Kevin Harvick continued his summer surge, moving up the NASCAR Cup Series wins list by pulling off a sweep at Michigan.
Summer sweeps in Michigan are often reserved for the Detroit Tigers. Kevin Harvick provided an exception over the weekend.
Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team entered elite company in several ways by winning the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday. The 44-year-old won the 55th race of his NASCAR Cup Series career, moving him into an eighth-place tie with Rusty Wallace on the all-time list. Having also won the FireKeepers Casino 400 on Saturday, Harvick became the first driver since seven-time champion Richard Petty (1971) to win Cup Series races on consecutive days.
“I think a lot of (our success) just goes into how prepared our team is and the details that they’re covering to get the cars right, get them close, come to the racetrack, watch the pit crew perform, watch (crew chief Rodney Childers) make great calls. I get to race the car on the racetrack and do the best that I can,” Harvick said in a postrace Zoom call. “I love my guys to death. They do a great job. I hate not being able to celebrate with them. That’s the part that really frustrates me more than anything.”
Harvick’s series-best sixth win of the 2020 season came after a hard-fought battle with Denny Hamlin. The latter was also seeking his sixth victory of the campaign in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 11 Toyota. Harvick dominated a majority of the event but a window opened for Hamlin when Alex Bowman lost a tire with just under 20 circuits to go in the 156-lap event.
Running third behind Harvick and Martin Truex Jr., Hamlin took advantage of the newly instituted “choose cone” rule, opting to be the first car on the inside lane when Harvick and Truex went for the higher, outside position.
Hamlin battled Harvick to the last lap, but the 2014 Cup Series champion took home victory by a .093-second margin. Gibbs Toyota also took the next two spots with Truex in third and Kyle Busch in fourth while Joey Logano finished the top five.
“We’re really happy for everybody at Ford that our Busch Light Apple Ford was really fast again today,” Harvick said. “I had a little trouble in the end in three and four, Denny was really good down there. We were able to do a little defensive driving and keep him back there and make it to victory lane in the end.”
Four races remain in the Cup Series’ regular season, and the trek gets even more treacherous next weekend. For the first time, NASCAR will run events at the road course at Daytona International Speedway. The premier Cup Series will run the GoBowling 235 on Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. ET, NBC). This event replaces the annual trek to Watkins Glen International, whose proceedings were canceled in the wake of the ongoing health crisis.
- Michigan native Brad Keselowski, who won last week’s event at New Hampshire, was going for his first career win at his home track. But his No. 2 Team Penske Ford got loose on lap 96, sending him into race leader and teammate Ryan Blaney. The pair finished at the pack of the back. Keselowski is now winless in 23 MIS events
- Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer started second and led each of the first 43 laps en route to a victory in the first stage of the race. Bowyer finished 14th but the stage win played a part in keeping a 60-point lead on the postseason cutoff line.
- William Byron (12th) continues to hold the 16th and final playoff spot amongst non-victorious drivers. He’s 26 points ahead of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson (11th) and Erik Jones (27th). It was announced this week that Jones, driver of Gibbs’ No. 20 Toyota, would not return to the vehicle in 2021.
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Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeofffJMags