NASCAR America: Breaking down the final restart at New Hampshire

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A hand full of teams took gambles in the final laps of Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire, but it was Denny Hamlin, on four tires and looking for his first win of the year, who prevailed.

On the final round of pit stops, Dale Earnhardt Jr. stayed out and Matt Kenseth only took right-side tires. Hamlin overpowered them on the final restart with 35 laps to go and went on to win the Overton’s 301.

NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty looked at the final restart to see what went right for Hamlin and what went wrong for Kenseth, Earnhardt and others.

“(For Earnahrdt), that was a Hail Mary,” Petty said. “When you throw a Hail Mary from 15th, you’re looking at 11th or 12th. You’re not looking at a win with a Hail Mary against these guys that were running there.”

On Kenseth, “Matt and (crew chief) Jason Ratcliff have won a race at New Hampshire with a two-tire change. I think they believed … ‘The (PJ1 traction agent) is gone, it’s back to the old race track. Let’s go back to this.’ I think they underestimated the Goodyear tire, I think they underestimated how much (PJ1) was still there.”

Watch the video for the full segment.

Cup Playoff Grid: Denny Hamlin becomes 11th driver to qualify for Cup postseason

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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After repeat winners at Daytona and Kentucky, Denny Hamlin became the latest driver to win his way into the Cup Series playoffs Sunday at New Hampshire.

Hamlin, with his first victory of the season, is the 11th driver to clinch a spot in the 16-car field for the playoffs.

He would be the 12th if not for Joey Logano‘s Richmond win being encumbered due to an inspection failure.

If the postseason began this weekend, the drivers getting into the 16-car field on points would be Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth.

With his win, Hamlin has seven playoff points. That puts him eighth on the playoff grid among those who have clenched a playoff spot. He is ahead of Kurt Busch (five playoff points), Ryan Newman (five) and Austin Dillon (five).

In the graphic below, drivers in green are in the playoffs on wins. Drivers in yellow would be in on points and drivers in orange would not make the playoffs.

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Denny Hamlin is skittish over New Hampshire trophy, a live lobster (VIDEO)

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It’s not often you see an athlete race away from a trophy.

But that was the case Sunday for Denny Hamlin after he won the NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The track in Loudon, New Hampshire, presents all of its Cup winners with a live lobster as its trophy.

Hamlin isn’t a fan of lobsters.

After posing with the large crustacean for pictures, Hamlin handed it to crew chief Mike Wheeler, who then proceeded to come at Hamlin with the lobster facing him stomach first.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver scrambled away as quickly as he could.

“I have a lobster phobia,” Hamlin told NBCSN. “I have no other phobias, really. I can’t sit next to a person at dinner if they’re eating lobster.”

Watch the above video to see Hamlin’s reaction.

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Kurt Busch: Team was ‘between rock and hard place’ to making changes

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To change or not to change? That was the question for Kurt Busch and the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team in Sunday’s Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Busch was having a good — but not necessarily great — day. His team was desperate for a good finish, especially after back-to-back DNFs in the last two races at Daytona (crash) and Kentucky (engine).

Sure, Busch and crew chief Tony Gibson could have gambled Sunday in hopes of a better finish instead of its eventual eighth-place showing.

But on the flip side, things could also have gone south in a hurry, and that’s the last thing Busch needs, given he’s currently 14th in the NASCAR Cup standings.

“We just couldn’t make any adjustments to her because we didn’t want to mess it up,” Busch said. “That’s that between a rock and a hard place, where you want to adjust on it but you don’t want to mess things up and go backwards. So the last three runs, we just left her alone.

“It was a solid day, we wanted a little more and with the way our car ran today, that’s a good sign because we know we need to bring more. Once we get into the playoffs, we’ll be ready.”

UPDATE: Unfortunately, even by not trying to mess up, Busch’s team indeed did mess up. During post-race inspection, Busch’s team and Daniel Suarez‘s team were both found to have one unsecured lug nut each.

Whether one or both teams will be issued penalties by NASCAR will likely be determined Tuesday or Wednesday.

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Jimmie Johnson bounces back from penalty on start of race to finish 10th (video)

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Jimmie Johnson‘s best start of the season was wiped out at the green flag of Sunday’s Overton’s 301.

After having qualified second for the race, his first time starting in the top five through 19 races, Johnson was called for a start violation.

His No. 48 Chevrolet had reached the start-finish line before pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. It resulted in a pass-through penalty for Johnson on Lap 3.

“I just got it wrong,” Johnson told NBCSN. “The No. 2 starter can’t beat the No. 1 starter to the start-finish line on the initial start. I definitely did that. I knew that I didn’t jump. (Truex) went first, plus I was looking at the green flag, so I felt like I had my bases covered there. I just missed one of those little clauses in the rule book.”

Despite the ordeal, Johnson finished Stage 1 in 12th and Stage 2 in fifth. He ended the day in 10th for just his second top 10 in the six races since he won at Dover.

Watch the video for the full interview.

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