EditorsNote: writethru, adds quotes
NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski, who is in the final year of his contract with Team Penske, has said several times over the last couple of weeks that he is not sure where he will end up in 2021.
But on Sunday, it became apparent late in the race where he would end up in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 -- victory lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Over the final 60 laps, Keselowski was able to shake free of race-long nemesis Denny Hamlin and finish 1.647 seconds ahead of the Joe Gibbs Racing runner-up.
"We've had a lot of great races this year with the (No.) 2 car but we haven't gone out and kind of dominated a race, you know?" said Keselowski, the 2012 Cup champion. "Was talking to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and, 'Like man, what do we need to get next to that next level?' We're right there. We need to go out and go just dominate a race and that's what today was for us."
The victory was the second of Keselowski's career at "The Magic Mile" in Loudon, N.H. It was his third of the season and came after finishing second at Kansas Speedway last time out. It was career win No. 33 for the Michigan native.
Keselowski credited a decision made by Penske to switch crew chiefs prior to the start of 2020.
"I've had a good career and I probably needed a kick in the ass and Jeremy and this whole team has been a kick in the butt for me to make me a little better and push me to another level. We're doing that so far," Keselowski said.
Keselowski led eight times for 184 of 301 laps. Hamlin led 10 times for 92 laps. They would end up passing each other 13 times for the lead. No other driver led more than nine laps.
"Wow, that was some really, really good short track racing there," the five-race winner Hamlin said. "Hopefully the fans liked what they saw there with me and the 2 (Keselowski) for most of the day. Some great side-by-side racing. We treated each other fair and it's good that we got one-two out of it."
Martin Truex Jr. of JGR finished third -- over six seconds behind the winner.
Joey Logano of the Penske team was fourth while Kevin Harvick was fifth.
Keselowski has said progress is being made in negotiations for a new contract with Penske but as of New Hampshire, nothing has been decided. Penske's two other drivers -- Logano and Ryan Blaney -- recently signed new deals.
The rumor mill has Keselowski in contention to take the Hendrick Motorsports seat being vacated by seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who is retiring after the 2020 season.
Kyle Busch's year of woe continued in Loudon. On Lap 15, the two-time and defending Cup champion blew a tire and slammed the wall while running sixth. The damage knocked the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who has yet to win in 2020, out of the race.
"It's still 2020," an exasperated Busch said.
Sunday's race was the first of the second half of the season. The playoffs begin after six more races.
Bubba Wallace of Richard Petty Motorsports and Cory LaJoie of Go Fas Racing were forced to start the race from the rear of the field after their cars were found to have improperly-placed ballast. In addition, both teams were issued a 10-point penalty in the driver and owner standings. Crew chiefs Jerry Baxter (Wallace) and Ryan Sparks were suspended for Sunday's race.
The series moves to the two-mile Michigan Speedway for a Saturday-Sunday double-header next weekend.
NASCAR Cup Series Race - 28th Annual Foxwoods Resort Casino 301
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Loudon, New Hampshire
Sunday, August 2, 2020
1. (4) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 301.
2. (2) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 301.
3. (11) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 301.
4. (9) Joey Logano, Ford, 301.
5. (7) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 301.
6. (19) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 301.
7. (1) Aric Almirola, Ford, 301.
8. (14) Cole Custer #, Ford, 301.
9. (3) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 301.
10. (13) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 301.
11. (16) William Byron, Chevrolet, 301.
12. (20) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 301.
13. (23) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 301.
14. (31) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 301.
15. (8) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 301.
16. (30) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 301.
17. (10) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 301.
18. (6) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 301.
19. (18) Michael McDowell, Ford, 301.
20. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 301.
21. (22) Ryan Newman, Ford, 300.
22. (25) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 300.
23. (15) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 300.
24. (17) Erik Jones, Toyota, 300.
25. (24) Chris Buescher, Ford, 300.
26. (37) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 299.
27. (34) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 299.
28. (35) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 299.
29. (29) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 299.
30. (26) James Davison, Chevrolet, 298.
31. (27) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 295.
32. (32) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 294.
33. (38) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 294.
34. (28) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 293.
35. (33) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 262.
36. (36) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, Accident, 212.
37. (21) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, Accident, 203.
38. (5) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 15.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 100.372 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 10 Mins, 22 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.647 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 11 for 52 laps.
Lead Changes: 22 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Almirola 1-2;B. Keselowski 3-57;D. Hamlin 58;B. Keselowski 59-60;D. Hamlin 61-64;R. Blaney 65-69;D. Hamlin 70-97;K. Harvick 98-103;D. Hamlin 104-141;B. Keselowski 142;D. Hamlin 143-145;B. Keselowski 146-172;D. Hamlin 173;A. Dillon 174-176;B. Keselowski 177-183;D. Hamlin 184;B. Keselowski 185-191;D. Hamlin 192-200;B. Keselowski 201-204;D. Hamlin 205;C. Elliott 206-214;D. Hamlin 215-220;B. Keselowski 221-301.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Brad Keselowski 8 times for 184 laps; Denny Hamlin 10 times for 92 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 9 laps; Kevin Harvick 1 time for 6 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 5 laps; Austin Dillon 1 time for 3 laps; Aric Almirola 1 time for 2 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 11,19,4,95,2,12,14,22,37,10
Stage #2 Top Ten: 2,11,22,10,24,14,3,19,9,21
--Field Level Media