LOUDON, N.H. – With about 70 laps to go in his back-and-forth battle against Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin radioed in to his team: “This is awesome racing.”
Imagine how Keselowski felt.
The 2012 Cup champion took the checkered flag at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, beating Hamlin by 1.647 seconds after trading the lead with him for most of the 301-lap race.
The two swapped stage wins and held the lead a combined 18 times before Keselowski claimed his third victory since the sport returned from the pandemic shutdown, along with the now-traditional prize of a 18-pound, live lobster. Afterward, Keselowski grabbed a U.S. flag and spun his car around in front of a crowd that spent most of the race masked and socially distanced before crowding the fence to chant “Brad! “Brad!”
“It’s so great to be racing back in front of fans again. It feels like forever, so welcome back, guys,” said Keselowski, who is in a contract year at Team Penske. “We’re just so glad to have them all back. It feels so weird to be racing without fans, but we’re glad you’re here. I hope you stay safe and thank you for being here.”
Hamlin also finished second in New Hampshire last year following a sprint to the finish that left him 0.210 seconds behind Kevin Harvick. Hamlin has five victories this year, including last week in Kansas.
“It was fun racing those guys. They were very very deserving today and I'm happy for them,” he said. “The two best cars finished 1-2 today and they got the better end of it. I was having a good time there.”
Martin Truex Jr. was third after working his way back from the rear of the field because of a penalty for a runaway tire in the pits. Joey Logano was fourth and Harvick fifth.