Kasey Kahne held off a late-race charge by Denny Hamlin to win Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, significantly improving his chances of competing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The win, Kahne’s second of the season, puts him in line to grab the first of two wild-card spots for the Chase. Seven races remain until the Chase cutoff at Richmond International Raceway.
Hamlin led 150 laps and had the day’s best car, but a late-race miscommunication on pit road cost him dearly. He had planned to stop for two tires, but crew chief Darian Grubb called for four, dropping Hamlin to 13th place.
Hamlin drove with ferocity the rest of the way and climbed to second place. In the final 10 laps, he moved to within one second of Kahne but couldn’t get close enough to challenge for first.
The first segment of the race belonged to Kyle Busch, the pole winner.
Busch led the first 66 laps of the event as that stretch went caution-free.
Busch gave up the lead to pit, and all of a sudden he fell into a deep hole. NASCAR flagged Busch for speeding on pit road, dropping him from the front pack to almost a lap down.
Busch was running 17th on lap 90 when the race’s first caution appeared because of debris in turn three. Busch pitted for fuel only during the caution and jumped from 17th to 11th.
After Busch’s early dominance, Hamlin took the baton. He led 18 straight laps, then took the lead again later and built a four-second advantage over Jimmie Johnson.
Hamlin became the big dog in the second half of the race but gained extra work because of the pit-road miscue.
Following the top two at the finish were Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.