While William Byron celebrated an emphatic victory following a dominant performance in the Go Bowling at The Glen on Sunday, August 20, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski were left feeling victorious after both former NASCAR Cup Series champions officially secured spots for the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs based on points.
The event at Watkins Glen started off on a rough note for Keselowski, the 2012 Cup Series champion who was one of five competitors to start at the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments. Following the first of 90-scheduled laps, the Michigan native was mired in the next-to-last position in 35th place and had only managed to carve his way up to 33rd place just past the Lap 10 mark.
Then during the first cycle of green flag pit stops in between the conclusion of the first stage period and the start of the second stage period, Keselowski and crew chief Matt McCall rolled the dice by remaining on the track while most of the field pitted. This allowed Keselowski to move up as high as seventh place in the leaderboard before he pitted his No. 6 BuildSubmarines.com Ford Mustang under green on Lap 30. He would then be mired back within the top 30 through the second stage period and pit during the event’s only caution period with nearly 30 laps remaining despite climbing up to 13th.
Restarting 18th during the final restart with 30 laps remaining, Keselowski would take the checkered flag in 15th place, which marked his 12th top-15 result of the season. With Byron, who came into the event as a four-time race winner of this season, winning at The Glen, Keselowski, who did not score any stage points at The Glen, but ended up 107 points ahead of Bubba Wallace, who holds the 16th and final vacant spot to the Playoffs, in the regular-season standings, was able to clinch his spot for the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs.
Keselowski’s accomplishment means that the 2023 season will mark his 11th season making the Cup Series Playoffs, his first since 2021 and his first as a driver/co-owner of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. He missed the 2022 Playoffs during his first season as a driver/co-owner after notching only a single top-five finish, six top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 19.2 throughout the 36-race schedule. This season, he has achieved five top-five results, 10 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 14.3 through 25 scheduled events.
In addition, Keselowski is still pursuing his first victory as a driver/co-owner in the Cup Series, with his latest victory occurring at Talladega Superspeedway in April 2021 while driving for Team Penske.
“We had a pretty strong month or so,” Keselowski said on USA Network. “We had a really good car today with our BuiltSubs Ford Mustang. Just ran solid. Basically, started last and got to 15th. If we could’ve caught a break on the yellows and all that, I think we could’ve ran top 10 today. My teammate Chris Buescher and both [Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing cars], we’re finding speed here before the Playoffs start. Overall, a really good day for us. What’s great for us going into Daytona is we can go in there and just have fun. It’s great to have that off of our shoulders. We’re gonna race really hard, but with nothing to lose. That makes us really dangerous.”
Like Keselowski, Sunday’s event at The Glen started off on a rough note for Kevin Harvick, who rolled off the starting grid in 33rd place and without his championship-winning crew chief Rodney Childers, who returned to North Carolina due to a personal matter. With Stewart-Haas Racing engineer Stephen Doran calling the shots atop the No. 4 Ford Mustang pit box, Harvick, the 2014 Cup Series champion, spent the early stages of the event mired outside the top 30. He would crack his way into the top 15 at the conclusion of the first stage period and during the first cycle of green flag pit stops before he pitted just past the Lap 22 mark.
Mired back towards the top-30 mark upon his pit service, Harvick was scored 24th at the halfway mark and just past the second stage’s conclusion with the 2014 Cup Series champion not scoring any stage points. Running in 14th place during the event’s only caution period with 35 laps remaining after Chase Elliott ran out of fuel on the course, Harvick joined a handful of competitors to pit under caution and restarted in the middle of the pack with 30 laps remaining.
When the checkered flag flew, Harvick nursed his No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang in 21st place, which marked his second consecutive finish outside the top 20. By being 103 points above Bubba Wallace, who holds the 16th and final vacant spot in the Playoffs, in the regular-season standings, Harvick was also able to accomplish a similar feat to Keselowski’s by clinching his spot for the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs based on points.
With his accomplishment, Harvick, who is currently embarking in his 23rd and final full-time season in NASCAR’s premier series, will make his 17th career appearance as a Cup Series Playoff contender as he battles for his final opportunity to win his second Cup title and first since 2014. This season, he has achieved six top-five results, 11 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 14.0 through 25 scheduled events.
Having achieved 60 career victories in the Cup Series, Harvick is still pursuing his first of the season and first since winning at Richmond Raceway last August.
“We’ll go down to [Daytona International Speedway] and push as hard as we can, and be ready for Darlington [Raceway],” Harvick said. “We’ve been terrible on the road courses the last two weeks. The last month before that, we did good. We had cars that were capable to run in the top five, so as long as it’s an oval [track], we’ll be fine.”
With secured berths to the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs set for both, Keselowski and Harvick shift their attention to the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero Sugar 400, which will officially determine the full 16-driver field of this year’s Cup Series Playoffs. The event is scheduled to occur next Saturday, August 26, at 7 p.m. ET on NBC.