Loudon, N.H. — Kevin Harvick warned he was charging for the lead with taps on Kyle Busch’s rear bumper over the waning laps. Harvick had failed to methodically work his way around the race leader with a clean pass, so he set aim with his Ford on Busch for the knockout shot.
Harvick nudged the right side of the Toyota and jostled Busch out of his groove and three lanes up the track. He zipped to the front with a textbook bump-and-run that led to a beer-soaked celebration and left Busch fuming — the move of the race in another stellar showcase for the leader of the Big Three.
Harvick outdueled Busch over the final 10 laps to win a thrilling battle of two of NASCAR’s dominant drivers Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“I felt like it was my best opportunity to do what I had to do to win,” Harvick said. “I didn’t want to wreck him. But I didn’t want to waste a bunch of time behind him.”
Busch, the temperamental 2015 series champion, had a different view.
“I think he could have made the move work cleaner than that,” Busch said.
Busch said he expected for Harvick to keep trying for the decisive pass until there were about two or three laps left.
“I figured that’s exactly what he was thinking,” Harvick said, smiling. “I knew I needed to take the opportunity as soon as I could get it. We needed to do it when he wasn’t expecting it.”
Harvick crew chief Rodney Childers had exhorted Harvick over the radio to do what he needed to do to snag that checkered flag.
“He was in the lane that I needed to be in and as you get to the end,” Harvick said, “you’ve got to be aggressive.”
Harvick raced to his sixth victory of the season for Stewart-Haas Racing and finished in the top two in some order with Busch for the fourth time this year.
Harvick, Busch and Martin Truex Jr. — NASCAR’s Big Three — have won a combined 15 times in the 20 Cup races. Busch has five wins and Truex, who was fourth Sunday, has four.
There was nearly an outlier in a race delayed more than three hours by rain.
Aric Almirola, who replaced retired Danica Patrick this season in the No. 10 Ford, threatened to crash the party and win his second career Cup race. He led for more than 40 laps late until he was derailed by a poor pit stop and then spun his tires on a restart that likely cost him his first win since July 2014.
“You think I’d be happy,” he said.
Not in this race.
But it was a banner weekend for SHR: Kurt Busch won the pole and finished eighth; and Harvick and Almirola placed in the top five.
Almirola, though, was the latest also-ran to realize drivers have to be flawless to catch either of the Big Three.
Harvick, who won his 43rd career race, made the perfect pass in New Hampshire.
Harvick reeled off three straight victories at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix and went back-to-back in May at Dover and Kansas. It had been seven races since he reached victory lane.
He found the way again in the No. 4 Ford to celebrate again for Stewart-Haas Racing. His six wins are a career-best, topping the five he reached in his 2014 championship season and 2006.
Lewis Hamilton regained the Formula One championship lead in unexpected and dramatic fashion, winning the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, Germany, after race leader Sebastian Vettel crashed and then surviving an investigation into his own driving.
Hamilton was summoned to speak to stewards to explain a move late in the race, where he went to the pits and then aborted his move. He escaped with a reprimand and so kept his win, his fourth this season and 66th overall.
“It’s been the most emotional day, up and down. No one ever wants to go see the stewards because they have the hardest job,” a relieved Hamilton said. “I was just 100 percent open with them. They could see how confusing it was.”
The incident came while the safety car was deployed following Vettel’s sudden crash. Hamilton decided against pitting at the last second and crossed the grass to rejoin the track — which is prohibited.
“I just slowed down and trundled over some grass, and tried to join the track as safely as I could,” said Hamilton, who finished ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Governing body FIA said it cleared Hamilton — who faced a 5-second time penalty which would have handed Bottas the victory — because “driver and the team candidly admitted the mistake” and “at no time was there any danger to any other competitor.”
John Force raced to his first victory of the season and record-extending 149th career Funny Car win in the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Morrison, Colo.
The 69-year-old Force won for the eighth time at Bandimere Speedway, edging Ron Capps in the final with a 4.075-second run at 315.42 mph.
Force drove the John Force Racing Camaro past Matt Hagan in the first round, Cruz Pedregon in the quarterfinals and daughter Courtney Force in the semifinals en route to his first victory since the Gatornationals in March 2017.
Leah Pritchett won in Top Fuel for her second victory of the season and seventh overall. She beat Doug Kalitta in the final with a 3.831 at 316.45.
Greg Anderson topped the Pro Stock field for his first win of the year and 91st overall, and Hector Arana Jr. won in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Anderson edged Jason Line with a 6.943 at 196.53, and Arana topped Jerry Savoie with a 7.170 at 185.89.