap. He rebounded to finish 12th. Gordon was spared a penalty when he appeared to jump the restart and pass Busch. The sanctioning body acknowledged that the restart was under review and black-flagged Keselowski.
Keselowski ran second to Harvick, but like Harvick, Keselowski also lost positions on pit road near the two-thirds mark and restarted eighth. I say it all the time, but we’ve got great partners.