Like his run from a day earlier at Michigan International Speedway, Kevin Harvick had a fast car and had to fight off all comers to earn a victory. That was the case on Sunday, August 9, when Harvick held off a late challenge from Denny Hamlin in the final laps to win the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan and to sweep both Cup races at the Irish Hills on the same weekend. The victory was Harvick’s sixth of this season, fifth at Michigan and the 55th of his Cup Series career.
The starting lineup was based on the results from Saturday’s Cup race at Michigan, where the top-20 finishers were inverted while the latter 20 competitors started as finished on Saturday. Chris Buescher, who finished 20th, was scheduled to start on pole position, but he started at the rear of the field in a backup car. As a result, William Byron and Clint Bowyer, both of whom finished 14th and 19th on Saturday, started on the front row and led the field to the start on Sunday.
In addition to Buescher, the following competitors, including Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, rookie Tyler Reddick, Aric Almirola, Michael McDowell, Ryan Preece, rookie John Hunter Nemechek and rookie Cole Custer, started at the rear of the field in backup cars. Rookie Brennan Poole also started at the rear of the field for an engine change, Daniel Suarez and Reed Sorenson both dropped to the rear of the field due to failing pre-race inspection twice and Josh Bilicki started at the rear of the field due to a driver change.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Byron and Bowyer battled dead even for the lead with Bowyer squeaking ahead to lead the first lap. Behind, Austin Dillon was assessed a pass-through penalty for unapproved adjustments made on the grid prior to the race.
The following lap, Jimmie Johnson and Matt DiBenedetto overtook Byron for position with rookie Christopher Bell, Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones and Kurt Busch trailing behind. By then, Bowyer was ahead with the lead by nearly half a second.
By the fifth lap, Kyle Busch muscled his way up to seventh after overtaking brother Kurt and Wallace in Turn 2 a lap earlier. Behind, Ryan Blaney was in ninth, Chase Elliott was in 11th ahead of Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. Denny Hamlin was in 17th, teammate Martin Truex Jr. was in 19th and Tyler Reddick was in 20th ahead of Alex Bowman. Rookie Cole Custer was in 25th ahead of Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez.
Five laps later and 10 laps into the race, Bowyer stabilized his early advantage by more than a second over Johnson followed by Bell, DiBenedetto, Byron and Jones. Two laps later, Bell, the fastest competitor on the track, moved into the runner-up spot after passing Johnson. Another lap later, Johnson lost momentum entering Turn 3 and fell back to sixth place while being overtaken by DiBenedetto, Byron and Jones.
By Lap 15, Harvick, winner of Saturday’s Cup Michigan race, cracked the top 10 after passing Wallace. Ahead of him, Kyle Busch was in eighth ahead of Blaney while Logano, Elliott, Keselowski and Hamlin were running in 12th through 15th.
Five laps later and 20 laps into the race, Bowyer was still leading by more than two seconds over Bell, who continued to chop off Bowyer’s advantage. DiBenedetto was still in third place while Byron and Jones battled for fourth. The Busch brothers followed suit while Blaney and Harvick were in eighth and ninth. Johnson, meanwhile, had fallen back to 10th with Logano lingering behind him. By then, Wallace was in 15th ahead of Reddick, Truex was in 24th behind Almirola and Austin Dillon was back in 33rd place following his opening lap pass-through penalty.
With the laps in the first stage dwindling, Bowyer and his No. 14 DEKALB Ford Mustang were still ahead and cruising by three seconds over Bell and his No. 95 Procore Toyota Camry. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&M’s Fudge Brownie Toyota Camry continued to work towards the front as he moved into third place followed by Jones, Byron and DiBenedetto. Blaney was in seventh followed by Harvick, one of the fastest competitors on the track. Kurt Busch was in ninth while Logano was in 10th ahead of Johnson, Elliott, Hamlin and Keselowski. Reddick was in 17th behind Wallace while Truex was stuck back in 22nd.
With no competition trailing behind him for the lead, Bowyer was able to navigate his way through lapped traffic and cruise to the first stage win on Lap 40 while claiming his third stage win of the season and crucial stage points towards making the Playoffs. Bell settled in second place followed by Kyle Busch, DiBenedetto and Jones. Byron, Blaney, Harvick, Kurt Busch and Logano settled in the top 10.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Kyle Busch emerged with the lead after exiting pit road first following a stellar stop by the No. 18 M&M’s crew. Harvick moved up to second place followed by teammate Bowyer, Byron and Jones. Following the first round of pit stops, Blaney, who was in the top 10, made another pit stop to fill up the fuel tank of his No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang.
