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Harvick holds off Hamlin for first win of season
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After a 21-race winless streak dating since Nov. 2018, Kevin Harvick picked up his first win of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series July 21 with a successful title defense in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Opting not to pit under the final yellow flag of the  race on lap 264 of a scheduled 301, Harvick took over the lead on the restart and aggressively defended his front-row view for the final 34 laps to claim the “Magic Mile” for the second year in a row. Overall, the win marked the fourth checkered flag for Harvick at the 1.058-mile oval track, moving him into a tie with Jeff Burton for the most all-time.

“I was really questionable about how that was going to go, and the thing took right off,” Harvick said. “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 No. 4 car.”

Runner-up Denny Hamlin, who had led the previous 112 laps before putting on four new tires under caution, felt the .210 second margin of victory came down to a difference in strategy between the drivers.

“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,” Hamlin said. “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.”

With only six races remaining before the postseason field of 16 drivers is locked in place, the Foxwood Resort Casino 301 had big implications on the playoff picture. Harvick secured his spot with the win, while Kyle Busch extended his projected points lead with a stage one victory.

For Hendricks Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson, the day was almost disastrous as complications in the water pump and power steering dropped him to thirtieth and left him on the playoff bubble in seventeenth, 17 points out of position.

“Well, it was certainly a letdown to say the least. We had some issue with the power steering and the water pump pulleys. So, it’s just unlucky on that front,” Johnson said. “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.”

Hendricks Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott had an eerily similar day when water pump problems forced the No. 9 Kelley Blue Book Chevy onto pit row for repairs on lap 110. After replacing a missing belt, Elliott re-entered the race on lap 124, 11 laps behind the leader, and went on to finish the race 29th. The distant finish had no effect on Elliott’s postseason as he is projected to enter the playoffs as the eighth seed after his win at Talladega earlier in the year.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series makes their second trip to the “Tricky Triangle” July 27 for the Gander RV 400 at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway.