Harvick goes past Hamlin to get win
BROOKLYN, Mich. — Kevin Harvick passed Denny Hamlin with 11 laps to go Sunday, then held on to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup series race at Michigan International Speedway.
Harvick’s No. 29 team gambled by staying on the track instead of making a pit stop during a late caution. It paid off with a momentum-building victory for the series points leader. This was Harvick’s third win of the season and his first this year on a nonrestrictor plate track.
Hamlin finished second, followed by Roush Fenway Racing drivers Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth. Team owner Jack Roush was back at the track this weekend, days after his hospital release following serious injuries in a plane crash.
The victory was another significant step in the resurgence of Richard Childress Racing — and it came at a track where RCR typically hasn’t been strong.
“It could all go wrong, but it’s been such a great turnaround,” Harvick said in a television interview.
It was a rough day for several Chase contenders. Kurt Busch blew an engine, Mark Martin damaged his car early and spent most of the afternoon running outside the top 30, and Jeff Gordon was in the top 10 when he had a flat tire with 47 laps to go.
Gordon finished 27th, Martin finished 28th and Busch finished 40th.
Biffle dominated the early stages but seemed to slip back when the sun came out and heated the track. Harvick then took charge after the halfway mark, building a lead of more than six seconds with 70 laps left.
Harvick and the rest of the leaders made green-flag pit stops with about 60 laps to go, and Harvick retook the lead once all the leaders had stopped.
Joey Logano then got loose and tapped the left rear fender of Ryan Newman’s car, causing Newman to spin out with 53 laps remaining. The leaders pitted, and Harvick kept the lead after nearly colliding with Biffle on pit road.
Gordon’s tire problem quickly brought out another caution, and most of the leaders came to pit road to top off their fuel tanks with 44 laps to go.
Leaders Tony Stewart and Harvick stayed on the track instead of making pit stops when another caution came out with 32 laps left — leaving them at the front of the field with most other drivers on fresher tires and 28 laps to go on the restart.
Hamlin took the lead from Stewart with 23 laps until the end, but Harvick stayed on his tail and finally got past him with 11 left. Stewart slipped to sixth at the finish.
Busch, who came into the race fourth in the points, sustained “catastrophic” engine failure, bringing a caution on lap 33.
“We didn’t get it done,” Busch said. “We’ll bounce back and be back next week. We should be OK in points. We’ll fall all the way to ninth but the big thing is having the cushion on 12th.”
Things didn’t go much better for Martin, who had to spend extra time in the pits after scraping his car’s nose early in the race. Martin entered the day only 10 points ahead of Clint Bowyer for the final Chase-eligible spot in the standings.
Gordon appeared headed for a good finish, then a tire went flat in the middle of heavy traffic. Gordon avoided heavy contact with other cars or the wall but fell far back in the field after an extra pit stop.