Prior to the restart and with the choose rule implemented, Byron moved up from fourth to second place and restarted beneath Kyle Busch on the front row, Johnson moved up from seventh to restart in third place alongside Harvick in the second row and Bowyer dropped back to sixth to restart on the outside lane in the third row alongside Logano.
The second stage started on Lap 47 and Kyle Busch jumped to an early advantage with drafting help from Harvick. Not long after, Harvick made a three-wide move on Kyle Busch and Byron entering Turn 2 to take the lead and pull away. Busch settled in second followed by Bowyer, Byron and Jones. A lap later, Keselowski made his way into the top five after moving up to fourth. Behind, Bell was back in eighth following a slow stop under the first stage break.
By Lap 60 and with less than 100 laps remaining of the overall race, Harvick was leading by more than a second over Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Bowyer was in fourth followed by Bell, Jones, Logano, DiBenedetto, Elliott and Hamlin. Kurt Busch was in 11th followed by Almirola and Byron, Johnson and Bowman. Blaney was in 18th behind Reddick and ahead of Truex and Wallace. Matt Kenseth and Newman were in 16th and 23rd.
Ten laps later, Harvick, who started to approach lapped traffic, was still ahead of the field by two seconds over Keselowski and more than three seconds over Kyle Busch. Bell was still in fourth place followed by Bowyer, Jones, Hamlin, Logano, Elliott and Almirola. Johnson and Byron were back in 14th and 15th behind Blaney while Truex was in 17th.
At the halfway mark on Lap 78, Harvick extended his advantage to more than three seconds over Keselowski with Kyle Busch trailing by more than four seconds, Bell by nearly six seconds and Bowyer by nearly seven seconds. Like his race-winning performance from Saturday and with the same car he drove to yesterday’s win, Harvick was able to drive away from the field and easily claim the second stage on Lap 85 for his fifth stage victory of the season. Keselowski settled in second place followed by Kyle Busch, Bell and Bowyer. Hamlin, Jones, Almirola, Logano and Blaney were scored in the top 10.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Harvick retained the lead after exiting pit road first ahead of Kyle Busch. Keselowski, Bowyer and Hamlin exited in the top five followed by Bell. Prior to the restart, Hamlin moved up to the front row to restart beneath Harvick, Kyle Busch fell back to fourth to restart on the outside lane alongside Blaney. Elliott and Keselowski restarted behind on the third row followed by DiBenedetto and Bowyer.
Under 65 laps remaining, the final stage started under green. During the restart, Hamlin and Blaney boosted ahead with the lead and both competitors battled dead even before Blaney squeaked ahead with the top spot. Behind, Harvick and Hamlin battled for the runner-up spot followed by Elliott, Kyle Busch and Keselowski. Meanwhile, Bowman and Truex, both of whom struggled, were in 10th and 11th while Bowyer was in 12th ahead of Jones, Reddick and Bell. Byron was in 17th ahead of Kenseth while Johnson was in 20th behind Wallace.
With around 60 laps remaining, Keselowski, who muscled his way up to the runner-up spot, made a move beneath Blaney in Turn 1 and challenged for the lead when he got loose and slipped up into Blaney as both Penske teammates wrecked across the Turn 2 outside wall. With the caution returning, the wreck eliminated Blaney and Keselowski from race-winning contention and the overall race.
“I just lost it,” Keselowski said following his release from the infield care center on NBCSN. “It’s my fault. I feel really bad for my teammate, Ryan Blaney. He didn’t deserve that. I just came off of Turn 4 and [Harvick] was behind me. He gave me a push and I swear, I went into the corner like 20 mph faster than I had been all day. [I] Got pass [Hamlin] and went to get underneath [Blaney]. It just slipped, lost the back a little bit. I went to correct it and he was there, and I wiped him out and myself out.”
“It’s unfortunate for the whole Penske organization,” Blaney added. “We had two fast cars, battling for the lead. It stinks that happened. He had a run like he said. He didn’t think he had a big of a run as he had and just got loose and unfortunately, got us both. That’s a shame to end our day like that with the Knauf/Menards Ford Mustang. We were so fast…Got the lead…It’s unfortunate, but it’s not going to carry over. Mistakes happen.”
Under caution, Bowman made a pit stop after sustaining damage during the incident. Bowyer, who also sustained minimal damage to his car, remained on track inside the top 10. Prior to the restart, Kyle Busch moved up to restart beneath teammate Hamlin on the front row. Kurt Busch and Harvick restarted on the second row in front of Bell and Elliott.
