Kevin Harvick snapped his 65-race winless drought Sunday afternoon and fittingly at one of his best racetracks – Michigan International Speedway.
The race’s final caution on lap 160 was timely for Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing as they’d already made their last pit stop. Harvick inherited the race lead when the other front runners came down pit road, and with a push from Kyle Larson and clean air, Harvick drove away from the field over the final 35 green flag laps.
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Harvick crossed the finish line 2.9s ahead of pole-sitter Bubba Wallace for his first win since Sept. 2020 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The victory takes Harvick from below the cutline to a provisional spot on the playoff grid.
“Just good timing for sure,” Harvick said. “We’ve had several good runs the last few weeks – Loudon and Pocono, where the car ran good and just didn’t have everything work out. I’m just really proud of everybody on our Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang; they’ve been digging all year long trying to make these Mustangs run faster. They haven’t been great this year, but our guys have done a good job in trying to take what we have, maximize it and do the things that we need to do. I’m just really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing.”
Harvick led the last 38 laps after leading only 13 entering the day. He is the 15th different winner this season.
Wallace finished second and led 22 laps. The inside lane, where Wallace was lined up on the final restart alongside Harvick, was not as strong, and Wallace didn’t get as good a push as the No. 4. After falling back to third, Wallace retook the runner-up position with 18 laps to go but could not overcome what was a 4.6s gap to Harvick at that point.
Denny Hamlin led 38 laps and charged to a third-place finish after restarting in the rear because of a penalty on his final pit stop. Hamlin would have been second going into the final restart, but his No. 11 team was called for a safety violation when a tire got away and too many men over the wall.
Joey Logano finished fourth, and Ryan Blaney finished fifth. Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth and, with Harvick’s win, falls below the playoff grid cutline.
Kyle Larson finished seventh, Erik Jones eighth, Alex Bowman ninth, and Ty Gibbs 10th. Gibbs rebounded from a speeding penalty on his final pit stop to earn his best finish in three races as the substitute driver for Kurt Busch.
Christopher Bell won the first stage but did not finish the race and was 26th in the running order. He fell out of the race after contact with Ross Chastain on lap 160 to bring out the final caution. Bell was running second when he and Chastain collided as Chastain, having pitted and on fresher tires, tried to get to Bell’s outside coming off Turn 4.
Hamlin won the second stage.
“Everybody who doubted us doesn’t know us,” Harvick said. “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 — things go our way and have things fall our way. There at the end, we pitted and didn’t go a lap down, and then the caution came out and got control of the race.
“[The] thing I struggled with most today was traffic and restarts and just having to make up ground, but once I got clear track, that baby was hunting.”