NASCAR: Kevin Harvick wins first half of Michigan doubleheader (Highlights)

Kevin Harvick took home his fifth NASCAR Cup Series win of the season, holding off Brad Keselowski at the latter’s home track.

The Detroit Tigers weren’t at Comerica Park on Saturday afternoon, but a closer nonetheless took to a Michigan landmark’s final stages to steal the show and secure a win.

The FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway saw three restarts over its final 18 laps ended with Kevin Harvick capturing his fifth victory of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. Harvick, the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, also earned his fourth win at MIS and the 54th triumph of his Cup career tying him with Lee Petty for the ninth-most all-time.

Harvick was upfront for a majority of the event, leading 92 of 156 laps and winning each of the race’s three stages. He had his hands full as the race reached its latter portions.

Saturday’s race, the first of a weekend doubleheader at Michigan, was the first regular season event to use the choose cone rule, which allows racers to pick their lane on restarts. The format has been a staple in other sanctioned auto racing events and made its unofficial NASCAR debut at the All-Star Race exhibition at Bristol earlier this summer. With this rule, drivers can improve or sacrifice their spot on the leaderboard, though they get to get up to speed in the lane they prefer. The top lane at Michigan, treated with the PJ1 traction compound, was the preferred lane of Harvick and the rest of the leaders.

Chase Elliott used the rule to his advantage to take a late lead, but Harvick took the lead back after the yellow came out for Ryan Preece’s scrape with the wall. Two more incidents, including a multi-car pile-up involving Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman that sent the race to overtime, set up one final chance for the rest of the field. Harvick was able to hold off a furious challenge from Brad Keselowski, who was seeking his second straight win and swipe the victory by a .284-second margin.

Martin Truex Jr. went from eighth to third over the two-lap dash, while Ryan Blaney came home fourth. Kyle Busch got loose after a fierce battle for the lead with Harvick but recovered to finish fifth.

The second half of the Michigan doubleheader will come on Sunday afternoon in the form of the Consumers Energy 400 (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Race Notes

  • Bubba Wallace (9th) earned his fourth top-ten finish of the season, setting a new career-high.

 

  • Aric Almirola (16th) saw his streak of consecutive top-ten finishes end at nine.

 

  • The starting lineup for Sunday’s race will be determined by inverting the top 20 finishers and the rest set by directly by final spot. By finishing 20th, Chris Buescher will start on the pole.

 

  • John Hunter Nemechek was involved in three on-track incidents, including a wreck that officially sent him to the garage at lap 131.

 

  • A brief red flag came out after Cole Custer wrecked at lap 150, lasting just under six minutes as fluid was cleared off the track.

For full results, click here

For full standings, click here

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Happy April Fools’: The Best Trick Plays in New York Jets History

With the nation in need of a laugh, ESM counts down the best practical jokes in the history of the New York Jets.

Alas, our current situation isn’t one that can be remedied by the powers that be declaring “April Fools”. But, we could certainly use a laugh, or at least an “ooh? or an “ahh” in this day and age.

ESM is happy to pick up the slack on this, the first day of April. We present the New York Jets’ greatest examples of the trick play…football’s version of the practical joke:

1/3/87: Walker This Way

(skip to 16:34)

You’d perhaps never expect the Jets and Cleveland Browns to create one of the most memorable games in NFL postseason history. After all, the two are often regarded as the most cursed franchises in football. The Jets perhaps gave the game a fitting conclusion by blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter en route to a 23-20 loss in double overtime. Cleveland’s defense limited the Jets to less than 300 yards of offense and brought down Jets quarterbacks on nine occasions.

The Jets got the memorable game’s scoring off to a roaring start in the second quarter despite their problems on offense. Pat Ryan got things going with a toss to Freeman McNeil before the rusher tossed the ball back to him. Another Ryan toss, this one deeper and of the forward variety, landed in the arms of Wesley Walker to give the Jets the early lead. That single throw constituted nearly half of Ryan’s yardage output on the day (103 yards while splitting duties with Ken O’Brien).

10/6/91: Blair It Out

(skip to 31:44)

Four years after suffering that heartbreaking playoff defeat at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the Jets created deja vu all over again. Green trickery allowed them to break another scoreless tie in the second quarter. A throw from a running back was involved, but unlike McNeil, Blair Thomas got a chance to show off his downfield prowess.

As the Jets entered the Cleveland red zone, Thomas took a handoff from O’Brien. The Browns defense converged on Thomas, who mustered only 13 yards on eight carries during the afternoon. He more than made up for it on the 16-yard floater to Rob Moore. The sophomore receiver was left wide open in the lingering infield of the Cleveland Indians and caught the “pop-up” to give the Jets the lead. Gaining a quantum of revenge, the Jets topped the Browns 17-14.

