Kevin Harvick overcomes tire issues to win at Michigan as last Playoff spot tightens

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 11: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 11, 2019 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick has come in from the cold.  After a slow start to the season Harvick won his second race in the last four of 2019 with a fuel mileage victory in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Unlike his win in Michigan last season where he led 108 laps, Harvick led only 22 including the last 17 for the 47th win of his career. He also overcame a flat tire and a loose wheel for the win.

“A day of a little bit of adversity that we were able to overcome,” Harvick said. “But we just had a really fast car all weekend.  Our car handled really well today, and with the multiple lanes, we were able to run all three lanes pretty well and make our way through traffic.”

After the races sixth and final caution for a spin from Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the final 48 green flag laps set up a fuel mileage race with Ryan Blaney taking the lead but told they would be at least 3 laps short of fuel.  Brad Keselowski restarted second but issues during fueling on his stop also left him short of fuel.

Blaney would drop back to fifth in a bid to save fuel with 25 laps to go and Joey Logano took the top spot. Harvick charged towards the front and was pressuring Logano with 20 to go. He took the lead on lap 183 of 200 and went on to win by 1.05 seconds over Denny Hamlin.

The lead came after a flat tire while running second on lap 33 forced him to pit under green.  He then reported a possible loose wheel on lap 115 but a timely caution kept him in the mix.

“For me, I ‑‑ they told me I was one or two laps to the good,” Harvick said. “When I got the lead and got a good enough distance, then I tried to start managing the throttle.  It’s a lot easier to manage that gap than it is to try to manage passing and saving.  Yeah, we were able to do some burnouts and drive it back to Victory Lane, so we had plenty of gas.”

After leading a race high 66 laps, Keselowski pitted on lap 189 from third and finished 19th; Blaney pitted on the final lap and finished 24th.

“We got that flat tire early on and we recovered and got up to third there in the late stages and then we just ran out of gas,” Keselowski said. “That is just the way it goes sometimes.”

Chris Buescher and Kurt Busch running inside the top 10 late in the going both ran out of fuel on the final lap finishing 14th and 23rd respectively.

Kyle Larson overcame a pit road speeding penalty to finish third. Martin Truex Jr. looked to be the car to beat for much of the race. After failing pre-race inspection and starting in the rear of the field he was inside the top 10 by lap 22 and led 43 laps. Thanks to fuel only pit stops near the end of the stages Truex won Stage 1 and ran second in Stage 2 and came home fourth.

“It was a hot rod early,” Truex said. “We were able to drive by everybody. The first couple runs of the race were really sporty. To get up there and win stage 1 was a big deal. I felt through the middle of the race we had the best car. Just those last couple restarts, we got off sequence and lost all of our track position and restarted 19th. Just could not get in the right spot. Every restart we were in the wrong lane, we lost spots. Then we would just have to pick them off one at a time. (Our) Camry was a rocket ship today, just didn’t get to show it at the end.”

Daniel Suarez keeps his playoff’s bid alive with a fifth-place finish thanks in large part to those who ran out of fuel.  Kyle Busch was sixth, Ryan Preece seventh with William Byron, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman rounding out the top 10.

In the run to make the final playoff spots, the fight for the final playoff spot is still very up for grabs.  Jimmie Johnson was tied for 16th coming into the race but ahead in a tiebreaker over Ryan Newman.  Johnson’s troubles started early on lap 14 when he hit the wall while running 10th.  Another flat tire caused by damage from the first crash sent him back to the pits on lap 26. He finished the day 34th 8 laps down, 18th in the standings and 12 points behind the cutoff.

Clint Bowyer was aware of Johnson’s troubles and was able to take advantage despite hitting the wall hard on a restart on lap 142. The damage was severe enough that he finished in the garage in 37th place, but he leaves Michigan above the cutoff line in 16th 6 points to the good.  With his fifth-place finish, it’s Suarez who now seems to be in the best position to move up; he leaves 17th just 6 points behind Bowyer.  With a quiet 12th place finish thanks to good fuel strategy, Ryan Newman is now 15th 16 points above the cutoff.

It’s Harvick though who may be in the best position, heating up as the 2019 playoffs near.  Like he did when he won last season, Harvick took his now 7-year old son Keelan for a ride in his winning car after the race.

“I didn’t say anything and he asked me right when I walked out the door, and he’s like, ‘hey, if we win today, I get to ride in the car again’, “proud papa Harvick said. “I’m like, absolutely, you just make your way to pit road and we’ll figure it out.  We stepped it up a little today.  We were able to do a straight‑line burnout and a donut, and I made him put my helmet on in case he flew out the side there into the roll bars.  I said, you’d better put the helmet on, and we did some burnouts.  So that was pretty cool.”

And dad may just be riding momentum all the way to Homestead and his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup championship.

“Last year; we started off on fire, we won eight races and then didn’t win the championship,” Harvick said.  “In the end you want to win that championship, and hopefully we’re peaking at the right time.”

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops night race where Kurt Busch is the defending champion.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Consumers Energy 400

Michigan International Speedway

Brooklyn, Michigan

Sunday, August 11, 2019

1. (2)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 200.

2. (14)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200.

3. (17)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200.

4. (15)  Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 200.

5. (11)  Daniel Suarez, Ford, 200.

6. (22)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200.

7. (29)  Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 200.

8. (3)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 200.

9. (6)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200.

10. (4)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 200.

11. (21)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.

12. (20)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 200.

13. (37)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.

14. (25)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 200.

15. (9)  Paul Menard, Ford, 200.

16. (24)  David Ragan, Ford, 200.

17. (8)  Joey Logano, Ford, 200.

18. (16)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 200.

19. (1)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200.

20. (27)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 200.

21. (31)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 200.

22. (23)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 200.

23. (13)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 200.

24. (7)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200.

25. (19)  Matt Tifft #, Ford, 199.

26. (38)  Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 199.

27. (26)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 199.

28. (18)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 199.

29. (30)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 198.

30. (28)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 196.

31. (32)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 196.

32. (33)  Austin Theriault, Ford, 194.

33. (12)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 193.

34. (10)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 192.

35. (35)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 192.

36. (34)  Cody Ware(i), Ford, 191.

37. (5)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, Accident, 139.

38. (36)  Spencer Boyd(i), Ford, Accident, 123.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  149.084 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 40 Mins, 59 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.054 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for 24 laps.

Lead Changes:  19 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   B. Keselowski 1-39;D. Hamlin 40-44;M. Truex Jr 45-55;D. Hamlin 56;M. Truex Jr 57-63;B. Keselowski 64-81;M. Truex Jr 82;B. Keselowski 83-90;M. Truex Jr 91-108;B. Keselowski 109;K. Harvick 110-113;M. Truex Jr 114-119;K. Busch 120-122;K. Busch 123-126;J. Logano 127-141;K. Busch 142;J. Logano 143-150;R. Blaney 151-153;J. Logano 154-182;K. Harvick 183-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Brad Keselowski 4 times for 66 laps; Joey Logano 3 times for 52 laps; Martin Truex Jr 5 times for 43 laps; Kevin Harvick 2 times for 22 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 6 laps; Kurt Busch 2 times for 5 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 3 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 3 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,11,2,22,24,4,12,88,9,10

Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,19,1,22,20,9,12,24,14,21