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Matt Kenseth wins at Loudon as Kevin Harvick runs out of fuel

LOUDON, N.H. — Matt Kenseth had the fresher tires and the fuller tank as he stalked Kevin Harvick with postseason advancement at stake.

Harvick never slowed to conserve fuel, his team firm in the belief he could stretch his way to Victory Lane.

The gamble backfired.

Harvick was out of gas with three laps left in the Sylvania 300. Now he's almost out of chances to defend his Sprint Cup title.

Kenseth pressured Harvick and took the lead for good when Harvick ran out of fuel Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the second race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship.

"I ran as hard as I could to get as close as I could to him because I wanted to beat him," Kenseth said. "The faster he has to go, obviously, he burns more gas."

Kenseth, who won for the fifth time this season and fourth time in eight races, earned a berth in the second round of the playoffs and gave Joe Gibbs Racing its fourth straight win.

Harvick, who led a race-high 216 laps, finished 21st a week after he was 42nd in the Chase opener. He will almost surely have to win next week at Dover — where he is 0-for-29 — to reach the second round.

Harvick declined to comment.

"Fast car. Great day. Bad ending," he posted on Twitter. "Things haven't gone exactly to plan but I promise you one thing 'we will not quit' #itaintover."

Crew chief Rodney Childers had a long post on Twitter that said the data showed Harvick had enough fuel in the No. 4 Chevrolet to last all 300 laps.

"It should have been a non-issue. Which is why we weren't worried," Childers wrote. "If anything showed we were taking a chance, we would have pitted."

Joe Gibbs Racing is 2-for-2 in the Chase. Denny Hamlin, who won last week at Chicagoland, was second for the team. Chase drivers took eight of the top 10 spots.

The 16-driver Chase field will be cut to 12 after Dover. Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, Harvick and Clint Bowyer are 13th through 16th in points, respectively, and on the brink of elimination. Each would advance with a victory.

Busch was the first Chase driver to suffer serious damage when his right front tire blew and he hit the wall. Busch finished 37th and fell from fourth in points. Jeff Gordon, who set the Sprint Cup record with his 789th consecutive start, was seventh.

Gearhead stats

Winner's avg. speed: 106.480 mph

Time of race: 2 hours, 58 minutes, 51 seconds

Margin of victory: 8.941 seconds

Caution flags: 9 for 41 laps

Lead changes: 16 among 7 drivers

Lap leaders: Edwards 1-19; Harvick 20-37; Keselowski 38; Whitt 39; Harvick 40-120; Keselowski 121; Harvick 122-159; Keselowski 160; Harvick 161-192; Keselowski 193; Kenseth 194-210; Harvick 211; Kenseth 212-218; Hamlin 219-239; Biffle 240-251; Harvick 252-297; Kenseth 298-300

Sprint Cup points

Through two of 10 races in the Chase for the Championship. These are the only drivers eligible for the title:

Driver Pts Back

Matt Kenseth* 2,099—

Denny Hamlin* 2,093 6

Carl Edwards 2,089 10

Joey Logano 2,089 10

Jimmie Johnson 2,083 16

Ryan Newman 2,074 25

Kurt Busch 2,073 26

Brad Keselowski 2,072 27

Martin Truex 2,071 28

Jeff Gordon 2,068 31

Jamie McMurray 2,058 41

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2,057 42

Kyle Busch 2,056 43

Paul Menard 2,056 43

Kevin Harvick 2,034 65

Clint Bowyer 2,018 81

* — Clinched spot in the second phase.

Up next

AAA 400, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dover (Del.) International Speedway

TV/radio: NBCSN; 102.5-FM

Matt Kenseth wins at Loudon as Kevin Harvick runs out of fuel 09/27/15 [Last modified: Sunday, September 27, 2015 10:10pm]
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