LOUDON, N.H. - The Stewart-Haas Racing trio of Kevin Harvick (5th), Clint Bowyer (7th) and Kurt Busch (8th) salvaged a day where four Fusions finished inside the top-10 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Sunday. Brad Keselowski charged into ninth place late in the race behind race winner Denny Hamlin (Toyota) and runner-up Kyle Larson (Chevrolet).
With the speedway adding the new PJ1 track compound to the track, passing was prominent Sunday, but by and large it was from the middle of the pack back. 11 lead changes occurred, but the race lead alluded Ford all afternoon with only Harvick getting as high second.
Joey Logano’s struggles continued, forced to the garage midway through Stage 2 with a major tire rub caused by a broken part in the rear end of his 22 Fusion. Logano was able to get back out on track but finished 21 laps off the pace and in 37th position.
Danica Patrick put together one of her top races of the season, finishing 13th while Roush Fenway Racing was paced by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s 14th place finish.
Sunday also marked the return of Aric Almirola to the 43. Almirola would up 24th.
The Monster Energy Series resumes Sunday, July 23 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Brickyard 400 will air at 3:00 pm on NBC.
MONSTER ENERGY CUP RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st -- Denny Hamlin
2nd -- Kyle Larson
3rd -- Martin Truex Jr.
4th -- Matt Kenseth
5th -- Kevin Harvick
6th -- Daniel Suarez
7th -- Clint Bowyer
8th -- Kurt Busch
9th -- Brad Keselowski
10th -- Jimmie Johnson
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
13th -- Danica Patrick
14th -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
19th -- Ryan Blaney
20th -- Trevor Bayne
23rd -- Landon Cassill
24th -- Aric Almirola
29th -- David Ragan
30th -- Matt DiBenedetto
37th -- Joey Logano
Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion) -- Finished 5th
“This is a great weekend for our Busch/Jimmy John’s Ford. The guys did a great job. They made it a little better than it was in practice. They executed on pit road all day and did all the little things right. We didn’t have the speed that the Toyota’s had through the center of the corner. As the long run would go that gap got wider as we got worse. We hung in there and fought all day and everyone did a good job to get us a good finish.”
YOU ARE LOCKED INTO THE PLAYOFFS. HOW BENEFICIAL IS THAT FOR THAT PLAYOFF RACE HERE IN THE FALL? “I think they had a list a mile long before practice was over and before we even got into today of things we needed to do different. We know we need to come back with more speed for the playoffs.”
Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion) -- Finished 8th
“Those long greens are reminiscent of the old days where you would have green flag pit stops mixed in. It is neat to change lanes and try to find different things with the VHT and the grip that they put down. When you are out there running and you get in that rhythm, you think if you preserve your tires you can get two or three-tenths when we get to lap 50, half a second when we get to lap 70. It gave you the old school feel of taking care of the tires. Overall, you have to go fast for 50 laps, that is all you have to do anymore. We need to get better on the short run speed.”
Danica Patrick (No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion) -- Finished 13th
“I feel like we probably won somebody some points in fantasy with passing all the cars from starting 31st. The car was pretty good. Honestly, I have had very few races at Loudon where I don’t have a good race car. We just have to qualify better so that I can take advantage of that and have track position the whole time.”
DID THE VHT AID IN PASSING? “No, I think it really kind of disappeared pretty early. The bottom lane had a little more grip than the top lane. The top lane was just there from the beginning. Instead of it being the second lane it was the third lane. Did it widen it out more so you could take the bottom, kind of slide down, come back off early in a run when tires were better? Yeah. But it was still basically the same and still hard to pass. I feel like you still had the normal short track, bump ‘em out of the way a little bit. That is what people come for right?”
Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Wurth Ford Fusion) -- Finished 9th
“Yeah, that was a reasonable finish for us for sure. We weren’t probably as fast as we wanted to be, but we stayed very persistent as a team and that is good. The pit stop was a bummer. I am not sure what happened there. Nobody wants to see that happen. I don’t know if the compound made things any racier. It was certainly different but I don’t know if it was -- I have to think about that one.”
Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion) -- Finished 19th
“I feel like we started out okay and I thought we made decent gains. About half way I thought the track changed and all that stuff got off of it. We kind of got a little worse. We tried the long run and I couldn’t really get it. It didn’t play out for us. That stinks. I didn’t get a great finish out of it. The first half of the day went pretty good. We just need to figure out how to finish out the second half.”
Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion) -- Finished 37th
YOU ENDED UP IN THE GARAGE MIDWAY THROUGH THE RACE, WHEN DID THAT CONTACT HAPPEN? “No, there actually was no contact. We just broke. Plain and simple. It is not good, at all. Right now we are in the position where we have to execute. We have to finish the best as possible and we didn’t do that today. We have to go back to work and make sure our cars stay together and we have to get faster. All three of our cars were a little off today. I guess Brad is probably the best driver at this race track and I try to learn from him and he was struggling out there with me. It was a humbling day. This race team knows how to do this. All of Team Penske knows how to win races and make cars fast. They do it in a bunch of different series and have been doing it over here for years. We have to stay together. Stay as a team. Keep pushing. If it happens, it happens. Hopefully we can get some speed enough to squeak a win out before the playoffs and get our 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford into the playoffs.”
IT FEELS LIKE YOU HAVE FOUGHT FROM THIS POSITION BEFORE AND BEEN SUCCESSFUL: “Yeah, we were in this spot two times last year in the playoffs. Must win. Back against the way. We won both times. The team has it in them. We just have to get faster to be able to do that. Our team executes well, we just have to have something to race with a little bit.”