The NASCAR Cup Series returned to the “Magic Mile” at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The magic rubbed off on Brad Keselowski as he dominated the race to pick up his third win of the season. Today, he left no doubt who the best driver was.
Before the race started, Austin Dillon (unapproved adjustments), Corey LaJoie (ballast) and Bubba Wallace (ballast) dropped to the rear.
Keselowski had a fantastic start as he took the lead from pole starter Aric Almirola four laps in. On lap 16, Kyle Busch collided with the wall and suffered a flat tire, ending his day early and giving him a last-place finish.
Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer pitted during the caution. Erik Jones suffered a penalty for pitting outside the penalty box.
Keselowski would hold the lead heading into the competition caution on lap 30. During the pit stops, he would stay out and his Penske teammate Joey Logano had a long pit stop as the tire changer was caught up.
On the restart, Keselowski would take the lead and Hamlin would surge to second. Ryan Blaney would trail behind in third. The drivers would engage in a three-way battle for the lead. Hamlin and Keselowski exchanged the lead multiple times.
With 12 laps left in the stage with Hamlin in the lead, Jimmie Johnson spun after contacting Clint Bowyer, bringing out the caution flag. Blaney stayed out during the caution, taking the lead for the ensuing restart. However, he would be passed by Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. Hamlin would go on to comfortably win stage one.
Hamlin would start stage two in the lead but on lap 93, a caution was called due to rain but it was not heavy enough to bring out a red flag.
On the pit stops, Truex, who was running second, got penalized for an uncontrolled tire. On the restart, Harvick cruised past Blaney for the lead. However, Hamlin would take the lead from him a few laps later. Keselowski and Hamlin would continue to battle throughout stage two, exchanging the lead multiple times. Keselowski would clear Hamlin for the lead with 45 laps left in stage two.
With 15 laps to go in stage two, Christopher Bell spun, bringing out the caution flag. On the restart, Keselowski surged to the from with Hamlin, once again, right behind him. With seven laps to go in stage two, Matt Kenseth got loose, bringing out another caution flag. On the restart with two laps left, Keselowski won an intense battle with Hamlin to pick up the stage win.
Hamlin and Keselowski would battle again on the restart, but this time, it would be Hamlin who took the lead. However, with 105 laps to go, Kenseth had a flat tire, bringing out another caution flag. On the restart, Keselowski took the lead ahead of Hamlin and a surging William Byron.
Kenseth, for a third time, brought out the caution flag with 97 laps to go. Kenseth went to the garage, finishing his day.
Chase Elliott and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did not pit, restarting on the front row. Elliott and Blaney were the two leaders on the restart. Another caution came out with 88 laps to go as John Hunter Nemechek smashed into the wall, forcing Blaney and Elliott to pit. Hamlin, Logano and Keselowski shuffled back to the lead.
On the restart, Keselowski and Hamlin once again were battling but Keselowski would hold the advantage for the rest of race, picking up his third race victory of the season. He came into this race third in the playoff standings and this victory helps his case to be a championship contender. Hamlin would pick up his 11th top-10 finish of the season.
Matt DiBenedetto picked up his sixth top-10 finish of the season as he finished sixth, a significant result for his chase for the playoffs as he is right above the cutline. Right below him at the cutline is rookie Tyler Reddick, who picked up his seventh top-10 finish of the season.
JTG Daugherty Racing had a solid race, picking up two top-20 finishes from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (14th) and Ryan Preece (16th).
The Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for a doubleheader next Saturday and Sunday.