Dustin Long

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Kaulig Racing mourns death of crew chief Nick Harrison

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Kaulig Racing President Chris Rice said that when he heard of crew chief Nick Harrison’s death on Sunday morning, he thought back to a conversation they had after Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Justin Haley finished 13th in that race.

“All I could think about with Nick is when he got up on the plane and he came over and talked to me as we were leaving New Hampshire,” Rice said Monday night on “Late Shift” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“He was stressed out that we didn’t run that well. He looked at me and he goes, ‘You know, we sucked there.’ I said, ‘Nick, we have sucked at New Hampshire for a long time. So the good thing is, we’ve changed drivers, we’ve changed crew chiefs, ain’t nothing fixed it, so it’s obviously something, whatever we’re doing.’

“He said, ‘You’re right. We’re going to go get them at Iowa.’ He was worried about the next race.”

Harrison died Sunday. He was 37. Harrison’s brother, Zach, told the Tennessean that a cause of death has not been determined.

“We know that he lived every single day to the fullest,” Rice said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about Nick Harrison. “That’s what we want to do at Kaulig Racing. Tomorrow when we show up, it is going to be better than what it was today. The next day we show up is going to be better than what it was Monday.”

Rice also said it will be a challenge for the team when they get to the track this weekend at Iowa Speedway.

“We just know that walking into the race track this weekend is going to be tough,” Rice said, “so we need every fan’s support that we can get for all my guys and myself and we’ll definitely make it through it.”

Rice said on “Late Shift” that he will serve as Haley’s crew chief for the foreseeable future.

“You cannot replace Nick,” said Rice, who has served as an Xfinity Series crew chief for 318 races. “We will never replace Nick. We will just have somebody fill his job. But right now we’re not in a hurry to do anything.

“We will definitely be looking and looking at what our next step is. Justin has another year and a half, if not even more, with Kaulig Racing and we will put somebody with him that is going to be there through that time. We don’t want to put somebody that is going to be with us for 10 days or three months or whatever. We will want to look at somebody that is going to help us grow Kaulig Racing.”

Harrison’s service is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET July 30 at Spring Hill High School in Columbia, Tennessee. The family has requested that memorial donations be made to the Nick Harrison Scholarship Fund at First Farmers & Merchants Bank in Spring Hill, Tennessee or Spring Hill Memorial Funeral Home.

“We know it’s going to take time for us to get over the loss of our friend not being here,” Rice said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We will always miss him, but we will never forget him and he’ll always be with us. We’re going to dig like he would want us to dig.

“Once Justin makes the playoffs, it’s going to be in memory of Nick. Once Justin makes it to the final four and goes for that championship, that’s what it’s going to be for.”

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New Hampshire winners and losers

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WINNERS

Kevin HarvickHe no longer has to answer the question of when is he going to win (same for Stewart-Haas Racing). Now the question is if this will lead to a string of wins for the No. 4 team, which has shown speed but not been able to capitalize on it.

Parity — Kevin Harvick marked the seventh different winner in the last seven Cup races, the longest streak of the season.

Ryan Newman First, he was in a backup car and had to start at the rear on a track where passing is difficult. Then, he had a broken coil wire that sapped his engine’s power with about 100 laps to go. His team recovered and he finished seventh for his fifth top 10 in the last six races. Also, he climbed into a playoff spot.

Matt DiBenedetto His fifth-place finish was his third top-10 result in the last five races. Good progress for Leavine Family Racing.

LOSERS

Jimmie JohnsonBack-to-back 30th-place finishes have dropped the seven-time champion out of a playoff spot. He’s never missed NASCAR’s postseason — and is the only driver who can say that he’s been in the Chase/playoffs every year since its inception in 2004. Will that streak continue? Or will it end this year?

Richard Childress Racing — RCR cars finished 37th (Daniel Hemric) and 32nd (Austin Dillon). Hemric’s day ended after contact from Daniel Suarez. Dillon blew a right front tire early and that damaged his car.

Hendrick Motorsports — Alex Bowman’s team went through two cars before Sunday’s race. William Byron had to go to a backup because of an incident in practice. Mechanical issues caused Jimmie Johnson to finish 30th and Chase Elliott to place 29th. Bowman placed 14th and Byron led the way with a 12th-place finish. The best thing about the weekend for Hendrick Motorsports is it is over.

Kyle Larson — Two crashes within the last 100 laps made for a bad day Sunday.

Bubble Trouble: New Hampshire tough on those trying to make playoffs

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Sunday was a day of trouble for many of the drivers seeking to make the playoffs, but when it ended, Ryan Newman solidified his spot with a top-10 finish despite mechanical issues.

Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson did not share Newman’s luck. Johnson fell out of a playoff spot after mechanical woes left him with a 30th-place finish for the second week in a row.

Here’s a look at what drivers trying to earn a playoff spot endured Sunday:

Ryan Newman — With just under 100 laps left, Newman radioed his crew that he thought his engine had lost a cylinder (it proved to be a broken coil wire) and he was down on power. When the crew told him to stay out, he responded by saying: “I ain’t coming in.”

