|#4 Kevin Harvick completes the Michigan sweep|
Kevin Harvick surged to a weekend doubleheader sweep Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, fending off a closing Denny Hamlin and riding a dominant Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford to his second NASCAR Cup Series win in a two-day span.
Harvick led 90 of 156 laps in Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400, one day after leading 92 of 161 in a Saturday triumph at the 2-mile Michigan track. His sixth victory of the season was his fifth at Michigan and the 55th of his Cup Series career, tying him with Rusty Wallace on the series’ all-time win list.
Hamlin placed second in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, just .093 seconds – about a car-length – behind at the checkered flag. Martin Truex Jr. locked down third place for the second straight race with Kyle Busch fourth and Joey Logano fifth.
The victory also sealed the Michigan Heritage Trophy for Ford. The award is given to the top-performing automaker in the two annual Cup Series races at MIS.
Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch finished third and fourth followed by Team Penske’s Joey Logano. Harvick’s teammate Aric Almirola was sixth. Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott and Kurt Busch rounded out the top 10.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Hamlin, a five-race winner in 2020, climbed out of his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota disappointed in the outcome, but well aware that the head-to-head battle between his team and Harvick’s was foreshadowing an exciting season championship contest.
“Once we finally got to second, I knew we had something for them," Hamlin said. “I just got stalled there, he was tight and I was tight and we were better, that’s for sure. But he just had the track position and could control the lanes there."
Of the tight championship race, Hamlin said, “Proud of this FedEx team, just hate giving up wins to the No. 4."
When asked if they bring out the best in each other, “No question. I’ve got tremendous amount of respect for everyone on that team and Kevin. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve gotten wiser and learned to really appreciate what each other does on the race track and obviously, they’ve having a great season as well."
Not only did Harvick become the first driver in series history to win back-to-back races in consecutive days at the same track but he did it by leading the most laps each day as well. He paced the field for 90 of the 156 laps Sunday. And his Stage 2 win was his third stage victory of the weekend after he swept both stages on Saturday. Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer won the opening stage on Sunday.
|Hamlin tries in vain to run down Harvick|
The start to the race was calm – the first two of the five total cautions coming out only for the scheduled two stage conclusions. However, just past the second stage, on Lap 96 Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski collided while contesting the lead.
Keselowski was running low on the track hoping to get around race leader Blaney but his No. 2 Ford shot up the track, making contact with Blaney’s No. 12 Ford – both cars ended up in the wall and ultimately into the garage. They were scored 38th (Blaney) and 39th (Keselowski) in the 39-car field.
“That was my fault. I feel really bad for my teammate Ryan Blaney, said a dejected Keselowski said after being checked out in the infield care center.
"He didn’t deserve that. I came off of Turn 4 and the 4 car (Kevin Harvick) was behind me and he gave me a push and I swear I went into the corner 20 miles an hour faster than I had been all day. I got past the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and I went to get underneath the 12 (Blaney) and I just slipped.
"I lost the back a little bit and when I went to collect it, he was there, and I wiped both him and myself out. I feel terrible for everyone at Team Penske. I had been running wide-open on the bottom all day and thought I could do it again, but with that big push I overestimated the grip and ruined our day."
"It’s just unfortunate for the whole Penske organization," said Ryan Blaney. "We had two fast cars battling for the lead and it just stinks that happened. He had a run, like he said, and he didn’t think he had as big of a run as he had and just got loose and, unfortunately, got us both. It’s a shame to end our day like that with the Knauf/Menards Ford Mustang. We were so fast. We had to battle back from having to pit again and got to 10th for the second stage and then got the lead. I was like, ‘All right, we can finally go back at it,’ and just got together there. That’s unfortunate, but it’s not going to carry over. Things happen. Mistakes happen. It’s just a shame both of us got taken out."
The Cup Series’ next race is the Go Bowling 235, scheduled Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) on the Daytona International Speedway Road Course. It will mark the series’ first event on the oval-road course layout.
Note: Post-race inspection was completed with no major issue in the Cup Series garage. The only minor issue: one lug nut not safely secured for the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of William Byron, discovered in a post-race check. … NASCAR plans to bring Harvick’s winning No. 4 Ford back to the Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C., for further inspection, along with four other cars — The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (driver Austin Dillon), the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (Chase Elliott), the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (Martin Truex Jr.), the No. 22 Team Penske Ford (Joey Logano). This is part of a routine review for competition officials, who periodically monitor trends in the field at the R&D Center.
Quotes from the three defeated Toyota Drivers
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 2nd
What more did you need in the closing laps?
“Just needed to maneuver a little bit better and I think that we could be a little better. Overall, our car handled well. Just needed a little more speed there and a little bit more handling to pass. Obviously, I thought we were definitely the fastest car by running him (Kevin Harvick) down there."
Did the track change during the race or from yesterday?
“The track sped up and it fit our car and it definitely went to where we setup our car for the race today. We just got a little bit better and things got closer at the end."
Did you think you could get around Kevin Harvick in the closing laps?
“Once we finally got to second, I knew we had something for him (Kevin Harvick), I just got stalled there and he was tight, I was tight. We were better, that’s for sure. I thought if I could maybe get to his quarter panel, I could shove him higher and make him tighter, but just couldn’t quite do it. Proud of this whole FedEx Ground Toyota team. We obviously had a very strong run. Just needed a little bit more."
