Kevin Harvick was there a few months ago when the big announcement came that the two New England Entertainment staples would be joining forces to bring fans the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, and on Sunday he was there to give viewers their money’s worth with a thrilling finish. Harvick went from taking a lap around the Resort Casino in a show-car to meeting with the assembled local media and signing for some fans on site in Connecticut, to pulling the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion in victory lane in front of the spectators who waited out a three-plus hour rain delay on Sunday afternoon.
Fans who waited out the rain were not disappointed as they saw great racing all day for a track that has a reputation for being one of the toughest on the circuit to pass, and clean air being King. The PJ1 that NASCAR applied to the track created multiple grooves and at one point drivers were even four-wide on the flat one-mile track. Kevin Harvick executed a perfect “bump-and-run” with 7 laps to go chasing down the No. 18 of Kyle Busch sealing the victory for “The Closer” at the Magic Mile. Harvick added a career-best sixth win of the season and the 43rd Cup Series win of his career.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get there at the end, and I felt like it was the best opportunity to do what I had to to win. I didn’t want to wreck him, but I didn’t want to waste a lot of time behind him,” Harvick said following the victory. “I knew I was running out of laps, and I didn’t know if I was going to get to him again. I felt like I needed to get him up out of the groove, so I got him up out of the groove.”
Busch was pretty calm and even-keeled in his post race interview with no complaints on the aggressive racing he was on the receiving end of, “We controlled the restart, drove away by a little bit, but we weren’t the best car on the long run. The SHR cars were all really good today. They were fast, it was going to be hard to hold them off.” Busch walked through the contact that took place on lap 295 and wound up being the difference maker, “I was king of backing up, three, four, five corners in a row… and he had the faster car. Harvick was using me up for about six corners in a row. I’m not sure he had to do it, but he did. It’s fine. How you race is how you get raced, so it’s fine,” Busch concluded.
Oh yeah, and “The Big Three” have now combined to win 15, yes 15, of the first 20 races of this season. Only Clint Bowyer has scored non-restrictor plate wins this season when he took home the checkered at Martinsville & Michigan. These three are putting a hurting on the competition and piling up the playoff points. Kyle Busch was the runner-up on Sunday taking home a solid finish and a near victory while Martin Truex Jr. came home fourth and took stage one collecting another playoff point.
Aric Almirola was closing in on his first win with SHR and second of his career as he was stomping the competition through the closing stages of the race passing both of his dominant teammates, Kurt Busch who started on the pole and led a race-high 94 laps, and eventual race winner Harvick. Almirola lost control of the race when teammate Clint Bowyer brought out the caution getting into the wall. That drew the field down pit road and a lack of execution caught the No. 10 team again just like Chicago when it appeared the race was in their hands. Busch gained track position on the restart, Almirola spun the tires and there went his chance at winning the race. The No. 10 came home in a very respectable third place and will look to build momentum through the duration of the regular season.
Hendrick Motorsports had a great day in New England widening their cushion in the final-three playoff positions with just six races remaining in the regular season. Jimmie Johnson ran near the top-10 all day and finished in 10th position. Chase Elliott paced the Chevrolet’s all day winning stage two and taking home a top-five result. Alex Bowman increased his lead on the cut-off spot with an 11th place finish.
The series heads to the Tricky Triangle next Sunday at Pocono. It will be interesting to continue watching these teams jockey for position heading into the playoffs and see if a driver outside of “The Big Three” can reach victory lane and lock themselves into a playoff position. Otherwise we may be in store for multiple double-digit winners this season with Harvick, Busch and Truex continuing to run up front, lead laps and win races.
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