The Trifecta – New Hampshire

1. Game On!

So…the next Kevin Harvick/Kyle Busch duel should be plenty interesting.

Busch acknowledged after the race Harvick’s bump-and-run move was fair game. Just don’t be surprised when Busch returns the favor. And there is no doubt in my mind the opportunity will come, maybe as soon as next week at Pocono.

“How you race is how you get raced,” said Busch.

Meanwhile, chalk up another one for the Big Three. It continues to amaze me how the trio of Harvick, Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. always seem to find their way to the front even when they are off their game. Busch finished second and called the performance poor. Harvick only led 12 laps. Truex won the first stage but fell off as the race progressed. Yet, there they were running 1-2-3 in the closing laps before Aric Almirola got around Truex for third.

We are reaching a point where it’s going to require a perfect day for anyone, other than the Big Three, to win a race.

Speaking of which…

 

2. Aric’s Missed Opportunity

With about 40 laps to go, Aric Almirola was poised to get his first Cup Series win since 2014. Then the caution came out for his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer.

And that’s where it all unraveled.

Almirola lost two spots on pit road, restarted third, then spun his tires on said restart and his shot at victory was gone. He rebounded to finish third, his best of the season, but Almirola knew he let one get away.

“You’d think I’d be really excited to run top five and I’m not,” he said. “We had the best car hands down. There’s no doubt in my mind. We gave it away on pit road and then I gave it away again on the restart. I didn’t even give myself a fighting chance.”

This has been a breakout season for Almirola and barring the unexpected, he’ll make the playoffs. However, when you have an opportunity like his team had today, you have to take advantage. And they could not deliver at crunch time. They’ll be stewing on this one for a little while.

 

3. Playoff Bubble Widens

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. entered Sunday’s race just nine points behind Alex Bowman for the final playoff spot despite a rough weekend at Kentucky.

New Hampshire was even worse.

Stenhouse hit the wall during green flag pit stops and because the caution did not come out, the team had to make repairs under green. He finished 30th five laps down.

Not only did Stenhouse lose ground to Bowman, he is now just one point ahead of Paul Menard as well.

Here’s how the playoff bubble looks with six races to go:

14. Jimmie Johnson +97

15. Chase Elliott +95

16. Alex Bowman +28

17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -28

18. Paul Menard -29

19. Ryan Newman -74

20. Daniel Suarez -94

 

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