Newman, who entered the race in the first spot outside a playoff position and in a backup car after crashing Friday, was running 14th at the time of the trouble. It looked as if he would lose several points. Instead, he managed to finish seventh to score his fifth top 10 in the last six races.

“Hell of a job today, guys,” Newman said on the radio to his team after the race. “That’s a never-give-up attitude.”

The recovery helped him climb from 17th in the points to 15th in the standings and in a playoff spot. Newman is 21 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson, who is in the first spot outside a playoff position.

Jimmie Johnson — A broken water pump and power steering issues sent him to pit road and he lost several laps for repairs. That left Johnson with a 30th-place finish, dropping him out of a playoff spot.

Johnson is 17 points behind Clint Bowyer for the last playoff position with six races left in the regular season.

“Certainly a letdown to say the least,” Johnson told NBCSN.

“Certainly the wrong time of year to have some bad luck. It looked like the guys I’m worried about in the points didn’t have the best of days either. Maybe I got a pass on this one. Just disappointed to say the least.”

Clint Bowyer: A crash on a restart impacted his day and left him with a 20th-place finish that dropped him from 14th in the points to 16th, the final playoff spot.

Bowyer has finished 20th or worse in four of the last six races.

Kyle Larson: Two crashes in the final 85 laps left him with a 33rd-place finish for his second finish of 20th or worse in the last three races. Larson remains 13th in the standings and is 31 points ahead of Johnson.

Erik JonesHe had contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the track and Alex Bowman on pit road. He also had a pit road speeding penalty and thought he was going to be penalized another time on pit road. Through all of that, he managed to finish third for the second week in a row and solidified his spot after entering the day in the last playoff spot.

Jones is 14th in the standings, 28 points ahead of Johnson.

What Drivers Said at New Hampshire

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Kevin Harvick — Winner:  “We’ve run well enough a few times this year to win, and we’ve just made mistakes, and to finally battle and get over that hump is a great day for everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing, everybody on the 4 car. I was really questionable about how that was going to go, and the thing took right off. The only thing that was not good for us was we got the traffic and my car started pushing. I knew (Denny Hamlin) was going to take a shot. I would have taken a shot. I just stood on the brakes and tried to keep it straight. I just didn’t want to get him back on the inside and let him have another shot. I at least wanted to be in control of who was going to have contact in (Turns) 3 and 4. It was a heck of a finish, closer than we wanted, but like you said, it was our only chance. I would have never done it, but that’s why he’s on the box and not me.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 2nd: “I kind of shoved (Harvick) up a little higher and tried to get him out of the groove. I wanted to just tap him there, but I didn’t want to completely screw him. I at least wanted to give him a fair shot there. Down the backstretch, I kind of let off, and I’m like, all right, well, I’ll just pass him on the outside and kind of do this thing the right way, and once I had that big run, he just turned right. But I would do the same thing. It was a fun race, and congratulations to him and his team. They made a great call there at the end.”

Erik Jones — Finished 3rd: “It was kind of a sloppy day in my opinion, but it was a good day. Got good stage points in the first stage and finished well at the end. But the Stanley Camry was good. All day I felt like we were close, we just needed to get up front and never quite did it and never quite got the lead, but we were there. Again, up in the top five you can’t complain, and especially with the points we gained today, it’s good. We can definitely get more aggressive with that gap. We’re getting close there to having almost a race on them; if we can have a couple more good weeks we’ll be there. Pocono is a good one. We’ll keep doing it, but today was definitely testament I think to our speed and this team. We keep fighting through it. We never gave up.  We did what we needed to do, fixed the damage when we needed to and got a good finish out of it.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 4th: “I didn’t think we had leader speed all day. We got better throughout the day for sure, but I thought maybe second or third. We got to second there towards the end and I was starting to fade a little bit, but I thought we could probably run second. The last caution when we started sixth, we got up to fourth and just kind of stayed there.  We just needed a little bit more speed, but, overall, not a bad day.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 5th: “That was awesome. Great comeback for us. We raced up there all day and had to adjust on the car a good bit because we missed basically all of the final practice. Just shows how good my team is and my guys. They’re the ones that deserve it – Procore, our sponsor, for sticking by my side and believing in me to do this deal and all the folks at Toyota. Gosh, I know I reiterate it, but it took a lot of people for me to get this deal. I’ll never go a day without appreciating it. It’s awesome. Great day for the team.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 6th: “We were set up strategy-wise to be right there with (Kevin Harvick) and (Denny Hamlin) and we were right behind those guys, so I think so, but you never know how these things are going to play out. The SiriusXM Camry was really fast when we could get near the front. It wasn’t quite good enough on restarts, and I kept getting inside restarts and just lost track position. Each time the caution came out we’d lose a spot or two and it’s just hard to overcome that, but proud of the battle that we came through to come from the back to get back to sixth with a tore up race car.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 7th: “Honestly, it was the most fun I’ve had all year in a race car, and that’s mostly because we had a good, competitive Oscar Mayer Ford. I slid through the box. We had a bad coil wire. We had a bunch of things that set us back, being in a back-up car starting last and to have the finish that we did at a track that is usually difficult to pass at, but I will say that I did pass a few guys three-wide and that doesn’t happen very often here.  I’m proud of the team effort and it’s something to build on for sure.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 8th: “We had a good car all day. Just got into it on a restart I guess with (Kyle Larson) and that got us damage and that got us behind the eight ball. We would have been on strategy with where (Denny Hamlin) was the whole rest of the day, but we had to fix damage.”

