Brad Keselowski will be enjoying some lobster for dinner. Despite fuel mileage concerns, he led 184 of 301 laps in Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to secure his third win of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.
For the third time since the introduction of the random draw to determine starting positions, Aric Almirola began the race on the pole. Keselowski started second, while Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace, and Corey LaJoie were sent to the rear. Dillon underwent unapproved adjustment; Wallace and LaJoie had improperly mounted ballasts in their cars, also resulting in their crew chiefs being suspended and the loss of ten points in the owners’ and drivers’ standings.
To honour the late track founder Bob Bahre and famed engine builder Maurice Petty, who passed away over the previous weekend, teams featured decals of the two men on their cars. NHMS also included the phrase “Godspeed Bob” along the pit wall.
Almirola led the first three laps before Keselowski took the position.
On lap 15, Kyle Busch‘s winless 2020 continued when he cut a right-front tyre and hit the turn three wall for the first caution of the day. His last-place finish snapped a four-race streak of such days for JTG Daugherty Racing. After exiting the infield care center, the defending champion told NBCSN, “It’s still 2020.”
After calls from Busch’s team to reach out to Goodyear for explanations, the tyre manufacturer explained he had run over debris that cut the tread in the tyre.
During the caution, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Erik Jones was penalised for pitting outside the box, forcing him to wait on pit road as the race resumed on lap 22. By the competition caution eight laps later, Team Penske drivers held the top two with Keselowski and Joey Logano, while Jones returned to the lead lap via free pass.
The next restart came on lap 35 as Keselowski continued to lead. Behind him, Penske partner Ryan Blaney battled with Denny Hamlin for second.
Another snakebit champion in Jimmie Johnson when he spun on lap 62 while racing Clint Bowyer. His Hendrick Motorsports ally Chase Elliott was slapped with a speeding penalty on his stop.
Blaney and William Byron led the field to the final restart of the stage with eight laps left. After two laps, Hamlin took the lead and held off his JGR partner Martin Truex Jr. for the stage victory.
Behind were Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, Keselowski, Blaney, Bowyer, Logano, Ryan Preece, and Aric Almirola.
James Davison received a one-lap penalty between stages for pitting outside the box.
The race resumed on lap 83 with Hamlin and Truex in front. After nine laps, the caution came out for rain. During stops, Truex’s tyre rolled out of his stall, resulting in an uncontrolled tyre penalty. Harvick and Blaney stayed out, while Tyler Reddick added only fuel to be the first off pit road.
It did not take long for Hamlin to take the lead with Logano in tow. Keselowski eventually overtook Logano and began fighting with Hamlin for first. The two traded the spot throughout the stage, while Harvick had to pit as he and those who stayed out could not make it to the green-checkered.
On lap 172, Bell blew a right-rear tyre and spun in turn two; his woes continued on pit road when his crew struggled to hold the car up and it fell off the jack. Dillon changed two tyres to be the first out, while John Hunter Nemechek was penalised for having a crewman over the wall too soon.
The next green-flag run lasted just two laps as Matt Kenseth spun on lap 179 after getting loose off Chip Ganassi Racing partner Kurt Busch exiting turn two.
The yellow flag set up a two-lap sprint to the finish. Although Hamlin led the penultimate lap, Keselowski led the one that mattered most when he passed Hamlin to take the green-checkered flag.
Logano, Almirola, Byron, Bowyer, Dillon, Truex, Elliott, and Matt DiBenedetto recorded stage points. LaJoie exited the race during the stage for fuel cell issues.
The first action of the final stage ran for five laps before Kenseth spun again. His day would come to an end on lap 205 when he brought out a caution for the third time for a downed right-front that sent him into the wall.
Elliott took the lead between Kenseth’s incidents. On lap 212, John Hunter Nemechek slammed into the wall.
Keselowski and Hamlin resumed their battle for first on the restart. As the laps counted down with no cautions, fuel became the primary concern as many expected to not have enough to reach the finish.
Despite the concerns, Keselowski flipped the reserve fuel switch and drove off to his third win of the year and first at Loudon since 2014.
“We’ve had a lot of great races this year with the #2 car,” Keselowski began in his post-race interview. “We just haven’t really dominated a race. I was talking to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and what we needed to get to the next level[…] and that’s what today was.”