Who’s in the headline
Momma, there is that man again. For the sixth time this season, Kevin Harvick made the right moves down the stretch to garner him the track position that he needed. He capitalized on that good fortune to make a late race bump and run to move from deep in the field to the win. Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott took stages one and two before Harvick made his late race charge to the victory. William Byron garnered Rookie of the Race honors again.
Mother Nature did her best to put a damper on the race this weekend but, after a delay of roughly three hours, the race went green and all 301 laps were completed. Kurt Busch started on the pole for the third time in 2018 and led the first 37 laps of the race, into the competition caution. That caution was the third of the race, the second of which was a wreck by AJ Allmendinger. During Allmendinger’s caution, several drivers pitted to avoid having to stop under the competition caution. The result was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. grabbing the top spot when the leaders pitted during the competition caution. Stenhouse led for 11 laps before succumbing to Truex’s advances. Truex led the rest of stage one to grab the playoff point and another 49 laps before Elliott garnered the lead.
Elliott led for 23 laps before Kurt Busch regained the point, but that was after Elliott took the green and white checkered flag for his first stage win in 2018. Busch led 57 laps before Aric Almirola wrested the top spot from the 2004 champion. Almirola and Harvick swapped the lead a couple of times through final pit stops when Kyle Busch made his presence felt at the front of the field. The final pit stops resulted from Clint Bowyer pounding the wall after a tire failure and the final caution of the race flew. Busch led until lap 295, when Harvick executed a textbook bump and run and secured the point for his final handful of laps to the checkered flag and the trophy.
Aside from Bowyer’s difficulties, it was another stellar weekend for the cars from Stewart-Haas Racing. All four cars were in the top 10 for much of the race and three finished there when the checkered flag flew.
Why you should care
The race win for Harvick is significant because the No. 4 team had seemed to lose its touch over the last couple of months. It has been since Kansas in mid-May that Harvick had visited Victory Lane. This win puts Harvick squarely in the championship title race. It was also great to see Elliott drive to the front of the pack and stay there for some time. Once the bowtie brigade figures it out, there could be a big run to multiple Victory Lanes.
What your friends are talking about
Mike Beam is looking to go Cup racing. The longtime crew chief has made a bid for the assets of BK Racing. The president of GMS Racing is looking to affiliate the organization with GMS, whose owner Maury Gallagher has toyed with the idea of being a Cup presence for several years. The bid is for $1.8 million, which is below what trustee Matt Smith has stated as his desired minimum of $2.1 million. The end of the bidding process is set to be August 13. At that time a hearing will take place to determine if it really is the end of the process and if a bid will be accepted. Should Beam’s bid be accepted, the first order of business will be satisfying employee claims of over $300,000. The remainder will go to creditors.
Truex continues to reap the benefits of his amazing 2017 season. During Wednesday night’s ESPY awards, Truex was voted as the driver of the year. He beat out Josef Newgarden, Lewis Hamilton and Brittany Force.
Dirt tracks, dirt tracks, dirt tracks. The excitement of the Truck race at Eldora had its usual effect on the fan base. One of the best races every year on the overall NASCAR schedule, the Trucks did not disappoint on Wednesday with four-wide racing for the lead and a door-banging drag race to the finish. Tony Stewart fueled the fire earlier in the week trying to prod NASCAR to have an XFINITY or Cup race at Eldora. Fans are split on the idea as some like to see it stay a Truckcentric event while others are clamoring for Cup and XFINITY on dirt.
Short track or not a short track, that is the question. At least that was the debate all week as Dale Earnhardt Jr. posted a poll about whether Loudon is a short track or not. The split was over the fact that it is a mile in length, while others point out it absolutely races like a short track. Depending on where you fall, one thing is for sure, fans are adamant about their feelings and will gladly argue the point.
