Kevin Harvick gets first win of 2019 at New Hampshire

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nascar/sprint/drivers/205/" data-ylk="slk:Kevin Harvick">Kevin Harvick</a> has a race win in 2019. (Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick has a race win in 2019. (Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Hey, Kevin Harvick won a race.

Harvick stayed out on the track during the final caution flag of Sunday’s race at New Hampshire and inherited the lead. He then held off Denny Hamlin — a driver who had pitted — over the final 25 laps of the race and scored his first victory of 2019.

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It wasn’t easy though. Hamlin chased Harvick down over the final three laps and got to his bumper over the final lap. He bumped Harvick in turns 1 and 2 on the final lap and pushed Harvick to the high groove. But Harvick fought back and accelerated ahead of Hamlin into turns 3 and 4.

Hamlin then took the outside line in the final two corners and rubbed fenders with Harvick, but it wasn’t enough.

Harvick held off Hamlin on the final lap.
Harvick held off Hamlin on the final lap.

Harvick’s first win of 2019 is also the first win of the season for Stewart-Haas Racing. The team scored 12 wins in 2018 — including eight for Harvick — but hadn’t won a race in the first 19 races of this season.

“I wanted to just tap him there, but I didn’t want to completely screw him,” Hamlin said of his move in turns 1 and 2. “I just wanted to give him a fair shot there. And then down the backstretch I kind of let off and I’m like I’ll just pass him on the outside and kind of do this thing the right way. And once I had that big run he just turned right. But I would do the same thing.”

Hamlin, who was driving a backup car after crashing in practice on Friday, then offered an assessment of finishing second that everyone can agree with.

“S***, I don’t know, second sucks,” he said.

Hamlin was playing with house money over the final laps on Sunday. He entered the race having won two races already. While Harvick was high enough in the points that he didn’t have to worry about making the playoffs ahead of the race, a win would guarantee his entry into the 16-driver field.

Hamlin’s already there. But he also clearly realized the implications had he gone scorched-earth to get his third win. Just a year ago at New Hampshire, Harvick had bumped Hamlin’s teammate Kyle Busch out of the way for the win. The move was as clean as Hamlin’s too. Busch carried on and finished second without hitting the wall.

Harvick kept Hamlin at bay over the final 29 laps of the race despite having tires that were 50 laps older. Harvick’s final pit stop of the 300-lap race came on lap 215 while Hamlin, who restarted fourth after taking two fresh tires, was the first driver among those who stopped for tires on lap 266.

Harvick admitted after getting out of his car that the decision not to pit was not one that he would have made himself.

“[Hamlin] tried to move me out of the way down there, and I knew that was coming as close as he was,” Harvick said. “So, I just stood on the brakes and I'm like, half throttle down the back straightaway. I'm like, you're not getting under me again, and he drove to the outside of me, and I waited until he got near me, and I just put a wheel on him.”

All four of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyotas finished in the top 10. So did all five of the Toyota factory teams. Erik Jones was third behind Hamlin and Leavine Family Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto finished fifth.

Martin Truex Jr. was sixth after he was involved in a late second-stage caution with Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch finished eighth after a caution came out when he hit the wall in the third stage.

The craziest top-10 finish of the day probably belonged to Ryan Newman. He had an engine problem early in the third stage but the team was able to get it fixed under caution and he bounced back to finish seventh.

While both JGR and Team Penske got all their cars in the top 10, it was a day to forget for Hendrick Motorsports. Chase Elliott had an engine issue and finished 29th. Jimmie Johnson lost power steering and finished 30th. William Byron did finish 12th and Alex Bowman — driving Johnson’s backup car after a mechanical problem in qualifying and a practice crash with his own backup car the next day — finished 14th.

Full results

1. Kevin Harvick

2. Denny Hamlin

3. Erik Jones

4. Ryan Blaney

5. Matt DiBenedetto

6. Martin Truex Jr.

7. Ryan Newman

8. Kyle Busch

9. Joey Logano

10. Brad Keselowski

11. Aric Almirola

12. William Byron

13. Paul Menard

14. Alex Bowman

15. Chris Buescher

16. Ty Dillon

17. Michael McDowell

18. Kurt Busch

19. Daniel Suarez

20. Clint Bowyer

21. Ryan Preece

22. Bubba Wallace

23. Corey LaJoie

24. Matt Tifft

25. Ross Chastain

26. Landon Cassill

27. Reed Sorenson

28. Andy Seuss

29. Chase Elliott

30. Jimmie Johnson

31. Quin Houff

32. Austin Dillon

33. Kyle Larson

34. David Ragan

35. Austin Theriault

36. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

37. Daniel Hemric

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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