The NASCAR Cup Series returned to action in front of spectators at New Hampshire, where Brad Keselowski beat out Denny Hamlin for the win.
With spectators welcomed back into the stands on a limited basis, Brad Keselowski gave the New England faithful a show on Sunday afternoon.
The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford led the final 81 laps of the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to clinch his third victory of the 2020 season. He joins Kevin Harvick and Sunday’s runner-up Denny Hamlin at the only three-time winners this season.
“(We) just had a great car and a great team effort,” Keselowski said in a postrace Zoom conference. “I was able to get into a really good rhythm at certain points in the race, just kind of take control. That felt really good. Third win of the year, but first kind of win where we’ve been able to kind of take control of the race.”
Keselowski had a healthy 1.6-second margin of victory over Hamlin, but the pair held the lead for all but 25 circuits of the 301-lap event. Hamlin, who wound up leading 92, threatened to take Keselowski lead over the final third of the race, which saw three quick cautions thanks to incidents involving Matt Kenseth and John Hunter Nemechek.
Once Keselowski was able to pull away from Hamlin, however, he coasted to victory, the 33rd of a Cup Series career that began in 2008.
“I thought we put on a great race. I was really proud of it,” Keselowski said of his battle with Hamlin. “I’m proud of it for our sport and for our team, proud for our sport because we got away from rules that didn’t make for good races and we went to rules that I think made for good driver battles. Denny and I had a heck of a driver battle.”
Starting the race in fourth, Keselowski took the lead from pole-sitter Aric Almirola on the third lap and never truly looked back. Hamlin had won the first 75-lap stage and nearly took the second one lasting 115. But Keselowski’s pass on a two-lap shootout brought out by Kenseth’s first incident more or less served as permanent momentum shifter.
Chase Elliott spent some time out front while Keselowski and Hamlin pitted, but the No. 2 settled things after Nemechek’s crash.
The win comes just as the Cup Series descends upon Michigan International Speedway for a doubleheader next weekend. Keselowski, who is set to be a free agent after this season, has yet to win at his “home” track, which is 90 minutes away from his birthplace of Rochester Hills. The first half comes on Saturday afternoon in the form of the FireKeepers Casino 400 (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
“I’m pretty pumped. We’ve been really running well,” he said. “I haven’t quite executed perfectly until this weekend. I think we have a great shot of doing just that at Michigan. Competition is going to be really tough.Â Â I think we all know how good Harvick is on those really big tracks. I’m going to have to be perfect to beat him.”
Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. recovered from a pit road penalty to finish third. Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano was fifth while Harvick rounded out the top five.
- It was another tough day for Kyle Busch, whose No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota came home last in 38th. Busch lasted only 15 laps, as he made hard contact with the wall after losing a tire.
- Almirola’s streak of consecutive finishes in the top ten was extended to nine after a seventh-place finish.
- Rookies Cole Custer (8th) and Tyler Reddick (10th) each earned top ten finishes.
For full results, click here
For full standings, click here
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags