Streak Snapped – Kevin Harvick Finally Gets It Done, Wins at Michigan

The NASCAR Cup Series took a trip up north to the fastest track in the sport, Michigan International Speedway. With 14 winners already and only four races to go before the playoff field is set, action around the cut line is heating up big time. Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr currently occupy the final two spots, but we are only a surprise winner or two away from drivers within the top-5 in overall points not even making the playoffs.

Bubba Wallace picked up his first career Pole Award in the Cup Series with a blistering fast qualifying lap that blew the doors off the second place car of Christopher Bell by a full tenth and a half. Behind those two Toyotas were Kyle Busch and Joey Logano on row two, followed by Austin Cindric and Tyler Reddick.

The race also marked the Cup Series debut for RCR prospect Austin Hill, who rolled off 31st. Additionally, the current best prospect in the sport, Ty Gibbs, found himself piloting the 23XI #45 car again, as Kurt Busch remains out for the third consecutive race with a concussion.

The green flag waved a couple of hours behind schedule due to rain, but the weather cleared enough for the race to not be outright postponed.  

Ultimately it was Kevin Harvick who managed to run away with the lead late and flip the playoff picture on its head. It was his first win in the last 65 races, snapping what was by far the longest winless streak of his storied career.

Polesitter Bubba Wallace almost managed to pull off a similarly playoff picture altering win, but got held up by the slower car of Joey Logano for about 15 laps following the race’s final restart, and was unable to close the huge gap to Harvick, ultimately coming home second – his fourth consecutive top-10.

Wallace’s 23XI teammate Ty Gibbs collected his first career top-10, coming home 10th.

Martin Truex Jr. – who currently sits 4th in the regular season points – is just below the cut line, while 2nd place Ryan Blaney currently occupies the final spot. With three races and two true wild card tracks remaining – Watkins Glen and Daytona – it seems that we’re in in for a historically hectic playoff bubble battle.

AS IT HAPPENED:

Polesitter Bubba Wallace jumped to the lead when the green flag waved followed by Joey Logano and Tyler Reddick. Logano quickly fell back to the fringe of the top-10 as the balance of his car was not to his liking.

A competition caution flew on lap 20 with Bubba Wallace maintaining a lead of over a second. Pit stops under yellow saw a 11 cars stay out on track. Among the drivers that stayed out were Christopher Bell, Erik Jones Denny Hamlin, and Martin Truex Jr.

The green flag flew, and a huge wreck ensued right in the middle of the field going into turn 1 as JJ Yeley – who didn’t pit under the competition yellow – got loose just ahead of Michael McDowell, sending both cars spinning. Other notable drivers heavily involved included Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Austin Cindric – who took a huge, head on shot to the outside wall, thankfully climbing out on his own power.

The green flag came back out with 13 to go in the stage and Christopher Bell still leading.

Stage 1 results:

  1. Christopher Bell
  2. Denny Hamlin
  3. Erik Jones
  4. Martin Truex Jr.
  5. Chris Buescher
  6. Ross Chastain
  7. William Byron
  8. Kevin Harvick
  9. Joey Logano
  10. Chase Briscoe

Stage break pit stops saw Ross Chastain win the race off pit road, followed by Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, and Bubba Wallace. Ty Gibbs and Corey Lajoie were the only two cars that stayed on track.

The green flag came back out on lap 52. Both cars that stayed out started on the outside, which allowed Ross Chastain to immediately take the lead.

With 76 to go, old friends Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin were running 1-2, followed by Christopher Bell. After a few laps of nerve-wracking battling, Chastain all but let Hamlin by, allowing the #11 to take the lead.

With about 30 to go in the stage, green flag stops started in earnest. During Ross Chastain’s pit stop, two tires rolled away from his stall during his stop, one of which rolled to the middle of pit road. That loose tire led to a pass through penalty for Chastain, who had been running third.

With 23 to go in the stage, Cole Custer’s left front tire went ablaze on the back stretch, yielding a caution. Custer limped the car to pit road, where a large fire ensued. Custer was able to get out of the car safely. The timing of the caution was great for a handful of cars that had yet to pit, including Erik Jones, Chris Buescher, and Daniel Suarez. Bubba Wallace would get the free pass, with everyone from 20th back having to take the wave around.

