Harvick goes back-to-back at Indy
Kevin Harvick took the third drive of his career on his street of dreams – Victory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – after winning the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records.
Harvick became just the third driver to win this crown jewel race of the NASCAR Cup Series at least three times – joining five-time winner Jeff Gordon and four-time winner Jimmie Johnson -- as he also won last year and in 2003. He is the first back-to-back Brickyard winner since Kyle Busch in 2015 and 2016.
2014 Cup Series champion Harvick drove away from fellow veteran Matt Kenseth during a two-lap overtime finish, winning by .743 of a second in the No. 4 Busch Light Patriotic Ford with an average speed of 123.162 mph. Aric Almirola finished third in the No. 10 Smithfield Ford.
The win added to Harvick’s growing legend at IMS, a place where Rick Mears, his childhood idol and fellow resident of Bakersfield, California, won the Indianapolis 500 four times.
The overtime finish was set up when the right front tire of leader Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota went down in Turn 1 on Lap 154, sending Hamlin’s car hard into the SAFER Barrier. Hamlin was unhurt.
That incident spoiled a hotly anticipated duel between Hamlin and Harvick – the two dominant drivers of the day and of this NASCAR Cup Series season – over the final seven laps at sunset, as the race started 55 minutes late due to lightning in the area.
“We had a fast car, obviously, and was stretching out there, but I wasn’t pushing the right front at all,” Hamlin said. “It’s just kind of roulette, whether you’re going to get one (tire) that’s going to stay together or not. Mine didn’t, and you saw the end result. That stinks. But I’m proud of the whole FedEx Toyota team.”
Harvick jumped from second to the lead after Hamlin was eliminated and motored away from Kenseth’s No. 42 McDelivery Chevrolet on the restart for the two-lap, green-white-checkered overtime finish.
Harvick‘s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola finished third followed by Brad Keselowski and Sunoco rookie Cole Custer.
Two-time Indianapolis winner and reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch finished sixth followed by Michael McDowell, rookie Tyler Reddick, Bubba Wallace and Joey Logano. It was an especially impressive outing by the series rookies — with four of the six finishing among the top 15. Christopher Bell and John Hunter Nemechek were 12th and 15th, respectively.
Hamlin, who took the lead on the race‘s final round of pit stops, ultimately finished 28th following his incident.
“It‘s tough, I hate it for the FedEx team [No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team],” Hamlin said post-race. “We did what we needed to do and it just didn‘t work out for us today. Had a fast car obviously. Proud of the whole FedEx Toyota team. We‘ve been so good lately. Feel like I‘m doing all I can, in these big races. A lot things like this don‘t go my way all the time, but we‘re still going to go next week and try to win the next one. Do all we can.”
And, he acknowledged of the competition with Harvick, “It‘s been a great battle, and those guys are great competitors. Last few weeks have been kind of a head-to-head with me and him. Probably not another guy I‘d rather battle with each and every week. Congrats to them and that team. We had two very close and equal cars but they got it today.”
One of the weekend‘s biggest stories involved seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, a four-time Brickyard 400 winner, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 virus on Friday and had to sit the race out.
NASCAR Xfinity Series perennial championship contender Justin Allgaier was tabbed to drive Johnson‘s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet — the first time in Johnson‘s legendary career that someone else drove his car in a NASCAR Cup Series race.
Allgaier had to start from the rear of the Indianapolis grid and was steadily making his way forward when he was collected in the pit road melee on Lap 15 — a chain-reaction accident involving several cars. The No. 48 Chevrolet suffered too much damage to continue and Allgaier was officially scored 37th in the 40-car field.
“Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled up there, one car after another was getting run into,” Allgaier said. “Just a shame. I hate it for these guys on this Ally 48. They‘ve done such a good job, they prepared so well for the circumstances. Obviously our hearts and our thoughts are with Jimmie right now and his family. That‘s the most important piece of all this, getting him back to the race track soon. I wanted to do well for them today and it‘s just disappointing to be standing here talking to you [reporters] unfortunately. But we‘ll go on.
“I don‘t know what next week looks like yet. But we‘ll run the Xfinity Series race and have a good shot at it. Disappointing way to end the Brickyard 400.
Zach Price, a rear tire changer for Ryan Blaney, was hit by a car on pit road while servicing Blaney‘s No. 12 Ford during the multi-car incident. The race was red-flagged for an ambulance to respond on pit road and Price — who smiled and waved to team members as he was loaded into the ambulance – was transported, treated and released from Indiana University Methodist Hospital. Team Penske said he will travel back to North Carolina with the team for further evaluation.
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