A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway…
Aric Almirola – For the second year in a row, a Stewart-Haas Racing driver has delivered a shock win in the summer to make the Cup playoffs. Last year, Cole Custer was 25th in points when he broke through at Kentucky for his first career Cup win. On Sunday, Aric Almirola went from 27th in points to the post-season with his victory at New Hampshire.
Christopher Bell – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver seems to be finding his groove with the No. 20 team. On Sunday, Bell earned his second runner-up in the past three races. He’s now posted three consecutive top-10 finishes for the first time in his Cup career.
Team Penske – A strong outing for an organization that’s been down on performance this summer. Brad Keselowski‘s third-place finish tied his best result since his April victory at Talladega. Joey Logano‘s fourth-place finish came after he was penalized two laps for his crew working under the red flag. Ryan Blaney‘s fifth-place finish was his fourth finish of sixth or better in the past five races.
Kevin Harvick – Led a race-high 66 laps before finishing sixth. Prior to Sunday, he had led just 39 laps all season. On the flip side, SHR teammate Almirola’s win impacted his own playoff outlook. The winless Harvick is now 15th in the playoff standings and went from 159 to 82 points above the cut line. He’s not out of the woods yet.
Race control – Sunday’s race began under a light mist that became a steady rain on Lap 6, when Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin all spun out on the wet track. Busch and Truex both hit the wall, with Busch – one of several drivers to report precipitation at race start – unable to continue. As Busch bit his tongue, Hamlin called the situation a “bad look” for the sport. NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell explained his team’s decision-making to NBC Sports, but it was still a moment race control didn’t need.
Richard Childress Racing – Almirola’s win had an even bigger impact on RCR teammates Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon. Reddick moved ahead of Dillon in the standings Sunday, but now they’re on opposite sides of the cut line with Reddick holding the 16th and final playoff spot by a mere five points over 17th-place Dillon. Hardly a relaxing spot to be in entering a two-week break.