The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series still belongs to Kevin Harvick as the Stewart-Haas Racing driver picked up his third straight victory Sunday at ISM Raceway.
Harvick didn’t dominate the Ticket Guardian 500, but he found himself near the front of the field when it mattered most. Cycling to the lead when Ryan Newman made his final pit stop, Harvick drove away from Kyle Busch.
But the race was won for Harvick first on pit road and then with a pass for fourth place on Chase Elliott (video below). The pit stop came with 56 laps to go as the No. 4 team gained Harvick track position to cycle him ahead of Busch and just behind Elliott.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 11, 2018
Harvick overtook Elliott on Lap 274. Stretching the green-flag cycle longer than others, Newman eventually dove for pit road and relinquished the lead to Harvick with 22 laps to go.
The victory marks the first time Harvick has won three straight races in his career and his ninth overall at ISM Raceway. It is the 40th of his career.
Upon climbing out of the car on the frontstretch after the checkered flag, the 2014 series champion patted and then pointed at the rear window, a not-so-subtle reference to the penalty his team was given after last weekend’s race for a failed window brace.
“I’ve been mad as all get out because this team does a great job,” Harvick said in Victory Lane. “This organization does a great job and we’ve got fast racecars, and to take that away from those guys just really pissed me off last week. To come here to a racetrack that is so good for us is a lot of fun and everyone was just determined this week and we just wanted to just go stomp them.
“We didn’t stomp them, but we won. That’s all that really matters. Just proud of this team. Put a little fire in our belly.”
“I see you.”
Kevin Harvick has a message for his haters. pic.twitter.com/ZJihsVp3xk
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) March 11, 2018
Kyle Busch led the most laps in the race, a total of 128 out of 312. But he lost his edge on the field on his final stop with 53 laps to go when the jack dropped on the left side of the car before the tires had been changed.
Able to overtake teammate Denny Hamlin, and eventually Chase Elliott, the gap to Harvick was too much to overcome. Busch finished second for the second straight week.
Filling out the top 10 behind Harvick and Busch were Elliott, Hamlin, pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Kurt Busch.
The race’s two stages were won by Kyle and Kurt Busch. The first stage of the race was dominated by Kyle Larson, who led 54 laps. But Larson later spun after complaining about his rear tires shaking, and eventually finished 18th.
Overall, there were 15 lead changes among nine drivers and six caution flags.