Kenseth pulls away late to win Cup race at New Hamp­shire

But car fails laser check af­ter race and will be in­spected

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DAN GELSTON

LOUDON, N.H. — Matt Kenseth pulled away down the stretch to win the Sprint Cup race Sun­day at New Hamp­shire Mo­tor Speed­way.

Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch each led more than 120 laps be­fore fad­ing late, paving the way for Kenseth to win for the sec­ond time this sea­son at the track near Loudon, N.H., about two hours north of Bos­ton.

Kenseth also won the New Hamp­shire race last Septem­ber. He has 38 ca­reer vic­to­ries.

“It was pretty much money all day,” Kenseth said. “We just had to get there.”

NASCAR said Kenseth’s No. 20 Toy­ota failed the post-race laser in­spec­tion sys­tem and will be brought to the re­search and de­vel­op­ment cen­tre in Con­cord, N.C. for more eval­u­a­tion.

Tony Stewart fin­ished sec­ond and strength­ened his spot in­side the top 30 in the points stand­ings. Stewart has a win this sea­son and needs to se­cure a spot in the top 30 in points to clinch a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup cham­pi­onship. He en­tered the race in 30th in his fi­nal Cup sea­son.

Joey Logano placed third, fol­lowed by Kevin Har­vick and Greg Bif­fle.

Alex Bow­man had a solid day ruined when he hit the wall late and fin­ished 26th driv­ing for Dale Earn­hardt Jr. who was ear­lier side­lined be­cause he suf­fered from symp­toms of a con­cus­sion.

“A lot of at­tri­tion there got us in the top five,” Bif­fle said. “We’ve got just a lit­tle bit of work to do to get our cars faster.”

Truex tum­bled to 16th when his Toy­ota suf­fered a bro­ken shifter and Busch dropped the eighth.

That al­lowed Kenseth, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Rac­ing team­mate, to cruise to the top and snatch the lead with fel­low JGR team­mate Denny Ham­lin with 30 laps and he drove away on the fi­nal restart with 11 to go in the 301-mile race.

But this race could be the one re­mem­bered for truly so­lid­i­fy­ing Stewart in Chase con­tention. He snapped an 84-race los­ing streak last month at Sonoma Calif., and was fifth last week at Ken­tucky Speed­way. Smoke is heat­ing up this sum­mer and could be rac­ing for a fourth cham­pi­onship in his fi­nal NASCAR sea­son.

“Ev­ery­one wants this last year to be good,” Stewart said. “Sonoma, I think re­ally helped re­lax ev­ery­body.”

Here are other items of note from Sun­day’s race: BOW­MAN’S RUN Bow­man en­joyed per­haps the fi­nal race of his Sprint Cup ca­reer, run­ning in­side the top 10 and seem­ingly in po­si­tion for his best fin­ish in 72 starts.

But Bow­man’s run in the No. 88 Chevro­let ended with a thud when a tire is­sue slammed his car into the wall and he fin­ished 26th in his first Cup race of the sea­son.

With four-time cham­pion Jeff Gor­don set to take the wheel next week if Earn­hardt isn’t cleared, Bow­man is out of op­tions for the rest of the year.

“The re­sult will not show what a great job @AlexBRac­ing and the @na­tion­wide88 gang did this week­end. Proud of them guys,” Earn­hardt tweeted. KEZ’S STREAK Brad Ke­selowski failed in his bid to win three races. He fol­lowed wins at Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way and Ken­tucky with a 15th-place fin­ish Sun­day. JU­NIOR UP­DATE Team owner Rick Hen­drick does not think the con­cus­sion symp­toms that side­lined Earn­hardt are ca­reer threat­en­ing. He hoped to have NASCAR’s most pop­u­lar driver back in the car next week at the Brick­yard.

Four-time NASCAR cham­pion Jeff Gor­don will come out of re­tire­ment and drive the 88 next week at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way if Earn­hardt does not re­turn.

JERRY MARKLAND, GETTY IMAGES

Matt Kenseth celebrates af­ter win­ning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Se­ries New Hamp­shire 301 on Sun­day.

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