Coming to the green, Tyler Reddick had to pull off to pit road with engine problems, ending his day early. Meanwhile up front, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick battled for the lead, with Hamlin ultimately taking control.

With 12 to go in the stage, the caution flew for Noah Gragson who sustained heavy damage following a solo spin and contact with the outside wall. Gragson crab-walked the Kaulig Racing #16 back to pit road, with the damage ultimately ending his day. Kevin Harvick and Christopher Bell – who were running 2nd & 3rd – pitted for fuel, along with a few others.

When the green flag flew again, Denny Hamlin ran away with the stage win – his third stage win of the year.

Stage 2 results:

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Kyle Larson
  3. Daniel Suarez
  4. Christopher Bell
  5. Brad Keselowski
  6. Erik Jones
  7. Austin Dillon
  8. Alex Bowman
  9. William Byron
  10. Joey Logano

Stage break pit stops followed for about half the field. Kyle Larson was caught speeding on pit road, and was sent to the rear.

Daniel Suarez inherited the lead under yellow, followed by Christopher Bell, Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, and Ty Gibbs. With 75 to go, the green flag came back out with Daniel Suarez maintaining the lead over Christopher Bell, as the two would engage in a closely contested battle for the next several laps.

Bell would take a shot for the lead with 56 to go, but couldn’t complete the pass – allowing Ross Chastain to move into second, giving Trackhouse first and second in the running order.

With 49 to go, the final round of green flag stops began. With 44 to go both Suarez and Chastain headed for pit road. As the two Trackhouse cars got back onto the track however, Chastain and Christopher Bell made contact exiting turn four as Bell made what appeared to be an ill-advised block attempt on Chastain, bringing out a caution. Neither cars had their days ended, but Bell suffered significant damage, and Chastain would be trapped a lap down.

The rest of the field would come down pit road under yellow. It appeared as though Denny Hamlin, Bubba Wallace, and Kyle Larson all held serve in the top-3 – however, Hamlin was penalized for having too many men over the wall. Kevin Harvick and Bubba Wallace would lead the field to green with 35 to go.

Hard fighting for second place between Bubba Wallace, Kyle Larson, and Joey Logano – who nearly sent the aforementioned pair spinning – allowed Harvick to jump out to a huge lead. Logano then went on the “park the bus” in front of the faster car of Wallace for about 15 laps. With 18 to go Wallace finally managed to get by Logano, but it was too late as he found himself in a 4.5 second hole behind Harvick.

With 5 laps to go, Daniel Suarez had a tire go down, but a caution would not fly.

Ultimately, Harvick would go on to cruise to his first win of the year, and his first in the last 65 races.

Final results:

  1. Kevin Harvick
  2. Bubba Wallace
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Joey Logano
  5. Ryan Blaney
  6. Martin Truex Jr
  7. Kyle Larson
  8. Erik Jones
  9. Alex Bowman
  10. Ty Gibbs
  11. Chase Elliott
  12. William Byron
  13. Austin Dillon
  14. Ty Dillon
  15. Brad Keselowski
  16. Chris Buescher
  17. Justin Haley
  18. Austin Hill
  19. Corey Lajoie
  20. Chase Briscoe
  21. Josh Bilicki
  22. Cody Ware
  23. BJ McLeod
  24. Ross Chastain
  25. Daniel Suarez
  26. Christopher Bell
  27. Todd Gilliland
  28. Michael McDowell
  29. Tyler Reddick
  30. Noah Gragson
  31. Cole Custer
  32. Harrison Burton
  33. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  34. Aric Almirola
  35. J.J. Yeley
  36. Kyle Busch
  37. Austin Cindric

Published by Walker Skeeter

Walker is a 4th year climatology PhD candidate at the University of Delaware. Despite being a climate scientist, Walker has been a NASCAR fan for over 20 years! His favorite drivers are Bubba Wallace, Tyler Reddick, and Alex Bowman in cup, and AJ Allmendinger, Tommy Joe Martins, and Ryan Vargas in Xfinity. Outside of racing, he enjoys talking about (and studying) the weather, watching Baltimore sports, and playing video games.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: