LOUDON, N.H. – All eyes will be on New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend when New England’s first major sporting event since the pandemic, the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, goes green.
If last season’s dramatic finish is any indication, fans are in for a wild summer showdown on Sunday.
Defending race winner Kevin Harvick started last year’s event mid-pack after a 14th place qualifying effort. Behind the wheel of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Denny Hamlin took the green flag in 23rd, but quickly raced his way into the top 10.
Hamlin finished stage one in ninth position, just one spot behind Harvick, but it wasn’t until the third stage when the veteran duo really took control of the race. In the closing laps, Harvick led a hard-charging Hamlin, but lapped traffic slowed the Stewart-Haas Racing driver just enough for Hamlin to close the gap. The two raced side-by-side down the backstretch on the final lap before making contact coming out of turn four and heading for the checkered flag. Ultimately, Harvick prevailed by a razor-thin .210-second margin.
“Harvick just kind of out-smarted me on the last lap protecting the bottom,” Hamlin recalled. “I didn’t do a good job on that last lap. I, obviously, had the fastest car. He just out-smarted me by putting himself in that position where he was on the offense and he could play defense by just giving me the ol’ door coming out of turn four. He got the best of me, and I certainly haven’t forgotten it.”
For Harvick, the win earned him his second consecutive Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 trophy and his record-tying fourth overall Cup Series victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“We were either leaving on a tow truck or winning the race,” Harvick said. “The way that racing is now, with all the chances you have to take, whether it’s strategy or blocking or pushing somebody out of the way, he did exactly what he was supposed to do and I feel like I did what I was supposed to do to try to win the race. When you’re in position, you just have to lay it all out there and see what happens.”
Since leaving New England last summer, the battle between the two hasn’t slowed. In 2020 alone, Harvick and Hamlin have combined to win nine of the season’s 19 Cup Series events. Where last year, all the talk was about the big three drivers (Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.), this year, it’s all about two – Harvick and Hamlin.