harvick breaks 65 race winless streak with win at michigan in cup series action
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Harvick breaks 65-race winless streak with win at Michigan in Cup Series action

nascarIt seemed like the curtain was closing on Kevin Harvick and his NASCAR career. Winless in 65 races, the 46-year-old California native seemed destined to finish 2022 winless after a lackluster season performance. But the outspoken, sometimes brash driver from Bakersfield kept the course, telling the media that he wasn’t finished yet.

Sunday afternoon at Michigan International Raceway, Harvick roared out of the 16th starting position and to the front of the pack with 34 laps to go to capture the FireKeepers Casino 400 and notch a provisional spot in the NASCAR Cup Series race to the championship

Harvick’s victory ended a 65 race dry spell while clinching his sixth win at the two mile track and his fifth in the last seven races at Michigan. He is now 10th on the all-time winners list with 59 victories. It was Harvick’s first win since Sept. 19, 2020 at Bristol.

“Everybody who doubted us doesn’t know us,” said Harvick. “They, obviously, know we thrive in these types of situations. And a lot of things went our way today, which we haven’t had all year long — have things go our way and have things fall our way.”

Harvick and his Stewart-Haas teammates have struggled all season but it seemed that the driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford had been snakebit all season and for 65 races. But all it took was a pitstop to change the perspective of the driver and team.

“There at the end we pitted, didn’t go a lap down, and the caution came out, got control of the race. That’s the thing I struggled with the most today was traffic,” replied Harvick after the race. A lap later, NASCAR called the seventh caution of the afternoon when Ross Chastain’s Chevrolet and Christopher Bell’s Toyota collided in Turn 4. “The restarts and just having to make up ground. Once I got clear track, that baby was hunting.”

Harvick crossed the finish line with a 2.903 second lead over pole winner Bubba Wallace and leap-frogged bubble-riding Martin Truex Jr. in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings. Wallace was less than pleased with the final result of second as he replayed the final restart in his head.

“Just replaying everything I could have done,” said Wallace, who led twice for 22 laps. “Took the top there on the restart. Thought I could hang with the 4 (Harvick), and just got to racing the 5 (Kyle Larson) and the 22 (Logano). And 22 did a good job of getting another Ford contract, helping a Ford win.

Wallace added that “All in all an incredible weekend. Appreciate my team. Wished we could have got Toyota in the Victory Lane. Wish we got (sponsor) McDonald’s back in victory lane. She was fast all week, man. I’ll wear this one on my heart for a while. I failed everybody.”

Truex and his Joe Gibbs Racing Team Toyota had issues during the race, many on the radio between Truex and crew chief James Small and now sits on the outside of the bubble with Richmond on the horizon and the possibility of being knocked out before the final regular season race..

Denny Hamlin finished third with the fastest car in the race. On his final pit stop under caution on Lap 160, Hamlin incurred a penalty for too many men over the wall when his crew corralled a runaway tire from an adjacent pit stall. Hamlin restarted 22nd and charged to third, 3.910 seconds behind the race winner.

Joey Logano came home fourth, followed by Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney. Martin Truex Jr., Larson, Erik Jones, Alex Bowman and Ty Gibbs (subbing for injured Kurt Busch) completed the top 10.

The race was delayed just over an hour due to inclement weather but that did not deter the fans in the grandstands by having the largest crowd at Michigan International Speedway since 2016. In addition, infield camping was sold out for the weekend for the first time since 2012.

With fifteen spots determined, Ryan Blaney now leads Truex by 19 points for the final Playoff berth, which will be determined on points if there are no additional unique winners in the next three races.

Post-race inspection concluded without issue, confirming the No. 4 Ford as the winner. The Nos. 9 and 11 cars were taken back to the R&D center for further evaluation.

FireKeepers Casino 400 Top 25

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 (sub for Kurt Busch)

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 SUÁREZ

Other Notables

29        TYLER REDDICK – Engine

30        NOAH GRAGSON – Accident

31        COLE CUSTER – Accident

32        HARRISON BURTON – Accident

33        RICKY STENHOUSE JR – Accident

34        ARIC ALMIROLA – Accident

35        JJ YELEY – Accident

36        KYLE BUSCH – Accident

37        AUSTIN CINDRIC – Accident

Rod Mullins

Rod Mullins covers NASCAR for AFP, and co-hosts the mid-week “Street Knowledge” focusing on NASCAR with AFP editor Chris Graham. A graduate of UVA-Wise, Rod began his career in journalism as a reporter for The Cumberland Times, later became the program director/news director/on-air morning show host for WNVA in Norton, Va., and in the early 1990s served as the sports information director at UVA-Wise and was the radio “Voice of the Highland Cavaliers” for football and basketball for seven seasons. In 1995, Rod transitioned to public education, where he has worked as a high school English, literature, and creative writing teacher and now serves as a school program coordinator in addition to serving as a mentor for the robotics team.