NASCAR at New Hampshire: Winners, Losers from the Bad Boy Off Road 300
“You see in this system how much these wins mean,” NBCSN’s Jeff Burton said at the conclusion of the Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
He said that after Kevin Harvick, the race winner, burned up a towering cloud of vaporized rubber down the front stretch. The No. 4 driver used a titanic restart with five laps to go to grab the lead by the throat and choke it away from Matt Kenseth.
Harvick's win was about as clutch as they come. He spent most of the TMNT 400 at Chicagoland a lap down with a car that could’ve competed for the win. He blew off reporters at the end of the race, but he regrouped this week and climbed his way through the field to capitalize in what was a NASCAR version of the bottom of the ninth.
Martin Truex Jr., who led the most laps of the day, is safe and so too is Harvick.
Kenseth lost his grip at the end, and the Chase for the Sprint Cup bottom feeders have one more race as a contender before that yellow paint gets stripped off their spoilers.
The next track represents an elimination race, but first we need to evaluate the winners and losers from Loudon.
Loser: Chris Buescher's Must-Win Situation
Until Chris Buescher officially fails to qualify for the Round of 12, he has reservations in the loser slides.
It’s not that he doesn’t belong in the Chase, per se. Actually, no, he doesn’t belong in the Chase. He lacks the tech to truly contend.
On Lap 58, Truex lapped Buescher. It wasn’t too much longer before Buescher got put two laps down, where he would finish, 30th of them all.
Buescher spent all day at Loudon slumming. Here’s the cluster of drivers Buescher hung out with: Clint Bowyer, Matt DiBenedetto, Brian Scott, Michael McDowell and Casey Mears.
These are drivers who didn’t even flirt with the Chase. But, if we’re being honest, neither had Buescher. He won the weather-shortened race at Pocono and then muscled his way into the top 30.
Good on him, but the Chase exposes cars and drivers.
Only one more race before Buescher gets to scrape off that yellow Chase paint.
“It’s 30 points in Dover,” Buescher told NBCSN after the race. “That’s a [must-] win situation. Dover is one of my favorite tracks. I’m glad this one’s over with. Dover is a really neat place. It’s had some wild finishes before.”
Winner: The Resilient Joey Logano
Joey Logano had nothing Sunday in Loudon, a nothing car he somehow drove up to 11th by the end.
“We fought hard. We were so bad in the race,” Logano told NBCSN.
The No. 22 car was never in contention. Crew Chief Todd Gordon made Logano take a wave around to get back onto the lead lap and wished for a caution. It never came when they needed it, and Logano fell farther behind while pitting under green.
Yet, somehow, by the end, Logano inched into a respectable spot.
“We took the wave around,” he said. “That didn’t work. Eventually we got on the lead lap, had some tires at the end and took advantage of everyone beating and banging.”
This is nothing short of a win for Logano, because it proved how resourceful the team can be when things are stacked against it.
“We’re resilient,” said Logano. “We have that going for us.”
Logano must be considered a top-eight car and possibly a top-four car, and it’s efforts of this nature that speak to the No. 22’s potential to win the Sprint Cup.
Loser: The Restarting of Martin Truex Jr.
We didn’t hear from Truex at the end of the race, and he’s likely OK with that.
Truex led the most laps on the day (141) and finished a respectable seventh. Yet, it should have been a far better result, understanding of course that there wasn’t that much room for improvement to begin with.
On the final few restarts, Kenseth left Truex in his wake every time. On the second-to-last restart, Truex started second and fell back to fifth. Game over.
After the way he contested Kenseth for the lead (but could never get past), it appeared Truex might win his second race in a row. Winning would, at the very least, keep another driver from advancing.
At the end, Truex didn’t have the tires and didn’t have the desperation other drivers had at the end of this race.
As a result, Truex settled for seventh with his eyes fully focused on the Round of 12.
Winner: Kyle Larson's Balancing Act
Kyle Larson drove himself from the bad last week to the good this week. By finishing 10th in Loudon, Larson is five points above the cutline heading to Dover.
“It was good,” Larson told NBCSN. “I would have been happy from eighth to 10th and go to Dover where I run decent. Had to fight really hard today. I was good in the beginning, but it seemed like everybody else got better.”
Like many drivers who had strong finishes, Larson overcame adversity, something that will suit him in the next round if he gets there.
“I wasn’t very good on shot runs in traffic,” he said. “Whenever I restarted in the first few rows, I could drive good. It was hard to get runs. I was fighting trying not to get wrecked but trying to race hard too.”
As for those five points, that doesn’t guarantee a ticket to Kansas, but it sure beats the alternative.
“Better to be five ahead than five behind,” he said. “We have to pay attention to that and race smart next week.”
Clearly Larson has been told to go out and not lose these races, a smart strategy for this round, and it will be interesting to see how he navigates Dover with so much desperation swirling around him.
Loser: Burning Down the Right Rears
Kenseth led a colossal 105 laps at Loudon and looked like he was set to win his third straight race at NHMS.
He drove tough, perhaps a little too tough, and that made the difference between holding off Harvick or relenting the lead.
“Had he run too hard and run his tires off?” NBCSN's Dale Jarrett said after the race.
He can thank pseudo-teammate Truex for pushing him so hard in the final 30 laps. As a result, Kenseth wasted rubber and subsequently lost his grip on P1.
“We were pretty good today,” Kenseth told NBCSN after the race. “We just didn’t get that last adjustment in. I burned the right rears off holding [Truex] off.”
Kenseth was money in that Dollar General Toyota on restarts, except the one that mattered at the very end.
“That last one my fault,” Kenseth said. “I let Kevin lay back on me. I should’ve known better. He anticipated it right. I got beat through [Turns] 1 and 2, and it was over.”
While Kenseth didn’t win, he put together a second great week and stands to advance with a similar performance next week at the Monster Mile.
Winner: 'On We Go'
Look who showed up for his post-race interview!
That’s what an Incredible Hulkian late restart will do to a driver. He put that unlucky race at Chicagoland behind him and grabbed Loudon by the mane.
“My car was pretty good on the restarts once we got clean air at the end. It was real good up front,” Harvick told NBCSN after the race.
Harvick was all muscle at the end, and his team—often denigrated by Harvick himself—came through with lightning-quick pit stops that put him in position to crush Kenseth.
“We talk about that stuff all the time,” he said. “For me it was a smooth restart. I didn’t want to spin the tires. It worked out good when we got to Turn 1. One of our main goals was not to stress ourselves out so bad. We just need to not make mistakes.”
Team Harvick gets a one-week reprieve knowing it advanced to the Round of 12 safe and soundly. Safe and sound until Kansas that is, where the madness starts all over again for the No. 4 car.
"On we go," he said.