Published on 17 Sep 2021 1:49 pm (UK Time)
Brad Keselowski led more than half of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire, grabbing his second win at the Magic Mile.
Keselowski was in front for 184 of the 301 laps, taking the lead for the final time with 80 to go. The Team Penske driver had been involved in a great battle with Denny Hamlin for most of the race, with the pair swapping the lead several times. The pair battled for first again at the beginning of the last stage, but after overtaking Hamlin on lap 221, Keselowski managed to drive away and claim an impressive victory, his second at New Hampshire after also winning in 2014.
Even though this is Keselowski’s third win of the season, it was by far his most impressive performance in 2020, since his wins at the Coca-Cola 600 and at Bristol were the result of being in the right place at the right time, taking advantage of other drivers’ strategic blunders and crashes in the final laps. The 2012 Cup Series champion has now won at least three races in his last five seasons, with the 33rd win of his career tying him with Fireball Roberts for 24th in the all-time wins list.
The only other driver to lead more than six laps, Hamlin got his second consecutive runner-up finish at New Hampshire. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver won stage one (Keselowski won stage two) and led 92 laps, but couldn’t keep up with Keselowski during the final 80 laps. Hamlin, who won last time out at Kansas, had to settle for second. His teammate Martin Truex Jr. came home third after rebounding from a penalty early on due to an uncontrolled tire during one of his stops. Joey Logano made it two Penske cars in the top four, finishing in front of Kevin Harvick, the active Cup Series driver with the most wins in the Granite State.
The winner of the last two races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway gambled on a different strategy, having made his last pitstop later than most of the other frontrunners. The four-time New Hampshire winner overtook several cars in the closing stages, but was too far behind the leaders to contend for the win. Matt DiBenedetto ended up sixth, in front of polesitter Aric Almirola, who scored his ninth consecutive top-ten finish. The Stewart-Haas driver had drawn pole for the third time in 2020, but only led the first two laps of the race.
Kentucky winner Cole Custer wound up eight, ahead of Chase Elliott and two-time Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick, who got by William Byron and Jimmie Johnson late in the race. Johnson finished in 12th place and is now 18th in the playoff standings, 25 points below the cutline. After starting in 20th place for the third race in a row, the seven-time Cup series champion and three-time New Hampshire winner was running inside the top ten, but spun on lap 64 while trying to overtake Clint Bowyer, missing out on the opportunity to score some very important stage points.
However, the unluckiest driver of the race was definitely Kyle Busch, who retired early on due to a blown tire. One of six three-time winners at New Hampshire in the field, the reigning series champion was running inside the top five when he cut down a tire and hit the wall on lap 16, bringing out the first of eleven cautions of the afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
- Brad Keselowski (Team Penske/Ford)
- Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing/Toyota)
- Martin Truex Jr. (Joe Gibbs Racing/Toyota)
- Joey Logano (Team Penske/Ford)
- Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing/Ford)
- Matt DiBenedetto (Wood Brothers Racing/Ford)
- Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing/Ford)
- Cole Custer (Stewart-Haas Racing/Ford)
- Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports/Chevrolet)
- Tyler Reddick (Richard Childress Racing/Chevrolet)