Since the Monster Energy Cup Series shifted their coverage to NBC, the racing has been entertaining for a majority of the time. Chicagoland had an epic duel between Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson. Daytona delivered more great pack racing, similar to Talladega. Kentucky showed promise with the 1.5-mile aero package as the Busch Brothers delivered the best finish of the season so far. Today comes around and Kevin Harvick fought off a charging Denny Hamlin to claim his first win of the 2019 season. Pit strategy came into play once again as Harvick stayed out to keep the track position while Hamlin took two tires in hopes to make it easier for him to pass cars as he would be able to drive his car harder into corners and execute better on corner exits. On the final lap, Hamlin moved Harvick up the track but could not clear Harvick. Hamlin decided to back off and take the preferred high line into turn three, was able to get to Harvick’s right rear corner, but Harvick slammed Hamlin to clear him and take the victory. Harvick scores his first victory of the season and can now focus on getting the playoff points to catch up to Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Brad Keselowski.
New Hampshire delivered solid racing throughout the 301 laps for the first time in the 2010s. While most of the passing did not take place towards the lead, passes were being made through the field. The PJ1 Traction Compound helped create a second passing lane on the outside, which ended up being the preferred lane for the race. As expected, Team Chevy struggled as William Byron was the highest finishing Chevy with a 12th place finish. Erik Jones scored his second straight third-place finish to continue his positive momentum towards the playoffs. Matt DiBenedetto was the story of the day and can confidentially be put into an elite category of drivers as he wheeled the Leavine Family Racing number 95 Toyota to a fifth-place finish. DiBenedetto now has two top-fives in 2019.
The playoff standings take a drastic shift once again as Ryan Newman jumps to 15th place and bumps Jimmie Johnson from the playoff cutline. Johnson now trails Clint Bowyer by 17 points for the final playoff spot. The standings get tighter as 13th through 18th are only separated by 31 points with six races left before the playoffs begin. The Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Pocono for a second go-around at the Tricky Triangle next Sunday.
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