LOUDON, New Hampshire — Brad Keselowski dominated the Camping World RV 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after taking the lead on lap 90 and leading 138 laps.
Keselowski survived a green-white-checker finish to claim his third win of the 2014 season.
“(Having such a dominant car) is every driver’s dream,” Keselowski said. “Every once in a while you get these cars and you are thankful and try like hell to not screw them up.”
After Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick ran out of fuel just before and after the final restart of the race with two laps remaining, Kyle Busch moved up to second. Busch was able to ride Keselowski’s bumper, but Keselowski was able to pull a few car lengths out in front of Busch on the final lap. Kyle Larson finished third.
“The guys did a great job today,” Busch said. “This Interstate Batteries Camry was good. Should have been anywhere from fourth to sixth, but we made a gutsy call there at the end to stay out and see if we can make it on fuel. Barely made it, ran out right at the start-finish.”
Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin combined to dominate the first third of the race. Busch started on the pole and led the way until Hamlin took over on lap 63. Hamlin ran up front until a cycle of green-flag pit stops around lap 80 and was back up front once the cycle completed. He continued to lead until Keselowski took the lead for the first time.
Through the remainder of the race, Keselowski was only passed on pit road, mostly due to varying pit strategies. Larson stayed out to inherit the lead during a caution around lap 110. Meanwhile, Keselowski restarted 10th on four new tires, behind several drivers who took two. Keselowski moved back into the lead just a handful of laps later.
“This was a hard-fought battle, passing cars and trying to stay up front all day,” Keselowski said. “We had a couple bullets to dodge, and I am not thinking of anything else right now than how thankful I am to have a team and car that is clicking this well. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
When several drivers took two tires during the next caution around the halfway point of the race, Keselowski, again, took four and restarted 11th. He retook the lead 20 laps after the restart. When the yellow flag waved on lap 212, Keselowski took four tires and restarted seventh. That time around, it took him 12 laps to go from seventh to the lead.
Keselowski changed up his strategy and took only two tires when the yellow flag was displayed on lap 246. But after several drivers opted to stay out, he restarted ninth. In 10 laps, Keselowski was up to second. Gordon, who stayed out, was able to hold Keselowski off for several laps, but seven laps after moving into second, Keselowski was back in the lead.
Hamlin also stayed out during the lap 246 caution and got by Gordon to move into second on lap 282. Hamlin was gaining on Keselowski when the caution came out for the seventh and final time with three laps remaining in the originally-scheduled 301-lap distance. Having stayed out during the lap 246 caution, though, Hamlin gave up second to pit for fuel.
Matt Kenseth finished fourth, and Ryan Newman was fifth. Finishing sixth through 10th were Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart, Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“It was a really good day for the Target Chevy team,” Larson said. “We ran up front all day long. We got to lead some laps, there. Shine (crew chief Chris Heroy) made some bold calls on pit road to get us some track position, and it really paid off.”
NOTES: Kyle Busch’s pole-winning 138.130 mph qualifying lap was a track record. … Brad Keselowski dominated the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire on Saturday, winning after leading 152 of 200 laps. … Reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson finished 42nd for the second straight week. … Jeff Burton is the all-time wins leader at NHMS with four wins and led all 300 laps of a race at the track in 2000; he made his second start of the season Sunday in the No. 66. Morgan Shepherd extended his record of being the oldest driver to start a Sprint Cup race with his second start of the season. … Joey Logano was racing a backup car after wrecking in practice earlier in the weekend. … Kyle Busch finished second in both New Hampshire races last season.