Thomas’ toss was the only throw of his NFL career. He’s one of three Jets (along with fellow rushers McNeil and Curtis Martin) to have a  perfect “touchdown percentage”.

9/24/00: Wayne’s World

(skip to 1:42)

At the turn of the century, Keyshawn Johnson was apparently not pleased with how often he was getting “the damn ball”. The Jets traded the top overall pick of the 1996 draft to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in April 2000. One of Johnson’s parting gifts was some harsh criticisms of Wayne Chrebet. The undrafted receiver was making a name for himself by becoming the quintessential NFL success story, but Johnson labeled the Hofstra alum as a “mascot” in his aforementioned autobiography.

Chrebet and the Jets didn’t have to wait long to serve Johnson’s words back to him. The schedulemaker placed the Jets’ interconference showdown with Tampa in the September portion. Both teams entered 3-0 and Johnson continued to run his mouth, saying comparing him to Chrebet was “like comparing a flashlight to a star”.

In the end, Chrebet earned the last laugh as the recipient of one of the most electrifying moments in Jets history. A Vinny Testaverde handoff to Martin seemed questionable with the clock running in the final minute, but Martin suddenly launched am 18-yard pass that landed in the bare hands of Chrebet, who snuck by defenders Damien Robinson and Brian Kelly. That score allowed the Jets to complete a quick comeback after trailing 17-6 within the final two minutes. Johnson was forced to wash down his serving of humble pie with a mere one-yard output in the 21-17 New York victory.

Martin is the only Jet in team history to a perfect passing touchdown percentage on multiple throws. His second and final toss came in a December 2001 loss to Pittsburgh.

10/23/00: An OT Sends It To OT

(skip to 10:03)

Offensive lineman may be the most underrated and undervalued position in all of sports. Anonymity is perhaps the blocker’s dearest friend. Create the hole for the quarterback or rusher, and the skill player gets the credit in terms of highlights and fantasy points. Failure to do so often introduces you to fans in the grimmest of ways. Entering the box score, much less the scoring summary, is a long-shot at best.

Jets offensive tackle Jumbo Elliott found a way to it in the most memorable way on a Monday night at the Meadowlands.

The final regulation touches on the Jets’ erasure of a 30-7 deficit to the Miami Dolphins was Elliott’s three-yard touchdown catch from Testaverde on a tackle-eligible play. It certainly didn’t come easy…Elliott bobbled the ball throughout the process…but after replay deliberation, the game was allowed to continue after referee Walt Coleman approved the catch. John Hall wound up finishing the “Monday Night Miracle” with a 40-yard field goal to give the Jets a 40-37 win.

They say things are bigger on Monday night, and, in Elliott’s case, that axiom came literally. His catch (the only reception of his career) allowed him to become the heaviest player in Monday Night Football’s history to score a touchdown.

The Jets’ official social media accounts adapted the classic game into a Twitter-friendly setting earlier this week. 

10/14/12: What Might’ve Been

(skip to 2:06)

Tim Tebow’s New York saga was perhaps the most attention ever devoted to a personal protector. For all the pomp and circumstance behind that chaotic year, no one in the metropolitan area seemed to truly find an established role for Tebow. His spot on the Jets’ punting unit offered the sole form of green consistency.

Tebow’s longest New York play from scrimmage came on special teams in a midseason visit from Indianapolis. The Jets led 14-6 but were forced to punt in the latter stages of the second quarter. Needing 11 yards for the first, Tebow helped the Jets earn 23. He would navigate a quickly collapsing pocket before finding linebacker Nick Bellore wide open in the middle of the pair. Colts back deep brought him down, but the Jets situated well enough to set a pre-halftime touchdown from Mark Sanchez to Jason Hill. The Jets would up crushing the Colts 35-9 after momentum was permanently shifted to their side.

11/13/16: Varsity Green

The Jets welcomed fans from a galaxy far, far away last season when they hosted their first-ever Star Wars-themed day at MetLife Stadium last fall. It was hardly the first time cinematic exploits graced the East Rutherford field.

Closing on a scoring opportunity against the Los Angeles Rams, the Jets wound up punching it in on a play similar to one displayed in the climax of the 1999 coming-of-age high school football drama Varsity Blues. A Bryce Petty pass went to Brandon Marshall, but he immediately tossed the ball over to Bilal Powell on a hook-and-ladder surprise. The perplexed Rams could do nothing stop Powell’s score that gave the Jets a lead in the second quarter. It served as a moment of lateral redemption for Marshall, whose previous attempt…could’ve gone better. 

The Jets’ fortunes were unfortunately not tied to those of the West Canaan High School Coyotes. Powell’s magic score accounted for their only points of the game in a 9-6 loss.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags