Finally: Harvick pulls out a clutch win at Michigan

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 07: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Light Apple #BuschelOfBusch Ford, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 07, 2022 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Never count Kevin Harvick out. That was the lesson every NASCAR team learned Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. The 46-year-old driver for Stewart-Haas Racing has always been known as a clutch player, but Sunday he pulled off what is perhaps the biggest clutch win of his career.

“Just good timing for sure,” Harvick said after finally securing his spot in NASCAR’s Playoffs. “You know, we’ve had several good runs the last few weeks, Loudon, and Pocono where the car ran good and just didn’t have everything work out.”

It worked out Sunday as Harvick took the lead on a final restart on lap 163 and held on to end a 65-race winless streak and score his first win since the fall of 2020.

“Everybody who doubted us doesn’t know us,” Harvick said with a smile. “They, obviously, know we thrive in these types of situations. And a lot of things went our way today, which we haven’t had, all year long, have things go our way and have things fall our way.

“And then there at the end we pitted, didn’t go a lap down, and the caution came out, got control of the race. That’s the thing I struggled with the most today, was traffic and the restarts and just having to make up ground. Once I got clear track, that baby was hunting.”

The race’s seventh and final caution came out on lap 161 when Christopher Bell and Ross Chastain got together during a cycle of green flag stops. Chastain having just pitted and on fresher tires came up behind Bell on older tires. With Chastain just behind Bell moved up either to block or unaware of Chastain’s position and was pinned into the outside wall. Both cars had to pit with Bell sustaining extensive damage to the front of his Toyota. Bell led 29 laps, won Stage 1, but finished 17th. Chastain, who led 29 laps was 24th.

Bubba Wallace who started from pole and led 22 laps, came up short in the end finishing second.

“Took the top there on the restart,” Wallace said. “Thought I could hang with the 4, and just got to racing the 5 and the 22. And 22 did a good job of getting another Ford contract, helping a Ford win.

“Just all in all an incredible weekend. Appreciate my team. Wished we could have got Toyota in the victory lane. Wish we got McDonald’s back in victory lane. She was fast all week, man. Just I’ll wear this one on my heart for a while. I failed everybody.”

Denny Hamlin, who led a race high 38 laps and won Stage 2, but a pit road penalty for a safety violation during the final stops send him to the back of the field. He raced like a driver possessed and rallied to finish third.

“This is a piece of the puzzle you have to have to win races,” Hamlin said. “Everyone has to do their job to the best of their ability and we just are lacking in one little section of our team that we just can’t hem up.”

Despite struggling much of the race, the Penske Racing duo of Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five.

Martin Truex Jr. finished fourth in Stage 1 but came up short in the race with a sixth place. Worse yet for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, with Harvick’s win, and a lack of a victory this season so far, Truex finds himself 19 points out of the Playoffs.

Kyle Larson overcame a pit road speeding penalty to finish seventh; Erik Jones eighth, with Alex Bowman ninth. Subbing once more for Kurt Busch, Ty Gibbs came home an impressive tenth.

The biggest crash of the race came on lap 25 when Austin Cindric’s Ford was sent nose first into the outside wall coming out of Turn 2 as part of an 8-car crash that erupted on a restart when JJ Yeley got loose came up the track and in front of Michael McDowell. The ensuing melee swept up Aric Almirola, Harrison Burton, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., David Gilliland, and Kyle Busch whose bad luck continued as he was one of six cars forced out of the race.

NASCAR pushed up the start time in order to beat impending weather, but the weather won with a thunderstorm rolling across the track and delaying the start by over 90 minutes. No more weather threatened the rest of the day, and the race was able to complete the full distance.

NASCAR heads to Richmond Raceway next Sunday where Martin Truex Jr. is the defending champion of the race and has won three of the last six races there.

Photos: NASCAR at Michigan Sunday Aug. 7, 2022

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results FireKeepers Casino 400

Michigan International Speedway

Brooklyn, Michigan

Sunday, August 7, 2022

  1. (16)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 200.
  2. (1)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 200.
  3. (9)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200.
  4. (4)  Joey Logano, Ford, 200.
  5. (24)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200.
  6. (7)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 200.
  7. (8)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200.
  8. (10)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 200.
  9. (30)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 200.
  10. (11)  Ty Gibbs(i), Toyota, 200.
  11. (13)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200.
  12. (20)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 200.
  13. (26)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.
  14. (25)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.
  15. (33)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200.
  16. (19)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 200.
  17. (21)  Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 200.
  18. (31)  Austin Hill(i), Chevrolet, 200.
  19. (32)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 200.
  20. (23)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 200.
  21. (35)  Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 200.
  22. (34)  Cody Ware, Ford, 200.
  23. (36)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 199.
  24. (22)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 199.
  25. (15)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 198.
  26. (2)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, Accident, 193.
  27. (37)  Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 188.
  28. (14)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 187.
  29. (6)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, Engine, 110.
  30. (12)  Noah Gragson(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 109.
  31. (17)  Cole Custer, Ford, Accident, 94.
  32. (27)  Harrison Burton #, Ford, Accident, 29.
  33. (28)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 25.
  34. (18)  Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 25.
  35. (29)  JJ Yeley(i), Ford, Accident, 24.
  36. (3)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 24.
  37. (5)  Austin Cindric #, Ford, Accident, 24.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  137.825 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 54 Mins, 8 Secs. Margin of Victory:  2.903 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  7 for 36 laps.

Lead Changes:  15 among 10 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   B. Wallace 1-21;C. Bell 22-48;T. Gibbs(i) 49-50;R. Chastain 51-79;D. Hamlin 80-93;C. Bell 94-96;E. Jones 97-101;C. Buescher 102;D. Hamlin 103-122;D. Suarez 123-137;C. Bell 138;D. Suarez 139-156;D. Hamlin 157-160;B. Wallace 161;B. McLeod(i) 162;K. Harvick 163-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Denny Hamlin 3 times for 38 laps; Kevin Harvick 1 time for 38 laps; Daniel Suarez 2 times for 33 laps; Christopher Bell 3 times for 31 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 29 laps; Bubba Wallace 2 times for 22 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 5 laps; Ty Gibbs(i) 1 time for 2 laps; BJ McLeod(i) 1 time for 1 lap; Chris Buescher 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 20,11,43,19,17,1,24,4,22,14

Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,99,5,20,6,43,3,48,24,22