Did you know from the start of the race that you might have a shot to win?
“I knew we were going to be pretty good, especially when it cooled off there. We tried to put maybe a little bit of speed in the car, but overall I thought we just had a really good handling car and that allowed us to keep pace right there. Our whole team did a great job adjusting overnight and thought we were a good one-two combo in both races even though we didn’t finish second yesterday. Proud of the whole FedEx team, we’re just plugging along here. Just really hate giving up wins to the 4 (Kevin Harvick)."
Do you and Kevin Harvick bring out the best in each other on the track?
“No question. On one of the restarts I think I was fifth and I pulled all the way up to the inside line next to the 4 (Kevin Harvick) and I was revving my engine beside him just to give him a little exhaust fumes. I have tremendous respect for everyone on that team and Kevin. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve gotten wiser and learned to really appreciate what each other does on the race track. Obviously, they’re having a great season as well."
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Auto Owners Insurance Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 3rd
How was your run today with another third-place finish?
“We don’t do anything easy, that’s for sure. We were awful at the start of the race. I don’t know, we didn’t make a lot of changes from yesterday. We tried to do different things to try to get better. We definitely were worse. Just have to grind them out, that’s what we do. It’s good to be grinding out top-three finishes, that’s what the Playoffs are all about. We need to get some more points before that starts."
How does it feel to finish up a solid two days of racing at Michigan with another top finish?
“We battled back. The car was pretty far off to start the race. We’re all pretty disappointed in that obviously, but really proud of the effort to get the Auto Owners Camry back up front. A special paint scheme and can’t thank Auto Owners enough and all their associates for their support of our foundation and all 1900 people on the hood. We really wanted to get them to victory lane, but just really proud of our race team. We keep bringing top-three cars to the race track and the Playoffs are coming so we need to keep doing that. Just off at the start and had to rebound. Definitely a different story today than yesterday, but pretty much the same result."
Could you just not get close enough to the 11 in the final laps?
“I just started getting tight that last run and was starting to have to lift getting into three a little bit and would get tight off four. He (Denny Hamlin) started driving away. I was doing all I could to try to get up there and once he got by me, I was trying to stay close. I just got too tight at the end. Just fought the balance too much all day. Wicked loose to start and then wicked tight to end. Just missed it a little bit, but again, proud of everyone back at the shop and we’ll keep digging."
How important is this finish for your starting position at the Daytona road course next week?
“We actually talked about it before the race. We knew we had to finish good no matter what. We definitely had that in the back of our mind because you don’t know what’s going to happen next week. I think all of us going into turn one at the Daytona road course with no braking points and the potential of rain Florida in the summertime in the afternoon. Who the heck knows what’s going to happen. I love road courses though so I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun and we’ll get prepared this week. We have a of plans to get ready. Should be fun, we’ll see what we can do. Then we have another doubleheader in Dover in two weeks. Pretty excited about that doubleheader as well."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Fudge Brownie Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 4th
What was the difference for you in today’s race compared to yesterday?
“Nothing really. I felt like it was really similar. Again today, our M&M’s Fudge Brownie Camry was good. Top-three car. I felt like the 4 (Kevin Harvick), the 2 (Brad Keselowski), us, the 11 (Denny Hamlin) there at the end was really good. Us and the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) were the same. Just hard to pass when you get there towards the end and try to make moves on guys and they just block your air and do what they’re supposed to do to prevent you from getting by them. It’s just tough racing like that and I just felt tight there at the end and just couldn’t get anymore. That was about all we were going to get today anyway. That’s on par I guess here at Michigan."
Your car seemed stronger on the long runs early in the race, how did that change or did it throughout the race?
“The long runs went away later in the race and that’s just what we had. We got about all we could get out of the day. I felt like the 4 (Kevin Harvick) was the best car. The 2 (Brad Keselowski) was second-best. The 11 (Denny Hamlin), there at the end showed up and was pretty fast, but the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) and myself were really even. That was about all we had. Great day again for the M&M’s Fudge Brownie Camry. We come to Michigan not normally looking for top-five days, but this has been a good two days. Hopefully we can keep some momentum rolling here and get ready to go next week and turn right and turn left."
How important was it to have two days of solid runs?
“Yesterday and today, the car drove great. The best driving car I’ve had here at Michigan. When you have so much comfort I guess build into the car, you just don’t quite have enough speed. We weren’t going to change that overnight, so we stayed consistent with many of the things that we were doing from yesterday just to have a good, solid effort of it today and not screw anything up."
|3||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||1.917||151|
|17||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Chevy||8.638||151|
|19||95||Christopher Bell #||Toyota||8.934||151|
|23||41||Cole Custer #||Ford||11.703||151|
|24||96||* Daniel Suarez||Toyota||12.091||151|
|25||38||John Hunter Nemechek #||Ford||12.201||151|
|26||8||Tyler Reddick #||Chevy||12.688||151|
|30||15||Brennan Poole #||Chevy||-3||148|
|32||00||Quin Houff #||Chevy||-3||148|
|35||7||* Josh Bilicki(i)||Chevy||-4||147|
|36||66||* Timmy Hill(i)||Toyota||-5||146|
(i) NOT ELIGIBLE FOR POINTS
(*) REQUIRED TO QUALIFY ON TIME