Kevin Harvick makes it a double, adding Consumers Energy 400 win to MIS victory haul
Brooklyn, Mich. — Kevin Harvick continued his dominance at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday evening, earning the first doubleheader sweep in NASCAR Cup Series history by holding off Denny Hamlin to win the Consumers Energy 400 to reach Victory Lane for the second straight day.
Harvick, 44, is now the three-time champion of the Consumers Energy 400, winning the August race at the two-mile superspeedway in 2018 and ’19 as well.
On Saturday, Harvick led 92 of 160 laps in his No. 4 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing to win the FireKeepers Casino 400 with Rochester Hills' native Brad Keselowski finishing second.
The doubleheader took place after June’s FireKeepers Casino 400 was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing the race back nearly two months.
Sunday’s race was shortened to 312 miles due to the doubleheader. Both races were run without spectators and the drivers didn’t have practice sessions or qualifying this weekend.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve raced back-to-back days let alone in the Cup Car,” Harvick said. “I’ve never accomplished that obviously, but we’ve done that a couple times this year (earned a win in doubleheader at Pocono), so I think for us it’s worked out pretty well. We’re hoping it goes the same way at Dover when we go there in a couple of weeks.”
The top 20 finishers from Race No. 1 was inverted for Sunday’s start with Clint Bowyer — Harvick’s SHR teammate — leading all 40 laps of Stage 1, showing how fast his team was by building a three-second lead over Christopher Bell, who was followed by Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron and Michigan native Erik Jones.
Harvick battled his way through the field from his 20th starting spot, busting his way into the top-10 by lap 16 and finishing eighth at the end of Stage 1.
Then, Harvick took over in Stage 2, overtaking Kyle Busch and Byron for the lead on the restart to start the stage after a great pit stop, then running from the front for every lap to win the stage which ended at lap 85, building a three-second lead over Keselowski who was followed by Busch, Bell, Bowyer, Hamlin, Jones, Aric Almirola, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney.
Then, things got interesting early in the third and final stage with Blaney taking the lead from Harvick who was soon also overtaken by Keselowski.
Coming out of Turn 4, Keselowski was battling Blaney, his Team Penske teammate, when Keselowski drifted up from his inside position and his No. 2 Ford Mustang collided with Blaney, taking them both out of a chance at Victory Lane.
Keselowski, who earned Roger Penske his first NASCAR Cup title in 2012, was in search of his first win on his home track. He entered Sunday’s race 0-for-22.
Keselowski nor Blaney would get the opportunity to challenge Harvick the rest of the way.
“I just lost it, I feel terrible for him,” said Keselowski of taking out Blaney. “I just came off of Turn 4 and the 4 car (Harvick) was behind me and he gave me a push and I swear I went into the corner like 20 miles an hour faster than I had been all day and got past the 11 (Hamlin) and I went to get underneath the 12 (Blaney) and I just slipped. I just hate it, he didn’t deserve that, I wish I could take it back, but I can’t.”
Said Blaney: “He got loose under me. I couldn’t see much, but he got on a run, I was up in the middle, he was in the bottom, just slipped up I guess, unfortunate. It stinks that two Penske cars got taken out, really fast cars. It was just unfortunate.”
Harvick broke away from Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin and Martin Truex on the final restart with 15 laps remaining, then survived Hamlin’s impressive run during the final laps when he first got to Harvick’s bumper heading into Turn 2 with two laps to go, then out of the final turn, but fell short both times.
It was Harvick’s fifth win at MIS overall, also his 55th career win, matching Rusty Wallace for 10th all-time in NASCAR Cup history. Wallace was also a five-time winner at MIS.
Hamlin was searching for his sixth win this season as well. Hamlin and Harvick split the doubleheader, each earning wins at Pocono in late June.
“We had a good day, just took us a little bit longer to get up to the front,” Hamlin said. “We geared up our car a little bit more towards the end of this race than the beginning and it kind of showed up that way. We did a good job of adjusting and once we got to the front we were able to show the speed we had. Overall it was a good day and I was happy that we were able to give it a charge there, just came up a little short.”
Jones, a 24-year-old native of Byron, Michigan who was told earlier this week that his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing wouldn’t be renewed, finished 27th and will more than likely need a win in the next four races to earn a playoff spot where 16 drivers fight it out for the series championship in the final 10 races. Ten drivers have already made the field by winning at least one race.
Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, who will retire after this season, finished 11th.
Most wins at MIS
►David Pearson — 9 (first in August 1969, final in August 1978)
►Cale Yarborough — 8 (first in June 1969, last with sweep in 1983)
►Bill Elliott — 7 (six in eight-race span, including sweeps in ’85 and ’86)
►Mark Martin — 5 (first in August 1990, last in June 2009)
►Rusty Wallace — 5 (first in June 1988, final in August 2000)
►Kevin Harvick — 5 (first in August 2010)