LOUDON, N.H. – When Jeremy Bullins was paired with Brad Keselowski to begin the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, the first thing Bullins told his new driver was that he wanted Keselowski to make a statement.
Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Keselowski did just that by leading 184 laps en route to victory in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at the Magic Mile.
The driver of the No. 2 Western Star/Alliance Truck Parts Ford Mustang waged a back-and-forth duel with Denny Hamlin for most of the afternoon, leading eight times and trading the top spot with Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota Camry on a grand total of 13 different occasions.
However, on an extended green-flag stint to end the race, Keselowski was able to shine.
After Hamlin had the better long-run car for much of the day, Keselowski and Bullins were able to get the No. 2 right when it mattered most, adjusting on a final round of pit stops with 95 to go and coming to the front afterward.
Chase Elliott stayed out to assume command, leading the field back to green with 89 laps left after a caution for Matt Kenseth smacking the outside wall with a flat tire.
He only led briefly, however, as another caution when John Hunter Nemechek blew a tire and pounded the outside wall led Elliott to pit and repositioned Hamlin out front.
Keselowski restarted third when racing resumed for the final time with 83 to go, taking only two laps after the restart to get to Hamlin’s inside and grab the point position for good.
From there, Keselowski flexed his muscle down the stretch, opening up a lead of more than two seconds at times and ultimately crossing the finish line 1.647 seconds ahead of Hamlin.
It was Keselowski’s third win of the second, his second at New Hampshire and the 33rd of his NASCAR Cup Series career, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famer Fireball Roberts for 24th on the all-time win list.
“We’ve had a lot of great races this year with the (No.) 2 car, but we just haven’t really went out and kind of dominated a race,” said Keselowski in victory lane. “Talking to Jeremy Bullins, it was like, ‘Man, what do we need to get to that next level? We’re right there. We need to go out and just dominate a race,’ and that’s what today was for us with the Western Star/Alliance Truck Parts Ford Mustang. I’m really proud of my team and the effort that they gave today. We had a great race car, so to all of Team Penske, thank you.
“Everything’s been good. I’ve had a good career, but I thought we needed a kick in the ass and Jeremy and this whole team has been a kick in the butt for me to make me a little bit better and push me to find another level. We’re doing that so far,” Keselowski added. “I’m just really thankful. I’m in a great spot here and hungry for more wins. I think this is my fifth straight year with three wins, but I don’t want to stop here. I want us to keep going and I know this team can do it. I’m driven.”
Hamlin was second after leading 10 times for 92 laps, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick.
Matt DiBenedetto, polesitter Aric Almirola, Cole Custer, Chase Elliott and Tyler Reddick were the balance of the top 10.
A litany of tire problems for various drivers led to 11 total cautions, including the two stage breaks, but despite that the final 83 laps ran uninterrupted – the longest green-flag run of the day.
The event even featured a brief caution for a light rain shower that tried to delay the proceedings at lap 93, but that only lasted eight laps before competition resumed.
The NASCAR Cup Series continues its season with a doubleheader at Michigan Int’l Speedway on Aug. 8-9. The weekend will feature a pair of 500-kilometer events.
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