Joey Logano — Finished 9th: “We were off when we unloaded and we just kept trying to find a little something here and there to keep moving forward on things and never really did. We qualified eighth and ran about 12th to 15th most of the race.  We grabbed some stage points in the second stage and came home eighth or ninth, so that’s kind of the best we had. I’m a little disappointed with that. I want to be better here, but we learned what not to do and sometimes that’s very valuable.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 11th: “We scored a lot of points, but we just got behind. It’s kind of a double-edged sword when the caution comes out late like that in the stage. You’ve got to make a decision on scoring points or trying to win the race, and we chose to score stage points and that paid off.  We won the stage, but in the end we got behind and couldn’t recover from track position.”

William Byron — Finished 12th: “It was okay, we were just tight. We never had super-great track position and its tough to pass. I felt like our last run was decent, so going on to Pocono I think we will have a good race there.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 14th: “I wouldn’t call 14th relatively good. We had a pretty bad day, really struggled on restarts. We put a lot of right rear spring in it trying to get it to turn the center and it was just real popped-up on restarts. I don’t know. We did what we could and didn’t need those late race cautions. But we will move on to Pocono and be better there.”

Ty Dillon — Finshed 16th: “We brought a great GEICO Military Camaro ZL1 up here to New Hampshire. We had a loose wheel early on in Stage 1 that put us in a hole, but this team didn’t give up.

Daniel Suarez — Finshed 19th: “We had a fast Haas Automation Mustang today, but unfortunately we don’t have the result to show for it. We had that issue and it was hard to recover from, but the car had speed, which is good.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 30th: “Well, it was certainly a letdown to say the least. We had some issue with the power steering and the water pump pulleys. I thought it might have been from some contact on a restart. I got in the back of the car in front of me. They told me that wasn’t the case. So, I assume some debris got in the pulley system and took out my power steering and the water pump as well. So, it’s just unlucky on that front. Certainly the wrong time of the year to have some bad luck. It looked like the guys I’m worried about in the points didn’t have the best day either, so maybe I got a pass on this one. I’m just disappointed to say the least.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 32nd: “The Behr Ultra Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was really fast all weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, so it’s a shame that we weren’t able to showcase that speed on Sunday. I could feel a vibration early in Stage 1 but wasn’t able to get to pit road before we cut a right-front tire and ended up in the wall. We still don’t know exactly what happened, but I’m sure the guys will be able to make a complete diagnosis on Monday. From there, it was a long day making a trip to the garage for repairs and then playing catch-up during the race. This No. 3 team has no quit. By staying out we were able to gain several spots that we wouldn’t have earned otherwise, so I’m proud of the guys for that. We’re focused on getting a win and making it to the Playoffs and we still have a few chances to do that.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 36th: “The 20 (Erik Jones) ran over us. He’s been known to do that to us a couple times now lately. He’ll get one coming his way before it’s over with, or at least before I’m through with it. Our Fastenal Ford just wasn’t near as good as what we wanted it to be. Felt we were OK in practice. We qualified well and the first stage was going OK, but then we just lost the front turn in our car and never really could get it back. We were looking forward to hopefully making some more adjustment there before the end of the race and we just didn’t get the opportunity to after blowing that left-front. All in all it was a frustrating day for us, but hopefully we can learn something from it and come back with something better.”

Daniel Hemric — Finished 37th: “I hate that this is how our weekend ended at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with the No. 8 Okuma Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. We worked on the handling of the car all weekend long and felt like we had something for them once the green flag dropped. We were racing inside the top 15 and just waiting for the car to come to me on the run when I saw the No. 48 car dive to the left down the frontstretch to avoid oil. I just tried to stay as far to the right of the oil and hold on into Turn 1, but I don’t think the No. 41 car saw the fluid and lost it underneath of me. The contact sent us spinning into the wall and caused some heavy damage to the nose and the right front, causing further damage to the motor. I feel like we had a strong car and had a solid day ahead of us, but it just wasn’t our day.”

Results, points report from New Hampshire

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Kevin Harvick scored his first win of the season and also Stewart-Haas Racing’s first of the year, holding off Denny Hamlin in a spirited duel on the final lap Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Erik Jones finished third for his second consecutive third-place result. Ryan Blaney placed fourth and Matt DiBenedetto completed the top five.

MORE: Click here for race results

MORE: Click here for points report

Jimmie Johnson finished 30th for a second consecutive weekend and fell out of a playoff spot. He is 17th in the standings, 17 points behind Clint Bowyer, who holds that final playoff spot.

“Certainly the wrong time of year to have some bad luck. It looked like the guys I’m worried about in the points didn’t have the best of days either. Maybe I got a pass on this one. Just disappointed to say the least.”