Brad Keselowski slipped in front when Kevin Harvick got into a traffic jam. Then Harvick got mad.
Keselowski took the checkered flag in Saturday’s Nationwide race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway while Harvick fumed about the inexperienced driver who got in his way even though she had been lapped.
”It’s somebody who shouldn’t be on the racetrack, who has no clue what they’re doing in the race car,” Harvick said, directing his anger at Amber Cope. ”She wants to be Danica Patrick, but she can’t hold her helmet.”
Keselowski capitalized when Harvick was forced to slow down with about 21 laps left in the 200-mile race at the one-mile oval, pulling ahead and winning by about six car lengths.
”I caught a little bit of a break in traffic,” Keselowski said, ”but that’s the way it goes.”
The pole-sitter had lost the lead to Harvick at about the 150th lap when Patrick’s Chevrolet bumped Jason Bowles’ Toyota, bringing out the yellow flag. When the race restarted, Harvick shot in front.
Would Keselowski have won if Harvick and Cope hadn’t slowed down like a pair of rush-hour commuters?
”There’s no way of really knowing that. The odds were probably not in my favor,” Keselowski said. ”You catch good breaks and bad breaks. It was a bad break for us when the yellow came out to begin with.”
The 28-year-old Cope is one of the twin nieces of Derrike Cope, who won the Daytona 500 in 1990. Her only other race in the Nationwide series was in May at the Iowa Speedway where she was sent off the track on the 203rd lap of the 250-lap race for driving too slowly.
On Saturday, Harvick couldn’t figure out where she was going as he tried to get by her while she was far out of contention.
”You’ve got to make a decision off of what direction the car was going and (her car) was going up (the high side of) the race track and I committed to the bottom and it committed to the bottom, too,” he said.
Keselowski led for the most laps, 131. Now he’d like to make it a double when he competes on Sunday in the Sprint Cup, where he’s ninth in the standings with three wins, tied for the most with Tony Stewart.
”Kevin raced me hard and there are very few guys that I’d like to race more than Kevin,” he said. ”You’re always going to have some traffic. You’re always going to have those that don’t know where you’re at. That’s part of the series, different driver learning and trying to pick up their awareness on the race track.”
Austin Dillon finished third, followed by Sam Hornish Jr. and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Rounding out the top 10 were Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Truex.
Keselowski also won the pole the last two years for Nationwide races in New Hampshire, but Kyle Busch won both times. Busch had no chance Saturday when he had trouble with his fuel pickup and was never in contention.
”He’s a great racer,” Keselowski said. ”He’s obviously proved that here with his success and it’s obviously a matter of time until bad luck catches up with all of us.”
Dillon’s finish earned him $100,000 in the ”Dash4Cash.” Dillon, Elliott Sadler, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael Annett all qualified for the four-race midseason bonus event last weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
”I said I was going to buy a pool (with the money), I wish I had one today,” Dillon said of the hot weather. ”I really just dug deep and pushed myself as hard as I could. The two-tire pit stops for us really made the difference.”
Stenhouse, suffering from strep throat, lay on the ground next to his car after the race but was fine after being examined by medical personnel.
Keselowski led early in the race, then changed four tires on a pit stop. Kahne, who changed just two, went ahead on about the 40th lap and stayed there for about 50 more laps before Keselowski went back in front.
He took the lead for good when Harvick lost his momentum trying to figure out where Cope was headed.
”We’ve had great runs (here) in the past, but we couldn’t close the deal,” Keselowski said. ”It feels great to finally close the deal. It’s a good two days on the Nationwide side. Hopefully, we can carry it over into Sunday and get another win.”