Harvick uses bump-and-run to thwart Busch at Loudon

Kevin Harvick celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, July 22, 2018, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

LOUDON (AP) – Kevin Harvick used a bump-and-run on Kyle Busch with seven laps left to win a thrilling battle of two of NASCAR’s dominant drivers Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Harvick aimed his Ford bumper at the right side of Busch’s Toyota and nudged the leader out of the way for the move of the race in another stellar showing for the leader of the Big Three.

“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.”

Added Busch: “How you race is you get raced.”

Harvick raced to his sixth victory of the season and went 1-2 in some order with Busch for the ninth time this year. Busch has five wins and Martin Truex Jr., fourth Sunday, has four.

The Big Three were threatened in a race delayed by rain for more than three hours by Aric Almirola, who replaced Danica Patrick in the No. 10 Ford, for a portion of the race. He threatened to crash the party and had his second career Cup victory in sight. He led for more than 40 laps but was derailed by a poor pit stop and spun his tires on a restart that cost him.

“You think I’d be happy,” he said.

Not in this race.

Almirola was the latest also-ran to realize drivers have to be perfect to catch either of the Big Three.

Harvick, who won his 43rd career race, was 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 did what he had to do again in the No. 4 Ford to celebrate there again for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Here are some items of note from a wet day in New Hampshire.

One and done

New Hampshire hosted its only Cup weekend of the season because track owner Speedway Motorsports Inc. transferred the fall playoff race to Las Vegas Motor

Speedway. New Hampshire ran its first Cup race in 1993 and got a second date in 1997.

The track will fill the open date in September with the NASCAR Modified Tour and the winner of the marquee Musket 250 race will claim a share of the $181,100 purse. New Hampshire also plans to hold a country music festival in 2019.

Many drivers feel the sport would be helped if it stopped racing twice a season at some tracks.

Track general manager Dave McGrath said there was a modest ticket bump from Sunday’s race compared to last July. He did not reveal attendance numbers.

“There’s no significant drop year over year. We’re holding our own,” McGrath said. “I wish that everybody that was here in September was here in July but I think that’s going to take a few years for that to truly take hold. The good news is, that level, steady (crowd) is a big win in my book. That clearly shows we’re keeping those that we had and it’s our job now to find that next group to come and be part of the weekend.”

WORKING FOR THE WEEKEND

Loverboy played the pre-race concert in the rain.

Loverboy’s song “Heaven in Your Eyes” was on the “Top Gun” soundtrack in 1986 and Tom Cruise recently started filming the sequel “Top Gun: Maverick.”

That had 80s movie soundtrack fans lovin’ every minute of wondering if Loverboy also would return for the flick.

Lead singer Mike Reno said he recorded a song he hoped would be used in the movie.

“We recorded it and I sent it out. I don’t know if they’re going to take it,” Reno said. “I’m hoping they pick some nice retro music, rather than go with the new stuff. When you listen to the song we recorded for the new ‘Top Gun,’ you can almost hear the jets flying by.”

SAFETY FIRST

New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung had been scheduled to drive the pace car for the race.

“I think they need to put me in a real car,” Chung said, laughing.

Chung declined to discuss the NFL’s national anthem debate that was reignited this week. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he hadn’t decided whether to actually discipline players who protest during the national anthem when he formally told the team that the demonstrations could be punishable.

“Can’t worry about things you can’t control. It is what it is,” Chung said.

Chung said he was ready for the Patriots to start training camp and put the Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles behind them.

“That game sucked,” he said.

UP NEXT

The series heads to Pocono Raceway where Kyle Busch is the defending race winner.