Race Weekend Central

Kevin Harvick Breaks Winless Streak with Michigan Victory

Can we call him “the Closer” again?

Sunday (Aug. 7) at the Michigan International Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series Firekeepers Casino 400, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick punched his ticket to the playoffs, scoring his 59th career win. The victory is his first of 2022 and broke a 65-race winless streak dating back to Oct. 2020.

As other front-runners fell by the wayside late, a clutch restart performance from the 46-year-old with just 34 laps remaining let him open up a massive gap on the battle for second, and Harvick cruised his way to his sixth Michigan victory.

“Good timing for sure,” Harvick told NBC’s Marty Snider from the frontstretch, after celebrating with his daughter Piper, just as he did with son Keelan after winning at this track in 2019. “We’ve had several good runs the last few weeks … where the car ran good and just didn’t have everything work out. I’m just really proud of everybody on our Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang … our guys have done a good job in trying to take what we have, maximize it and do the things that we need to do”

He followed up, “everybody who doubted us doesn’t know us … we thrive in these types of situations.”

After starting from his first career pole, 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace ended the day second, his fourth consecutive top-10 finish and third top five in the last four races. Denny Hamlin recovered from a late pit penalty to third, with Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney completing the top five. Despite a sixth-place run, Martin Truex Jr. suddenly finds himself on the outside of the playoffs, while Kyle Larson, Erik Jones and Alex Bowman in seventh, eighth and ninth were the only Chevrolets in the top 10.

In only his third Cup start, Ty Gibbs scored the final top-10 position, the first of his young career.

NASCAR had scheduled the green flag for 3 p.m. ET, but Mother Nature had other ideas. Eventually, the sun came out and fans were treated to a thrilling afternoon of racing in the Great Lakes State.

Aided by a push from Logano on the start, Wallace rocketed out to an early lead. He opened up a one-and-a-half second gap on second-place Tyler Reddick by the lap 21 competition caution.

Split strategies at the first yellow put fast cars at the back of the pack and slower cars up front. That proved a recipe for disaster, as contact between Michael McDowell and JJ Yeley sent Austin Cindric hard into the outside wall in the center of turns 1 and 2. Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were eliminated with suspension damage in a pileup that also collected rookies Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland

Cindric, along with the other drivers eliminated, was checked and released from the care center. 

Staying out proved the right call for Christopher Bell, who held strong on old tires to claim the second stage win of his career ahead of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Hamlin.

Gibbs stayed out to lead his first Cup Series laps under yellow, but Ross Chastain got a solid shove on the lap 51 restart to take the lead. 

By lap 76, Hamlin had moved into second, closing fast. Four laps later, a shove from Bell down the front straight let the No. 11 sweep around the outside of the No. 1 and take the lead for the first time all afternoon. 

Chastain fell back further on the green-flag pit cycle, as his Trackhouse Racing Team pit crew got the No. 1 car a penalty for not one, but two uncontrolled tires. 

Running long proved a smart move for Jones, Daniel Suarez and others, as a caution for Cole Custer’s flat tire (and ensuing left-front fire) fell smack in the middle of the pit cycle. 

Gibbs, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Bowman were among those to take the wave around.

As the old saying goes, cautions breed cautions. Just three laps after the restart, Kaulig Racing’s Noah Gragson had a hard hit on the backstretch. Gragson was running 12th at the time of the crash after battling inside the top five early. 

“Had a really strong run going all day,” Gragson told Frontstretch’s Mark Kristl from outside the infield care center. “Ran within the top five … fell back there on the restart and was trying to get up, got super tight in the guys’ wake … and wrecked.

“This is the best I’ve ever run in the Cup Series, so the Kaulig guys had a lot of speed. Definitely disappointed in myself … we’re out here to learn and finish these races … I just got a little too greedy there.”

With good defense in the final six laps of the stage, Hamlin took the green-and-white checkers for his third stage win of the season, adding that all-important playoff point to his total. 

While some leaders pitted, including stage winner Hamlin, Larson and Wallace, Suarez stayed out, making a three-wide power move to take the lead on the restart. 

For what surely felt like dozens of laps, Suarez fended off second-place Bell. The side-by-side action eventually drew in third-place Chastain, and with a little teamwork on the frontstretch with 57 to go, the Trackhouse Racing duo found themselves first and second. 

But Hamlin was coming. Not long after he took third place from a fading Bell, the Trackhouse teammates jumped to pit road with 44 circuits remaining. With a stop a few tenths faster, Chastain moved into a promising position. 

Somehow, it all went wrong for the front four. A late block from Bell on the temporarily lap-down Chastain sent the SiriusXM Toyota into the frontstretch wall, tearing the right-front bodywork off the No. 20 car. The caution trapped Chastain a lap down and sent Suarez to the back of the pack with the free pass. 

Then, on the pit stop, the No. 11 team was penalized for too many men over the wall. 

With 34 laps to go, Harvick restarted on the outside. Leaving Wallace, Logano and Larson to squabble over second, Harvick put the hammer down. The Busch Light Mustang roared out to a four and a half second lead. 

Despite Wallace’s speed on long runs and a flat tire on Suarez’s No. 99, Harvick stayed in clean air and the track stayed green, enough for Harvick to take the victory by just over three and a half seconds.

2022 Cup Series Michigan Results

Harvick is the 15th different winner from 23 races, a record in the playoff era, and with the victory he vaults his way into the top sixteen. Only one spot remains on points with three races to go in the regular season, currently occupied by Blaney, who holds a narrow 19-point lead over Martin Truex Jr.

With three races remaining before the playoffs, the NASCAR Cup Series travels next week to the three-quarter-mile short track at Richmond Raceway for the Federated Auto Parts 400, airing Sunday (Aug. 14) at 3 p.m. ET on USA.

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Echo

Even though the waltrips named Heavick the close, I know the real closer was Jimmie Johnson. They raced during the same period and Jimmie closed the door on Harvick in wins and championships. But if some writers love the Waltrips, they will keep saying Kevin is the closer and we all will laugh at them, knowing it was really JJ. The end, point made, no need to comment on a fact.

kb

No, he is not “The Closer” anymore. Hasn’t been in some time. Just stop.

Kevin is a tool. Always has been, his butthole is always slammed shut to man up and thank the people who helped in a race to get that win, he may or may not have gotten. Fact. Many times, no words. And he does it on purpose. What a tool.

John

I tried to listen to the Sirius NASCAR channel this morning ( they almost always have good recaps and info on Monday mornings). Today, I had to turn it off. Just about all they talked about was how poor Wallace didn’t win and how emotional he was. I don’t care if he’s green, black, or orange–he’s just another race car driver. TV, please quit shoving him in our faces. He deserves no less nor no more time than other drivers this morning who didn’t win yesterday.They made bare mention of Blaney or Truex. I am pretty sure they weren’t happy with not winning yesterday, too.

DoninAjax

It’s Danica all over again! I almost cried tears (of joy) when he didn’t win.

Dale EarnHog

Bubba is easily better than Danica. When was the last time you saw her in contention for the win? The ONLY time I ever remember her being a serious contender for a race win was at Talladega in the fall of 2014.

DoninAjax

Maybe Bubba should try Indycar. He might win a rain-shortened race there too or a fuel-mileage race in Japan.

Dale EarnHog

Maybe you should try doing something on this site other than hating on Bubba or just being plain negative. You might be happier and even realize that “NA$CAR” is something we all enjoy, not something we all come to this site to complain about.

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