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 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.