Kenseth coasts to victory at Magic Mile
LOUDON, N.H. >> Matt Kenseth pulled away down the stretch to win the Sprint Cup race Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch each led more than 120 laps before fading late, paving the way for Kenseth to win for the second time this season.
Kenseth also won the New Hampshire race last September. He has 38 career victories.
"It was pretty much money all day," Kenseth said. "We just had to get there."
Tony Stewart finished second and strengthened his spot inside the top 30 in the points standings. Stewart has a win this season and needs to secure a spot in the top 30 in points to clinch a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He entered the race in 30th in his final Cup season.
Joey Logano was third, followed by Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle.
Alex Bowman had a solid day ruined when he hit the wall late and finished 26th driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt was sidelined because he suffered from symptoms of a concussion.
"A lot of attrition there got us in the top five," Biffle said. "We've got just a little bit of work to do to get our cars faster."
Truex tumbled to 16th when his Toyota suffered a broken shifter and Busch dropped the eighth.
That allowed Kenseth, Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, to cruise to the top and snatch the lead with fellow JGR teammate Denny Hamlin with 30 laps and he drove away on the final restart with 11 to go in the 301-mile race.
But this race could be the one remembered for truly solidifying Stewart in Chase contention. He snapped an 84-race losing streak last month at Sonoma and was fifth last week at Kentucky Speedway. Smoke is heating up this summer and could be racing for a fourth championship in his final NASCAR season.
"Everyone wants this last year to be good," Stewart said. "Sonoma, I think really helped relax everybody."
Here are other items of note from Sunday's race:
ORDER OF FINISH
1. Matt Kenseth, 2. Tony Stewart, 3. Joey Logano, 4. Kevin Harvick, 5. Greg Biffle, 6. Jamie McMurray, 7. Ryan Newman, 8. Kyle Busch, 9. Denny Hamlin, 10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 11. Ryan Blaney, 12. Jimmie Johnson, 13. Austin Dillon, 14. Danica Patrick, 15. Brad Keselowski, 16. Martin Truex Jr., 17. Kyle Larson, 18. Paul Menard, 19. Aric Almirola, 20. Carl Edwards, 21. AJ Allmendinger, 22. Kurt Busch, 23. Trevor Bayne, 24. Clint Bowyer, 25. Kasey Kahne, 26. Alex Bowman, 27. Casey Mears, 28. Landon Casssill, 29. Chris Buescher, 30. David Ragan, 31. Matt DiBenedetto, 32. Regan Smith, 33. Michael Annett, 34. Chase Elliott.
TOP 15 DRIVER STANDINGS
Kevin Harvick (1 win), Brad Keselowski (4 wins), Kurt Busch (1 win), Carl Edwards (2 wins), Joey Logano (1 win), Kyle Busch (3 wins), Martin Truex Jr. (1 win), Matt Kenseth (2 wins), Jimmie Johnson (2 wins), Denny Hamlin (1 win), Chase Elliott (0 wins), Ryan Newman (0 wins), Austin Dillon (0 wins), Jamie McMurray (0 wins), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (0 wins).
Bowman enjoyed perhaps the final race of his Sprint Cup career, running inside the top 10 and seemingly in position for his best finish in 72 starts.
But Bowman's run in the No. 88 Chevrolet ended with a thud when a tire issue slammed his car into the wall and he finished 26th in his first Cup race of the season.
With four-time champion Jeff Gordon set to take the wheel next week if Earnhardt isn't cleared, Bowman is out of options for the rest of the year.
"The result will not show what a great job (at)AlexBRacing and the (at)nationwide88 gang did this weekend. Proud of them guys," Earnhardt tweeted.
Brad Keselowski failed in his bid to win three races. He followed wins at Daytona International Speedway and Kentucky Speedway with a 15th-place finish on Sunday.
Team owner Rick Hendrick does not think the concussion symptoms that sidelined Earnhardt are career threatening. He hoped to have NASCAR's most popular driver back in the car next week at the Brickyard.
Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon will come out of retirement and drive the 88 next week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway if Earnhardt does not return. Hendrick says Gordon will likely remain in the car should Earnhardt need an extended absence.
Earnhardt will have more tests early this week. Hendrick Motorsports will likely make a decision on Earnhardt's availability on Wednesday.
Kyle Busch heads to the Brickyard as defending winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
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