Kevin Harvick ends 65-carry drought with 6th win at Michigan

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — Kevin Harvick has found his groove, deservedly so on one of his favorite tracks.

Harvick ended a 65-race winless drought that lasted nearly two years with his sixth victory at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.

“Good timing, of course,” he said.

Harvick’s victory upends the playoff race with just three races remaining in the regular season, leaving drivers little time to earn a berth in the 16-car playoffs, and boosts a veteran who entered weekend No. 17 in points.

“Anyone who doubted us doesn’t know us,” he said.

NASCAR has had 15 different cup winners this season. If there are two new winners in the last three races, a driver with a win will be eliminated from the 16-car playoff with a points-based tiebreaker. Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. are among the top 10 drivers in points, but they didn’t finish first to jeopardize their playoff positioning.

Harvick’s #4 Ford pulled away from Bubba Wallace and the rest of the field after a restart with 35 laps to go at the FireKeepers Casino 400. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver took advantage of the clean air, the helping to claim his 59th victory, including five wins since 2018 at the two-mile oval in the Irish Hills area of ​​southern Michigan.

Harvick had not won since winning a NASCAR Cup Series post-season race on Sept. 19, 2020 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“It’s been a while,” he admitted. “Michigan has been a great place for us.”

Wallace finished second in his No. 23 Toyota – 2.9 seconds behind Harvick – followed by Denny Hamlin in his No. 11 Toyota.

“Seconds aren’t enough for the playoffs,” said Wallace, who needs to win one of the final three races of the regular season to earn a playoff berth.

Austin Cindric, who took the Daytona 500 for his first career victory, started the day No. 15 in points and finished last in the 37-car race after his No. 2 Ford hit the wall full whip in a nine-car crash that knocked Kyle Busch out of the competition.

“It was a complete mess,” he said.

SHELL BUBBA

Wallace took his first career pole on Saturday, becoming the only driver to top 190mph in the Next Gen car in qualifying this season and went even faster at the start of the race after a 90-minute rain delay.

Wallace, driving 23XI Racing formed by Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin in 2020, stayed ahead until he pitted after 21 laps – two shy of his career high – and the decision that cost him the track position due to an accident shortly after that included a quarter of the field.

Wallace blamed himself for letting Harvick walk away after the last decisive restart.

“I’m going to wear this one on my heart for a while,” he said, holding back tears. “I let everyone down.”

BUSCH’S BAD DAY

Busch had another frustrating day, being knocked out of the race on lap 25 due to multiple cars crashing following a restart which also ended Cindric’s day.

“I can’t buy a break right now,” said Busch, who was the favorite to win the race, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Busch has failed to finish in the top 10 in eight consecutive races, the longest streak of the two-time champion’s career, and he has no contract for next year. Three days before racing in Michigan, he, his wife and their two young children escaped from the Mall of America in Minnesota after shots were fired.

TIPS

Austin Hill made his Cup debut for Richard Childress Racing and finished 18th. … Kurt Busch missed his third straight race with concussion-like symptoms. Ty Gibbs, the 19-year-old grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs, took over and finished a career 10th in the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing. … Cole Custer’s No. 41 Ford had its left front tire engulfed in flames, ending its day mid-race a week after Chris Buescher’s No. 17 Ford caught fire. … Buescher’s paint job featured the LeBron James Family Foundation. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar is a minority owner of Fenway Sports Group, the parent company of Roush Fenway Keselowski, which hosted James Bromsey III, a sixth-grade student at his school I Promise in Akron, Ohio.

NEXT

NASCAR moves to Richmond Raceway in Virginia, one of the final three races of the regular season. Hamlin won at Richmond in April.

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