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A moment in time: How Kevin Harvick won on the final restart

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LOUDON, N.H. — In a moment, it was all gone for Matt Kenseth.

All the effort over 295 miles and more than 2 hours and 45 minutes of racing was gone — as was the victory — when Kevin Harvick passed Kenseth for the lead on a restart with six laps to go.

“They gave me a shot to win,’’ Kenseth said of his team, “and I didn’t hang on for it.’’

The final moment, though, actually began a few laps earlier.

On the restart at Lap 290, Kenseth pulled away from Martin Truex Jr., who was second at the time, and seemed headed for the win until a caution for a multi-car incident.

As the cars circled New Hampshire Motor Speedway behind the pace car, Kenseth’s team told him that there had been complaints about the last restart. He asked who complained. His team told him NASCAR, although officials ruled the restart was legal.

“They made it sound like I slowed down the last time,’’ Kenseth said after finishing second to Kevin Harvick.

“But in my opinion the leader is always supposed to have the advantage. He’s the leader; he earned that advantage. They said I slowed down a little bit last time, which I’ve got to re-watch it. I don’t really think I did, but if I did at all, it’s because the inside car was laying back a little bit, and you want to make sure he gets up to your nose so it’s a fair restart. If he’s back at your door and anticipates a little bit, it’s not a fair restart. He’s going to be equal to you or a little bit better.’’

So as Kenseth, on the outside, and Harvick, on the inside, headed toward the restart on the following restart, Kenseth made a mistake.

“I saw Kevin at my door, and I should have known better,’’ Kenseth said. “ I should have went deep in the (restart) box and waited, and the acceleration was probably better down there anyway, but I didn’t. I went right at the first line, and he anticipated a little bit of that and got rolling good through the gears and then I got through the gears bad. I spun the tires in second, I spun the tires in third, so I had a really bad restart besides all that.’’

Harvick detailed his thoughts to NBC Sports on that final restart:

“It’s definitely a challenge just to get it right. It’s so easy to mess it up. I had gone into that restart really focused on trying not to spin the tires because I felt I was in a vulnerable position on the bottom and didn’t really want to get myself three-wide or spin the tires and wind up losing two or three spots.

“I just wanted to fire off and have a chance when I got to Turn 1 and wound up getting lucky really that Matt had what he said happened with him getting through the gears. As we got into Turns 1 and 2, I was able to let off the brake and go back to the throttle and get back beside him coming off of Turn 2 and that was the key. My goal was to protect what I had because we needed a solid day, and it wound up putting us in a position by just getting off the restart well.’’

Truex, who finished seventh, said he wasn’t surprised that Harvick won because the No. 4 team is strong but felt like how he and Kenseth raced each other late helped Harvick.

“I wish Matt didn’t let him win,’’ said Truex, who led 141 of the 300 laps. “He raced me that hard and held me behind him all that time. If I just could have got by him, I don’t think anybody could have touched us. I felt like with him being able to hold us off, I thought he was going to be OK. But I think he was in the same position as me. I think he ran really hard trying to keep me behind him.

“We both burned our tires off. Man, we were going as hard as we could go every single lap, and I think Harvick was back there in clean air. He wasn’t as fast as we were, so he was just running smooth, consistent laps, and he ended up having better tires than us at the end.’’

Harvick said it wasn’t that easy.

“I would probably disagree with that a little bit because I had my own challenges,’’ Harvick said of racing Chase Elliott, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and others.

“They would race on the restarts (Kenseth and Truex) and they would slide around and definitely were using their tires up, but on the restarts I was having to do the same thing. I think it was just really about track position for us, to be able to get closer to the front and fire off with those guys and not have to battle somebody else and then be so far behind.’’

Tyler Reddick, Star Trek and the baby name that could have been

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Tyler Reddick lets out a heavy sigh.

In that sigh, the two-time Xfinity Series champion weighs the pros and cons of one of the most important questions that’s plagued society.

As the great philosopher Weird Al Yankovic once put it, “Only question I ever thought was hard was ‘Do I like Kirk, or do I like Picard?'”

Reddick comes to his decision.

“It’s gotta be Picard,” Reddick declares to NBC Sports.

“He’s always smart, he’s one step ahead of the game most of the time. A lot of the captains, well, (William) Shatner set the brute force tone if you know what I mean. But Picard is different. He’s smart, he went about things differently and thought a different way. He’s a very, very good character. He’s my favorite for kind of those reasons.”

Why is Reddick – who is in the middle of a visit to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, as part of his championship tour –  putting forth his take on Star Trek’s James T. Kirk vs Jean-Luc Picard debate, which has been waged since Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired on TV in 1987?

It’s because of a baby name. Or the one that could have been.

When Reddick won Saturday’s Xfinity championship race in Miami, he also won a friendly bet with his girlfriend, Alexa De Leon.

With his championship, they would name their son, scheduled to be born Jan. 17, Beau.

But there was a different name, which Alexa found on the Internet and was sold on.

“Alexa really wanted our son’s name to be Ryker,” says Reddick, who at first “was all for it.”

William T. Riker, played by Jonathan Frakes. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

Why?

You can thank Commander William T. Riker,  first officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise – D.

“Every time I hear the name, I think of that character,” says Reddick.

Reddick’s fondness for Star Trek is tied to his racing career. Before he made it to NASCAR, he raced on dirt tracks. His downtime was spent on Netflix.

“I’ve been able to pretty much watch everything,” Reddick says. “That’s how I got caught up and watched it. I would travel on the road dirt racing or whatever. I would sit on Netflix and watch all of the series, kind of in the order they’re supposed to come out. There was about a year straight … that’s all I watched when I was at the house.”