5-hour Energy has been part of NASCAR racing, at the national level, for the last 10 years with the last seven in the Cup series. After this weekend, they will not be a part of the sponsorship picture. The company informed Furniture Row Racing that it will to leave the organization following the 2018 season. Yet another major sponsor leaving the sport and leaving from a championship-caliber team that gave maximum exposure to a company. Once again, what a truly challenging prospect it is to land sponsors for race teams.
Who is mad
Brad Keselowski has scored a victory at Loudon and has an 11.1 average finish in 18 career starts. He was feeling confident coming into the weekend but quickly found out, during the race, that there was a problem with his brakes. While he diagnosed it there was some time before he wrapped his arms around it. Whatever the issue, the result was a loss of brakes and a finish of 32nd.
For the third time this year, Kurt Busch won the pole for Sunday’s race. After leading laps early, a late race blunder getting into his pit stall relegated him deeper into the field and ended his hopes of winning. An eighth-place finish might sound good to many but it isn’t good when you really want a win to cement your position in the playoffs.
Who is happy
Elliott led 23 laps and managed to finish in the top 10 in all three stages in Loudon before settling for a fifth-place result. He also managed to score the first stage win this season and gave Chevrolet just its third on the year. New Hampshire has never been a strong point for Elliott so a top five has to feel very good. With the struggles for the bowties this year, Elliott has to be encouraged.
Ryan Newman started off the weekend with a top six start but slid out of the top 10 before the end of the first stage. He was mired back in the field for some time before his late-race run vaulted him back into the top five. Newman knows that a win is his only real chance to run for a title but his owner has shown how patient he can be.
When the checkered flag flew
Kevin Harvick grabbed his 43rd victory of his career.
For the season it’s Harvick’s sixth victory, most of any driver on the circuit and most he has ever scored in a single Cup season.
In 35 career starts at Loudon, Harvick has ended up in Victory Lane three times.
On the all-time win list, Harvick slots in 18th, one spot behind Bill Elliott.
Kyle Busch crossed the line in second for the ninth top two of the year.
Busch has finished in second place 44 times in his Cup career. That is tied for 13th on the all-time list with Tony Stewart.
At New Hampshire, Busch has 27 starts and has come home in the top two seven times.
Rounding out the podium was Aric Almirola with his first top three of 2018.
This is Almirola’s first top three of his career at New Hampshire.
On the all-time podium finish list, Almirola sits in a tie for 173rd with Trevor Bayne, Derrike Cope and Austin Dillon.
William Byron was awarded the Rookie of the Race. This is Byron’s 12th ROTR this season.
For the year, Byron’s 12 awards are four more than Darrell Wallace Jr’s eight.
Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano are the six race winners in 13 races of 2018. Given that there won’t be more than 16 winners this season, all drivers with wins are locked into the playoffs assuming they attempt the remaining races in the regular season. The drivers who would qualify for the playoffs and their associated playoff points (race winners are bolded):
1) Kyle Busch – 30
2) Kevin Harvick – 32
3) Martin Truex Jr. – 26
4) Joey Logano – 7
5) Kurt Busch – 2
6) Clint Bowyer – 10
7) Brad Keselowski – 4
8) Kyle Larson – 0
9) Ryan Blaney – 4
10) Denny Hamlin – 2
11) Aric Almirola – 1
12) Jimmie Johnson – 0
13) Chase Elliott – 1
14) Erik Jones – 5
15) Alex Bowman – 0
19) Austin Dillon – 5
What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)
Loudon puts on some amazing races in many different divisions of NASCAR. This weekend saw an intriguing Cup race after an exciting XFINITY race and a tremendous Whelen Modified Tour race. In the end, the Cup race had the boxes all checked for excitement. As a result, we’ll give this one four ice-cold Gov’nah Double IPAs from Concord Craft Brewing.
Where do you point your DVR for next week
We head back to Pocono Raceway for the second time this season. Racing from the scalene triangle in the Pocono Mountains will be seen on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 29. You can also see the race on the NBC Sports app. If you’d like to listen to the race you can hear it on your local MRN affiliate, www.motorracingnetwork.com or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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