BROOKLYN, Mich.—Kevin Harvick battled adversity—and the Team Penske Fords—to win the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.
After hitting the wall 33 laps into the race, the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team fought methodically to get Harvick back in the game.
With the Penske drivers in fuel conservation mode over the final 20 laps, Harvick closed for his third win in the Irish Hills.
“It was, like you say, a day of a little bit of adversity that we were able to overcome,” Harvick said. “But we just had a really fast car all weekend. Our car handled really well today, and with the multiple lanes, we were able to run all three lanes pretty well and make our way through traffic.
“So just really proud of everybody on our Mobil 1 Ford and everybody back at the shop from Haas Automation and Stewart‑Haas Racing, just put a really fast car on the racetrack and we were able to capitalize on it, and that's always fun.”
Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez, Kyle Busch, Ryan Preece, William Byron and Alex Bowman rounded out the top 10.
Polesitter Brad Keselowski led the first 39 laps. Jimmie Johnson, who entered the weekend on the Playoff bubble, had problems starting on Lap 15 when he was forced to pit after slapping the wall in Turn 2. He dropped to 38, two laps down. The 48 pitted again on Lap 27 for further repairs. He finished 34th, eight laps down and dropped to 18th in the standings.
“The right side tires went into the PJ1 and as soon as I got my tires in it, I went straight into the wall,” said Johnson, who is 12 points out of 16th. “When you’re aggressive, it doesn’t work and then sometimes you’re cautious and it doesn’t work. It was a great car. That hurt, for sure. We’re just going to have to rally on and these guys are doing an amazing job. We’ll keep digging.”
A flat right front tire forced Harvick into the Turn 3 wall while running second. He dropped to 30th, one lap down.
Truex came from the rear of the field after failing pre-race inspection twice but raced up to eighth by Lap 20. With a fuel-only pit stop on Lap 56, Truex cycled back out to the lead on Lap 57 and held on for the Stage 1 win. Hamlin, Keselowski, Logano, Byron, Harvick, Blaney, Bowman, Elliott and Aric Almirola completed the top 10 on Lap 60.
The leaders pitted on Lap 63 and Keselowski won the race off of pit road. Hamlin, Bowman, Elliott, Kyle Busch, Jones, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Truex were in tow. Truex moved up to fifth in the first four laps and gained another position one circuit later. A battle ensued between Truex and Keselowski with the No. 19 taking the point on the backstretch on Lap 91. With another fuel-only stop on Lap 109, he was able to cycle back to the point by Lap 114. However, Kyle Busch loomed large in Truex’s rearview mirror.
After Keselowski spun off of Turn 4 to trigger the second caution on Lap 116, Truex faced Busch for a one-lap shoot out to win Stage 2. Before the field could complete the lap, Almirola came across the nose of Daniel Hemric and turned Austin Dillon in the process coming out of Turn 4 for the fourth caution. Kyle Busch finished narrowly ahead of Truex. Kurt Busch finished third followed by Logano, Jones, Elliott, Blaney, Byron, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard.
The final segment started on Lap 119 with Busch alongside Truex. With a push from Jones, the No. 18 jumped out to the lead—but it was short-lived. Kurt Busch got a run and moved to the point on Lap 122. Busch then traded the point with Logano for the next 20 laps. Logano was in the lead when Bowyer collided with Menard in Turn 3 to ignite Caution 5. The No. 1 regained the lead on the Lap 141 restart but Logano came back around and set sail.
Stenhouse spun in Turn 4 to bring out the sixth and final caution on Lap 149 and the leaders pitted for what they hoped would be the last time. Blaney, Keselowski, Logano were the first cars off of pit road followed by Bowman, Truex, Menard, Harvick, Hamlin, and Elliott. But before the race returned to green, crew chief Paul Wolfe warned Keselowski he didn’t have enough fuel to make it to the end.
Logano took the lead from Blaney on the backstretch on Lap 154, but he too realized the No. 22 Shell Ford did not have enough fuel to finish. With the Penske cars conserving and Harvick given the green light, he was able to come up through the field. He passed Keselowski on Lap 173 and finally took the lead from Logano 10 laps later. Keselowski pitted on Lap 189 and finished 19th after leading a race-high 66 laps.
“Man, I want this one so bad,” Keselowski said. “We got that flat tire early on and we recovered and got up to third there in the late stages and then we just ran out of gas. That is just the way it goes sometimes.”
Logano pitted for a splash-and-go with three circuits remaining and finished 17th. Harvick held on and extended his lead by 1.054-seconds over Hamlin at the finish--and the fourth-consecutive victory for Ford Performance.
“I wasn't really having to save fuel, and I felt like the key to winning the race was getting around the 2,” Harvick said following his second win of the season and the 47th of his career. “I felt like in clean air he was going to be the hardest one to pass. I felt like the 22 fell off as the runs went and it didn't seem like his car was going to be as good, and my car was still handling really well, top, bottom and middle.
“I could run anywhere on the racetrack, and I felt like his was a little more line sensitive as to where he needed to run on the racetrack. They told me I was one or two laps to the good, and when I got the lead and got a good enough distance, then I tried to start managing the throttle. It's a lot easier to manage that gap than it is to try to manage passing and saving. Yeah, we were able to do some burnouts and drive it back to Victory Lane, so we had plenty of gas.”
Kyle Busch extended his points lead by 20 over Logano with three races remaining in the regular Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season.