Pole-sitter Brad Keselowski took advantage of an opportune moment late in Saturday’s F.W. Webb 200 Nationwide Series race and held off Kevin Harvick in the closing laps to claim his first victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, his second of the season and the 19th of his career.
Race runner-up Kevin Harvick, who finished .717 seconds back, expressed his displeasure with Amber Cope by tapping her No. 24 Chevrolet on the cool-down lap, an expression of displeasure at Cope’s impeding Harvick’s progress and opening the door for Keselowski’s winning pass.
Austin Dillon ran third, winning Nationwide’s $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus and establishing his eligibility for next week’s cash bonus at Chicagoland Speedway. Sam Hornish Jr. ran fourth, followed by defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“It was one of those days when things came together for us,” said Keselowski, who led 131 of 200 laps but acknowledged he got a gift in the late going. “We had a good car and caught a little bit of a break. I think we’ve sat on the pole three times here and had a fast car but never (won). It feels good to get the job done today.”
Keselowski held a 3.6-second lead when Cole Whitt got into Turn 1 too hot on Lap 121 and turned the No. 4 Chevrolet of Danny Efland into the outside wall. Keselowski, Hornish, Harvick, Dillon and Stenhouse were among those who took two tires during pit stops under the ensuing caution, and the field restarted with Keselowski in the lead on Lap 129.
From that point, Keselowski began to drive away again. By the time Danica Patrick tapped the No. 81 Toyota of Jason Bowles and spun off Turn 4 on Lap 149, Keselowski led by 2.3 seconds, but that advantage disappeared with the fourth caution of the afternoon.
Sadler came to the pits along with Patrick and Whitt for a four-tire stop on Lap 151, giving up the ninth position. Sadler restarted 14th on fresh rubber on Lap 155, with Patrick 15th. The call for new tires paid dividends, as Sadler gained six positions within eight laps.
Ultimately, he finished seventh and retained his lead in the series standings by three points over second-place Dillon. Sadler also joined Dillon, Stenhouse and Hornish as a qualifier for the Dash 4 Cash bonus next week at Chicagoland.
While Sadler was cutting a swath through the field, Harvick grabbed the lead from Keselowski on Lap 155 and held it through two laps of side-by-side racing. In clean air, Harvick pulled away to a 1.5-second lead, but while battling traffic with 22 laps left, Harvick was held up by the lapped car of Cope, which finished 33 laps down.
Keselowski made an aggressive move to the outside and passed Harvick off Turn 4 to take control of the race.
In addition to the tap on the cool-down lap, Harvick had some choice words for Cope, one of the twin nieces of former Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope.
“The 24, every time you’d come to her, she didn’t know whether she was going high or low,” Harvick said. “It looked like she went up, so I committed to the bottom, and she came down.
“It’s not one of those deals. It’s somebody who shouldn’t be on the race track and has no clue what they’re doing in a race car. She wants to be Danica Patrick, but she can’t hold her helmet.”
A dehydrated Stenhouse, who had battled illness in the days preceding Saturday’s 200-lapper, collapsed on pit road after the race. He was taken to the infield care center for treatment, but was conscious and alert.
“Ricky has been sick most of the week just fighting the flu bug,” said Mike Kelley, Stenhouse’s crew chief, “and at the end of the race I think the heat and the exhaustion caught up with him. He needed to sit himself down and get cooled off. They’ve got him in the infield care center now getting some fluids in him. He’s fine.”