• Sat. Apr 1st, 2023

Kevin Harvick snaps winless streak

ByMichael Manny

Aug 7, 2022

Photo courtesy of Mike Mulholland | Getty Images

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick came into Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway 96 points below the cutline and riding a 65-race winless streak. 

In one afternoon, Harvick erased nearly two years of frustration and close calls to earn his first victory since Sept. 19, 2020 in a rain-delayed FireKeepers Casino 400.

After leading just 13 laps all year, the win vaults the 46-year-old Harvick into the playoffs in a clutch performance. It’s Harvick’s sixth victory at Michigan, a track he has been dominant at throughout his career.

Harvick has struggled at times this season adjusting to the Next Gen car. Through it all, he and his team never doubted themselves. 

“Everybody who doubted us doesn’t know us,” Harvick said, laughing, to NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “They obviously know that we thrive in these types of situations, and a lot of things went our way today, which we haven’t had all year long things go our way.” 

Harvick led 38 laps, tied with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin for the race-high. 

Starting the race from pole position for the first time at the Cup level, 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace led the race’s first 22 laps and finished second. That finish gives Wallace his fourth top five this season, a career-best. 

Wallace was visibly upset after the race while talking to NBC Sports’ Parker Kligerman. 

“Replayed everything I could have done, took the top there on the restart, thought I could hang with the four and just got to racing the five and the 22,” Wallace said. “22 did a good job of getting another Ford contract, helping a Ford win.

“She was fast all week, man. I’ll wear this on my heart for a while. I failed everybody.” 

Due to rain and lightning, the race was delayed over an hour, with concern that the weather would not clear up. However, the weather cleared up and the entire 200 laps were run. 

Once engines were eventually fired and cars got on the track, Wallace led the field to green, leading the first 22 laps. During the competition caution that was implemented due to rain, Wallace elected to pit from the lead. He would be making up ground the rest of the day, leading just one more lap. 

Just after the field returned to green on lap 24, the No. 15 of JJ Yeley got loose in turn 2, causing a massive wreck involving a chunk of the field:

  • Kyle Busch (No. 18) 
  • Austin Cindric (No. 2)
  • Aric Almirola (No. 10)
  • Harrison Burton (No. 21)
  • Michael McDowell (No. 34)
  • Todd Gilliland (No. 38)
  • Ty Gibbs (No. 45)
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 47)

The wreck ended Busch, Cindric, Almirola, Burton and Stenhouse’s days. It also extended Busch’s streak without a top 10 finish to eight-consecutive races. McDowell ran 187 laps, finishing 13 laps down in 28th, while Gilliland finished 12 laps down in 27th. 

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, who took the lead on lap 22, held onto it to earn the Stage 1 win. 

Gibbs, driving the No. 45 in place of Kurt Busch for the third-straight week, hit a milestone prior to the Stage 2 restart. By staying out, he led his first two laps at the Cup level. 

Gibbs led the field into Turn 1 on the restart, but was quickly passed by Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain. Despite starting the race in 22nd, Chastain quickly moved through the field, and held the lead for the next 29 laps. 

Bell made his way back towards Chastain, and pushed his JGR teammate Hamlin to the lead on lap 80. 

The field would make green flag pit stops later on in the stage, with Chastain being penalized for an uncontrolled tire. He served a pass-through. 

In the middle of the green flag stops, SHR No. 41 Cole Custer blew out a left-front tire, which burst into flames, drawing a caution. Due to this, several drivers who had pitted were put a lap down. 

Tyler Reddick, last week’s winner on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, exited the race due to engine trouble. 

Noah Gragson, running part-time for Kaulig Racing, had one of his best runs of the season, spending time in the top five, briefly as high as third. Gragson then hit the wall and spun in Turn 2, however, bringing out the race’s third caution for cause and ending his day. 

Hamlin took the lead back on lap 103, holding on to it to win Stage 2. Instead of pitting again like some of the field late in the stage, Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart made the decision to stay out for the points and stage win.

Daniel Suárez led the field to the final stage restart, holding it for 18 laps. In yet another outstanding showing for Trackhouse, their cars ran 1-2 at one point in the stage. Chastain finished 24th while Suarez finished 25th. 

Throughout practice and qualifying, Toyota looked like the manufacturer to beat, but bad luck struck nearly their entire camp throughout the race. 

Later in the stage, Hamlin was penalized for a safety violation after an extra crew member came onto pit road to grab a loose tire. It was Hamlin’s 31st pit road penalty this season, according to the broadcast. Bell stayed near the front, but hit the wall hard in Turn 4 with 41 to go. 

Harvick stayed out late in the final stage while much of the rest of the field pitted. He led the pack into the restart with 35 to go, and didn’t relinquish it.

With Harvick’s victory, JGR’s Martin Truex Jr. has fallen below the playoff cutline. Only one spot remains for drivers to clinch on points. 

The series next heads to Richmond Raceway for the Federated Auto Parts 400 next Sunday, Aug. 14, at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be on USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. 

NOTE: Post-race inspection is complete in the NASCAR Cup Series garage. There were no issues, confirming Harvick as the winner. The cars of Chase Elliott & Denny Hamlin will return to the NASCAR R&D Center for teardown.


Points report