Saturday, December 16, 2017
Sports

Kevin Harvick wins at New Hampshire, makes second phase of Sprint Cup's Chase

LOUDON, N.H. — Kevin Harvick has thrived as NASCAR's version of a Game 7 master, steeling his nerves and flourishing in those win-or-else races that kept a championship push alive.

After his rocky start last week in the Chase for the Championship, Harvick injected the Chase again with a rousing finish that earned him a spot in the next playoff round.

Harvick won Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the place where he lost late year in the Sprint Cup playoffs.

"It's kind of like an addiction," Harvick said. "You just love the rush of being able to be behind and be able to perform and make that happen."

Harvick finished 20th last week at Chicagoland, and with another weak finish at New Hampshire, he would have faced a near must-win situation next week at Dover, just like last year.

Matt Kenseth dominated the second half of Sunday's race and seemed poised to win his third straight New Hampshire race.

But Harvick, the 2014 Sprint Cup champion, had enough juice in his No. 4 Chevy to zip past Kenseth with five laps left and join Martin Truex as the drivers locked in the next round. Truex led a race-high 141 laps but finished seventh.

In 2014 Harvick won at Phoenix when he needed a victory to advance to the championship race. Harvick won the finale and the championship at Homestead.

"The last two years we've kind of just worn ourselves out and really stressed out over trying to perform at this level," he said.

At Dover, it's up to 14 other drivers to worry about a win.

Chase drivers took the top eight spots. The 16-driver Chase field will be cut to 12 after Dover.

Kenseth led 105 of 300 laps and would have clinched with the win, just as he did last season at New Hampshire when he was in perfect position to take advantage of Harvick's fuel foulup. Kenseth appeared to slow just a bit off the last restart with five laps left.

Kenseth won the May race at Dover and appears in solid shape to reach the second round.

"I let Kevin lay back on me, which we're supposed to be side by side. I should have known better," Kenseth said. "I should have just went really late in the zone and wait until he had to get up to my nose because he anticipated it just right and laid back. Plus, I spun the tires and I got beat through one and two, and then it was over."

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kenseth and Kyle Busch were second and third.

NHRA: Shawn Langdon earned his third Top Fuel victory of the year, taking the Midwest Nationals in Madison, Ill., by beating eight-time season champion Tony Schumacher in the final. Jack Beckman won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock, and Jerry Savoie in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

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