Brad Keselowski won Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to claim his third victory of the year.
Keselowski triumphed over Denny Hamlin on an afternoon that saw the two drivers combine to lead 276 of 301 laps.
Keselowski led eight times for 184 laps, Hamlin led 10 times 92 laps.
More: Race results, point standings
More: What drivers said after New Hampshire
While Keselowski won by 1.6 seconds, their back-and-forth battle led to Hamlin to say “this is awesome racing” over his team radio with about 70 laps to go.
“We’ve had a lot of great races this year with the 2 car, but we just hadn’t really gone out and kind of dominated a race,” Keselowski told NBCSN as an estimated 12,000 fans yelled from the grandstands. “I was talking to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and that’s what 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. … It’s so great to be racing in front of fans again. It feels like forever, so welcome back, guys.”
It is Keselowski’s second win at track, following his win in 2014. This is Keselowski’s eighth season with at least three wins, including the last five.
For Hamlin, it is his eighth top-two finish through 20 races.
“We just kind of were second there to the 2 (Keselowski),” Hamlin said. “We could really do well on restarts and we were going back-and-forth. Wow, that was some really, really good short track racing there. Hopefully the fans liked what they saw there with me and the 2 for most of the day. Some great side-by-side racing. We treated each other fair and it’s good that we got one-two out of it.”
Keselowski agreed with Hamlin on the quality of racing the “Magic Mile” offered Sunday.
“It was a lot of fun,” Keselowski said. “(Hamlin) was pretty good on the restarts, real short runs. We were really good on the longer runs. The PJ1 kept coming and going. One lap it would be in, not in, the next lap it would be in, then it would wear off the racetrack. The low downforce on the cars was awesome because you could run behind somebody and not just be stupid slow. That was really cool.
“I thought we put on a great race. I was really proud of it. Proud of it for our sport and for our team. Proud for our sport because we got away from rules that didn’t make for good races and we went to rules that I think made for good driver battles. Denny and I had a heck of a driver battle.”
The top five was completed by Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Denny Hamlin
STAGE 2 WINNER: In a two-lap shootout, Brad Keselowski passed Hamlin on the last lap and narrowly beat him.
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Martin Truex Jr. finished in the top five after he had an uncontrolled tire penalty on Lap 97 … Joey Logano has finished in the top five in two of the last three races after having only one in the prior 13 races … Kevin Harvick earned his seventh consecutive top five, which is his second longest streak … Aric Almirola placed seventh for his ninth consecutive top-10 finish, a career-best … Cole Custer placed seventh for his fourth top 10 in the last five races.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kyle Busch’s winless streak continued due to a hard crash into the Turn 3 wall on Lap 16 after his right-front tire went down. It’s his third DNF of the year and his first at New Hampshire in 29 Cup starts … Erik Jones placed 24th after he was assessed a one-lap penalty for pitting outside his box during the caution for Busch’s incident … Christopher Bell finished 28th after he caused two cautions for incidents resulting from cut tires… Matt Kenseth finished 37th after he caused three different cautions, with the last coming out on Lap 204 when he cut a tire and hit the Turn 3 wall … John Hunter Nemechek finished 36th after a hard hit into Turn 3 wall with 88 laps to go.
NOTABLE: Clint Bowyer’s crew chief faces a one-race suspension for there being two unsecured lug nuts on his car in post-race inspection.
WHAT’S NEXT: Cup race at Michigan International Speedway, 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 8 on NBCSN.