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Harvick scores 1st win of 2019 after thrilling final lap battle with Hamlin at New Hampshire

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 7/21/2019 Ellen J. Horrow

LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE - JULY 21:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer/National Forest Foundation Ford, takes the checkered flag in front of Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota,
 to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 21, 2019 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE - JULY 21: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer/National Forest Foundation Ford, takes the checkered flag in front of Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 21, 2019 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
© Chris Trotman/Getty Image

How the Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301, the 20th race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, played out Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway:

RELATED:  Race results

WINNER: Believe it or not, Kevin Harvick entered the weekend winless in 2019. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver who won eight times last season and finished third in the championship race, had opportunities to win this year, but could never live up his nickname of "The Closer."

Harvick made sure he closed out the race on Sunday, holding off Denny Hamlin, who caught him in the final two laps and bumped him twice before Harvick edged him at the line.

"(Hamlin) got to me and tried to move me out the way," a clearly relieved Harvick said. "I knew that was coming as close as he was. But I just hit the throttle down the back straightaway and I'm like, 'you're not getting under me again.' He drove to the outside, and  I waited until he got near me then put a wheel on him."

The victory was Harvick's first in 21 races since he took the checkered flag at Texas Motor Speedway in November.

Harvick, who also won this race last season, benefitted from a risky call by his crew chief. When many the drivers brought their car down pit road with 35 laps remaining for tires, Harvick's crew chief Rodney Childers told his driver to stay out.

"I was really questionable with how that was going to go," Harvick later said in victory lane. "It was a heck of a finish, closer than we wanted. Like I said, I would never have (made the call), but that's why he's one the box.

Harvick earned his 46th career Cup Series win and locked himself into the playoffs with six races remaining.

LARSON'S WOES: With 37 laps remaining in the race, Kyle Larson hit the wall for the second time, bringing the yellow flag. After the crash, Larson brought his car to the garage, ending his race prematurely.

BACK-TO-BACK YELLOWS: Kyle Busch, who led 118 laps, got loose on lap 214 and slid into the wall, bringing out the caution. On the ensuing restart, Larson tried to pass Alex Bowman on the inside but spun out with the rear of his No. 42 Chevrolet backing into the wall. Larson's caution was the eighth of the race.

STAGE 2: Aric Almirola, who stayed on the track following a late-stage caution, won the second segment ahead of Joey Logano, Ryan Neman and William Byron, who also chose not to pit. Kyle Busch, who took tires finished fifth followed by Denny Hamlin, Larson, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard and Kurt Busch.

COSTLY CRASH: Clint Bowyer got loose as cars raced three-wide on a restart with just six laps remaining in the second segment and careened into Martin Truex Jr., sending Truex into the wall and his No. 19 Toyotoa into Bowyer's No. 14 Ford. Bowyer was only eight points above the playoff cut line entering the race. Despite the contact, both cars were able to finish the second stage on the lead lap.

WALL BANGER: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slammed hard into the Turn 2 wall on lap 136 ending his day. Stenhouse cut his left front tire after side-by-side contact with Erik Jones, and when the tire blew, Stenhouse lost control of his No. 17 Ford. Stenhouse, who is winless this season, was one of a handful of drivers trying to creep up into the 16th and final playoff position. The Roush Fenway Racing driver now faces a likely must-win situation over the final six races of the regular season.

“The 20 (of Jones) ran over us," Stenhouse said. "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." 

MAKING CONTACT: Daniel Suarez got loose and made contact with Damiel Hemric in Turn 2, sending Hemric's No. 8 Chevrolet into the wall and the No. 41 Ford of Suarez spinning. NASCAR waved the caution flag on lap 110, and the field headed back down pit road for tires and fuel.

Jones and Alex Bowman made contact on pit road when Jones was pulling out of his pit box and Bowman was trying to pull into his. Chase Elliott also had an issue on the pit stop. The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports crew was forced to lift the hood and replace a belt.

FIRST STAGE: Kyle Busch won his seventh stage of the season after taking the lead on a restart following the first caution. Jones, one of just a few drivers to take two tires on the previous caution, held his position and finished second. Almirola took third, Bowyer fourth and Brad Keselowski fifth. Truex, Ryan Blaney, Harvick, Hamlin, and Suarez, who passed Jimmie Johnson coming off Turn 4 of the final lap, rounded out the top 10.

FIRST YELLOW: Austin Dillon brought out the first caution when his right front tire gave out, sending the No. 3 Chevrolet into the Turn 4 wall on lap 45. The caution brought the field down pit road for fresh tires in fuel, with Jones and Stenhouse jumping to the lead after taking only two tires.

BACK OF THE PACK: Five drivers had to switch to backup cars after incidents during practice or qualifying and started from the rear: Bowman, Byron, Hamlin, Newman and Larson. Bowman was driving teammte Jimmie Johnson's backup car after wrecking his own backup car during Saturday's practice.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kevin Harvick scores first NASCAR Cup win of 2019 after thrilling final lap battle with Denny Hamlin at New Hampshire

Related slideshow: 2019 NASCAR race winners

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