Another weekend, another mail-biting finish? Count me in.
Kevin Harvick got off the snide and visited Victory Lane for the first time this season, Denny Hamlin was left second guessing and there were plenty of bubble drivers that encountered issues, some more detrimental than others, this past weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301.
Here's what went down this weekend in the racing world.
Harvick Holds On
It took 20 races, but Happy Harvick was finally back smiling in Victory Lane.
It was much in part thanks to a call by crew chief Rodney Childers to stay out for the final restart with under 25 laps to go on old tires. While most of the field pitted for either two or four, Harvick admitted he felt like a sitting duck on the restart.
But once he cleared Erik Jones and got out to a half-second lead over Denny Hamlin, he was feeling confident. That was until lapped traffic came into the picture.
From there, Hamlin bumped Harvick in Turn 1, but driver No. 4 wasn't going to led this year's Daytona 500 winner get another shot. He used Hamlin up off Turn 4 to the checkered flag and earned Stewart-Haas Racing's first victory of the season.
Denny's Woulda Coulda Shoulda
Denny Hamlin was second-guessing himself post-race, calling himself "stupid" after replaying what he should have done in his head.
"Well, I kind of shoved him up a little higher and tried to get him out of the groove," he said. "I wanted to just tap him there, but I didn't want to completely screw him. I at least wanted to give him a fair shot there. Down the backstretch, I kind of let off, and I'm like, 'all right, well, I'll just pass him on the outside and kind of do this thing the right way,' and once I had that big run, he just turned right. But I would do the same thing. It was a fun race, and congratulations to him and his team. They made a great call there at the end."
If Hamlin were to have moved Harvick more aggressively, those five playoff points would be added to his already impressive double-digit total. But Hamlin is scared of lonsters--literally--so maybe second was for the best.
It must've been the New England heat, because a number of drivers on the playoff bubble encountered trouble on Sunday. Some escaped unscathed, but some took a beating.
Kyle Larson brought out two cautions for spins in Turns 1 and 2 and wound up finishing 33rd. However, he holds a 31 point advantage above the cutoff. Barring a disaster in the next six weeks, Larson should be safely in the playoffs.
Erik Jones leaves NHMS 14th in the standings, 28 points to the good. His third-place finish kind of came out of nowhere, but nonetheless was much needed for driver No. 20.
Ryan Newman's roller coaster day wound up ending on a high, finishing seventh. He called it "the most fun (he's) had in a race car all year" following an afternoon marred by a broken coil wire that saw him fall as far back as 15th coupled with starting in the rear with a back-up car.. Once his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team diagnosed and subsequently fixed the problem, he started passing cars with relative ease, something that nobody else was able to do.
Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez both had seperate issues, sustaining minor damage. Bowyer holds the final transfer spot (+16 over Jimmie Johnson), while Suarez is 17 markers behind in 18th-place.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is in win or go home mode following his 36th-place finish. Afrer contact from Jones which ultimately cut a tire, he slammed the wall and vowed for revenge on the No. 20.
This upcoming weekend, NASCAR travels to The Tricky Triangle for the second time this season at Pocono Raceway. The Gander Outdoors 400 is scheduled to go green on Sunday afternoon (July 28) at 3 p.m. EST on NBCSN.