LOUDON, N.H. – Matt Kenseth had the fresher tires and the fuller tank as he stalked Kevin Harvick with postseason advancement at stake.
Harvick never slowed down to conserve fuel, his team firm in the belief he could stretch his way to the finish line.
The gamble backfired. Harvick ran out of gas, and now he's almost out of chances to defend his Sprint Cup title.
Kenseth pressured Harvick down the stretch and took the lead for good when the defending series champion ran out of fuel Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the second race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
"I ran as hard as I could to get as close as I could to him because I wanted to beat him," Kenseth said. "The faster he has to go, obviously, he burns more gas."
Kenseth, who won for the fifth time, earned a berth in the second round of NASCAR's playoffs and gave Joe Gibbs Racing its fourth straight victory.
Harvick had the dominant car and led the most laps until exiting with three laps left. He tumbled to 21st a week after he finished 42nd in the Chase opener and will have to win next week at Dover International Speedway to advance to the second round.
He didn't want to talk about it, but he tweeted about it.
"Fast car. Great day. Bad ending," he tweeted. "Things haven't gone exactly to plan but I promise you one thing, we will not quit."
JGR is 2-for-2 in the Chase and continued to prove its Toyotas will be the ones to beat over the final eight races. Denny Hamlin, the winner last week at Chicagoland, was second for JGR. Chase drivers took eight of the top 10 spots.
The 16-driver Chase field will be cut to 12 after Dover.
"I was giving Kevin everything I had," Kenseth said. "I thought he had us beat. He had the better car."
Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, Harvick and Clint Bowyer are the final four drivers on the brink of elimination. They would advance with a victory, but Jimmie Johnson stands in their way at Dover, where he has a track-record 10 victories.