The race restarted under green with 55 laps remaining and Harvick made his way back to the lead over Hamlin. Elliott moved into third followed by Kyle Busch and Almirola. Kurt Busch charged his way up to sixth followed by DiBenedetto, Truex, Johnson and Bell. Meanwhile, Bowyer, who sustained a tire rub during the restart, made an unscheduled pit stop and was trapped a lap behind the leaders.
Shortly after, the caution returned when Bell spun in Turn 2 after sustaining a flat tire. The caution was as a saving grace for Bowyer, who received the free pass and returned on the lead lap.
Under caution, nearly the entire field pitted and Hamlin exited pit road first after only taking fuel to his No. 11 FedEx Toyota, the first of many who elected to pit for only fuel. DiBenedetto exited in second after he also took only fuel to his car followed by Harvick, who opted for a two-tire stop. At the front, Almirola remained on track to inherit the lead, though he miscommunicated with his crew over code words and had meant to pit with the leaders.
When the race restarted with 47 laps remaining, teammates Almirola and Harvick battled for the lead with Harvick leading the following lap before Almirola cleared his teammate for the lead the next lap. Behind, DiBenedetto moved up to third place followed by Truex, who made a three-wide move on Kurt Busch and Hamlin to move into the top five for the first time. Logano was in seventh followed by Jones, Kyle Busch and Newman.
With 40 laps remaining, Harvick made his way back to the lead after passing Almirola, though Almirola and his No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang remained competitive on old tires and low fuel. Truex was up in third place followed by DiBenedetto and Hamlin. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch was in ninth ahead of Johnson and Jones, Austin Dillon was up to 13th, Byron was in 15th and Bowyer was in 18th.
Ten laps later and with 30 laps remaining, Harvick was still leading by two-tenths of a second over his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Almirola while Joe Gibbs Racing’s Truex and Hamlin battled for third place. Kurt Busch trailed by more than four seconds with brother Kyle up to sixth.
Seven laps later, with the leaders approaching lapped traffic, teammates Truex and Hamlin passed Almirola to move up to second and third with Truex trailing race leader Harvick by less than a second.
With less than 20 laps remaining, the caution returned due to debris from Bowman’s No. 88 Adam’s Polishes/ChevyGoods.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, who had sustained a flat tire entering Turn 4 and near the pit road entrance. The caution was as a saving grace for Almirola, who was on the brink of having to make an unscheduled pit stop under green.
Under caution, Almirola along with some that included DiBenedetto, Wallace, Kenseth, Michael McDowell, rookie John Hunter Nemechek, Ryan Preece and Daniel Suarez pitted while most of the leaders led by Harvick remained on track.
With 15 laps remaining, the race restarted under green with Harvick and Hamlin on the front row in front of Truex and Logano. At the restart, Harvick retained the lead while teammates Truex and Hamlin battled for the runner-up spot. Teammate Kyle Busch made his way to fourth after passing brother Kurt and with DiBenedetto behind.
Two laps later, Hamlin settled in the runner-up spot in front of teammates Truex and Kyle Busch. By then, Harvick was ahead by nearly a second. Meanwhile, Almirola, following his pit stop, was up to eighth on fresh tires behind Elliott.
With less than 10 laps remaining, Harvick was leading by six-tenths of a second over Hamlin, who was slowly closing in towards Harvick, while teammates Truex and Kyle Busch battled for third place. During this time, Bowman made another unscheduled pit stop after making contact with the wall and sustaining another flat tire.
With the laps dwindling, Hamlin continued to chop off Harvick’s advantage as he drew himself to being three-tenths of a second behind Harvick. While Hamlin remained within sight of Harvick’s rear bumper and made a few attempts to pass for the lead through the turns, Harvick was able to retain his advantage entering the straightaways.
With two laps remaining, Hamlin gained a run in Turn 1 when Harvick lifted, but he also lifted entering Turn 2 as Harvick stabilized his advantage to nearly three car lengths. On the final lap, Harvick was still ahead with Hamlin still lurking behind. In Turn 3, Harvick remained on the inside lane while Hamlin went on the outside lane. Entering Turn 4, Hamlin gained a huge run on Harvick and got to his rear bumper. With the checkered flag waving and the leaders coming across the finish line through the frontstretch, Harvick was able to beat Hamlin by 0.093 seconds to grab a thrilling win.
The victory was the 13th of the season for Ford, the manufacturer’s 42nd Cup victory since 2018 and the seventh of the season for Stewart-Haas Racing. With his two victories this weekend, Harvick tallied his top-five results of this season to 15 and top-10 results to 19. A day after tying the late Lee Petty for 11th place on the NASCAR Cup all-time wins list, Harvick has tied NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace for 10th place on the all-time wins list.
“It was a big challenge [on the battle with Hamlin],” Harvick said in Victory Lane on NBCSN. “Our Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang got really tight there in [Turns] 3 and 4. I could run really good through [Turns] 1 and 2 still, but I was just tight on that other end all day. I just got to thank all of my guys. They did a great job all weekend on pit road. Great pit calls. It’s been a long time since I’ve raced back-to-back days, let alone in the Cup car. I’ve never accomplished that, obviously, but we’ve done that a couple times this year. For us, it’s worked out pretty good. When you look at my team, we’ve been together for seven years now, and you look at the confidence that everybody has in each other, the details of the racecars and the thought of everything that goes into everything we do is untouchable.”
Hamlin settled in the runner-up spot for his 12th top-five result of this season as this also marks the ninth time where he has finished first or second this season. Teammates Truex and Kyle Busch finished third and fourth while Logano held off Almirola to finish fifth.
“Once we finally got to second, I knew we had something for [Harvick],” Hamlin said. “We got stalled there. He was tight, I was tight. We were better, that’s for sure. He just had the track position and could control the lanes there. [I] Wished I had Turns 1 and 2 to go do over again when we both lifted off of [Turn] 2 there. I should’ve faked low and went high, but I thought I could maybe get to the quarter panel and shoved him even higher. Just couldn’t quite do it, but proud of this whole FedEx Ground Toyota team. Obviously, a very strong run. We just needed a little bit more. Overall, I thought we just had a good-handling car and that’s what allowed us to keep pace there. I thought our whole team did a great job of adjusting overnight. We’re just plugging along here. [I] Really hate giving up wins to [Harvick]. I got tremendous respect for everyone on [the No. 4] team and Kevin. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve gotten wiser, learned to really appreciate what each other does on the race track and obviously, they’re have a great season as well.”
“We battled back,” Truex said. “The car was pretty far off to start the race. We’re all pretty disappointed in that, obviously. Really proud of the effort to get the Auto-Owners [Insurance] Camry back upfront. Just really proud of our race team. We keep bringing top-three cars to the race track and the Playoffs are coming. So, we need to keep doing that. Just off at the start and had to rebound. Definitely, a different story than yesterday but pretty much, the same result. I was doing all I could to get up there. I got too tight there at the end. Just fought the balance too much all day. Wicked loose to start and wicked tight at the end. We’ll keep digging.”
Almirola, DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Elliott and Kurt Busch rounded out the top 10. Jimmie Johnson finished 11th in his final run at Michigan while Bowyer ended his run in 14th place.
There were 10 lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured five cautions for 24 laps.
With two victories this weekend and with four regular-season races remaining until the start of the 2020 Cup Playoffs, Harvick continues to lead the regular-season series standings by 137 over Keselowski and 140 over Hamlin.
1. Kevin Harvick, 90 laps led, Stage 2 winner
2. Denny Hamlin, six laps led
3. Martin Truex Jr.
4. Kyle Busch, four laps led
5. Joey Logano
6. Aric Almirola, nine laps led
7. Matt DiBenedetto
8. Austin Dillon
9. Chase Elliott
10. Kurt Busch
11. Jimmie Johnson
12. William Byron
13. Ryan Newman
14. Clint Bowyer, 43 laps led, Stage 1 winner
15. Matt Kenseth
16. Ryan Preece
17. Christopher Bell
18. Ty Dillon
19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
20. Chris Buescher
21. Bubba Wallace
22. Corey LaJoie
23. John Hunter Nemechek
24. Tyler Reddick
25. Cole Custer
26. Daniel Suarez
27. Erik Jones
28. Michael McDowell
29. J.J. Yeley, two laps down
30. Brennan Poole, three laps down
31. Reed Sorenson, three laps down
32. Quin Houff, three laps down
33. Josh Bilicki, four laps down
34. Garrett Smithley, four laps down
35. Timmy Hill, six laps down
36. Alex Bowman – OUT, Tire
37. James Davison, nine laps down
38. Ryan Blaney – OUT, four laps led
39. Brad Keselowski – OUT
Next weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series will race for the first time on the Daytona International Speedway Road Course layout as the 2020 Playoffs approaches its starting point. The race at Daytona will occur on August 16 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.