Even with his love of Trek – he has a Star Fleet insignia Pop Socket on the back of his phone – he couldn’t bring himself to pull the phaser trigger on naming his son after the jazz-loving Commander Riker.

“I don’t know, I’m worried people are going to pick on me for naming my son after a Star Trek character,” Reddick admits. “As crazy as it sounds, it was one of the reasons I didn’t like the name Ryker, because I watched Star Trek so much.”

Ryker Reddick is a strong name. It’s not too late to make the change.

“I can’t now, because I’m just so headstrong,” Reddick says. “I just like the name Beau better.”

That said, Reddick isn’t just a fan of old Star Trek. He watches the series Star Trek: Discovery that debuted in 2017.

Oh, and he’ll get his Picard fix early next year. Patrick Stewart returns in the CBS All Access series Picard to play the character he last portrayed in the 2002 movie Star Trek: Nemesis.

“(Alexa) made fun of me for being so excited about it,” Reddick says. “She said I was like, ‘fangirling.'”

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kyle Busch ends the season No. 1

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The 2019 season is over and Kyle Busch is the NASCAR Cup champion. And not surprisingly, the younger Busch brother also ends the season as No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings.

Busch received 39 of 40 possible points to take the No. 1 spot, followed by the other three Championship 4 contenders: Martin Truex Jr. (35 points), and Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick (tied for third place with 28 points each).

The biggest surprises in this week’s standings were Xfinity Series champ Tyler Reddick in fifth and Gander Outdoors Truck Series champ Matt Crafton in sixth.

Here’s this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): Finally gets that second title. Last week: Second.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (35 points): Inexcusable pit mistake left him as the championship runner-up for the second year in a row. Last week: Fourth.

(tie) 3. Denny Hamlin (28 points): Came so close to his first championship, only to be fall short yet again. Could this be the closest he’ll get? Last week: First.

(tie) 3. Kevin Harvick (28 points): Needed a bit more help than he got going against the Joe Gibbs Racing juggernaut. Still, a very strong season regardless. Last week: Third.

5. Tyler Reddick (18 points): It’s hard enough to win one championship, but back-to-back championships with two different teams? Last week: Unranked.

6. Matt Crafton (14 points): Wins the championship without even winning a race (in fact, his last win was more than two years ago). Thrived on his underdog status. Last week: Unranked.

7. Ryan Blaney (12 points): Finished 11th or better, including a win at Talladega, in five of the last six playoff races. Last week: Fifth.

(tie) 8. Joey Logano (11 points): Ends year with four consecutive top 10s, but he fell short in making it to the championship round and defending last year’s title. Last week: Eighth.

(tie) 8. Erik Jones (11 points): Ends season with four top 10s in last five races. That bodes well for next season. Last week: Seventh.

10. Christopher Bell (6 points): Missed his chance to add an Xfinity title to his Truck championship. Still, with eight wins, had an outstanding season. Up next: a promotion to the Cup Series. Last week: 10th.

Others receiving votes: Kyle Larson (5 points), Clint Bowyer (5 points), Cole Custer (4 points), Austin Hill (2 points), Brad Keselowski (1 point), Brett Moffitt (1 point).

Zane Smith joins GMS Racing for full-time Truck Series ride

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Zane Smith will compete full-time for GMS Racing in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series next year, the team announced Tuesday.

Smith, 20, joins the team after competing part-time with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series this year, where his best result in 10 races was fifth twice.

He will be GMS Racing’s fourth full-time entry next year, joining Brett Moffitt, Sheldon Creed and Tyler Ankrum. Sam Mayer will compete part-time.

Smith will have veteran Kevin “Bono” Manion as his crew chief.

“When I got the offer from Mike Beam asking me to run a truck full-time for GMS Racing, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” Smith said in a press release. “GMS is a championship-caliber team and to be a part of an organization like theirs is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m looking forward to working with Manion again. He has a lot of experience and I know we will be a great team.”

Manion, who has 24 wins across all three national NASCAR series since 2003, joins GMS Racing after serving as a crew chief for DGR-Crosley in 2019, including working with Rookie of the Year Tyler Ankrum. Manion was crew chief for Smith in 2018 when he made his Truck Series debut at Gateway and finished fifth.

“I am really excited to join GMS Racing and Zane (Smith) for the 2020 season,” Manion said in a press release. “With GMS Racing’s championship caliber equipment and Chevrolet support, we have all the resources to win some races and be in the hunt for the 2020 Championship. I got the opportunity to crew chief Zane (Smith) in his first Gander Trucks start in 2018 at Gateway and we worked really well together. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish next season.”

Sponsorship and an assigned truck number for Smith will be announced at a later date.

Penalty report from Homestead-Miami Speedway

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NASCAR issued four fines and one suspension for lug nut violations during its championship weekend in Miami.

Cup Series

Mike Wheeler, crew crew chief on Matt DiBenedetto‘s No. 95 Toyota, was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

Xfinity Series

Mike Shiplett, crew chief on Cole Custer‘s No. 00 Ford, was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut.

Truck Series

Steve Lane, the owner of On Point Motorsports and crew chief on Danny Bohn‘s No. 30 Toyota, was fined $5,000 and suspended one points race for two unsecured lug nuts. The No. 30 truck competed part-time this season and made 16 starts. The team told NBC Sports it will not appeal the penalty.

Trip Bruce III, crew chief on Stewart Friesen‘s No. 52 Chevrolet, was fined $2,500 for one unsecured lug nut.

Other

NASCAR issued an indefinite suspension to Jeffrey Schmidt for violating its substance abuse policy.