Harvick gets hot entering the Playoffs

Harvick gets hot entering the Playoffs
\Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- With the Playoff grid set, Harvick adds points--and momentum--entering the post-season

Not even raindrops could spoil Kevin Harvick’s Brickyard 400 parade on Sunday.

Harvick started from the pole and led a race-high 118 circuits—including the final 30—en route to his second victory at Indianapolis Speedway.

Despite a late-race caution with nine laps remaining, Harvick held off a challenge by Joey Logano and extended his advantage to 6.118-seconds at the finish.

“I don't know if we had the best car, but we had the fastest car,” Harvick said. “We gave up the lead there on one of those restarts and then we came and pitted, and the caution came out, and it worked our way. 

“We've given so many away just because of circumstances here, and the way that the caution flag fell today actually worked in our favor.  It gave us control of the race and we were able to keep control of the race and not make any mistakes and here we are in Victory Lane at one of the greatest places on Earth to race.”

Bubba Wallace rounded out the podium—his first top-five finish of the season. William Byron, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, Chase Elliott and Paul Menard completed the top 10.

“It was a good day for my team,” Wallace said. “We needed this weekend. We unloaded with speed. I was bragging to everybody, saying this 43 could be kissing some bricks Sunday afternoon. We were just shy of it.

“It’s incredible to think about Where the season started and where we were 10 races in, but ever since Charlotte, we’ve been bringing some heat. It’s just the passion and drive my team has. It’s a blast coming to the race track.”

Bowyer and Newman claimed the final two positions in the Playoffs.

“That was a struggle at a lot of times,” Newman said. “At the end of the first stage I had a lot of confidence and at the end of the second stage I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence.

“We just stuck our nose to the grindstone and the 41 got himself in a pickle there and we were able to hold him off. That was part of the race. The other part of the race was we didn’t have a fast enough race car to be able to go up there and lead and we need to be able to do that in the next three races.”

Daniel Suarez finished 11th—and four points out of 16th. Jimmie Johnson’s Playoff hopes were dashed after he triggered a wreck on Lap 106 and was unable to continue. He finished 35th, 43 points behind Newman.

Harvick led the field to green and remained at the point until pitting after the first caution for fluid on the track after Daniel Suarez and William Byron pounded the wall on Lap 11. The drama escalated in the pits when Bubba Wallace stopped short of the No. 48 pits and Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Matt DiBenedetto piled in on top of each other barely missing Johnson in the process.

Kurt Busch, who started the race in eighth, also received damage to the No. 1 Chevy in the pits when a tire carrier hit the wheel well with a tire. Although Busch exited the pits in fifth, he was forced to pit on Lap 17 and dropped to 37th after the team changed tires and fixed his car.

Harvick gained the lead out of the pits. He led an additional 29 laps prior to Landon Cassill plowing into the Turn 1 wall on Lap 43. Joey Logano assumed the lead after electing not to pit. Newman followed suit and lined up second. With a two-tire stop, Johnson lined up third.

Jones, who was running ninth, got loose entering Turn 2, bounced into Keselowski and sent the No. 2 Team Penske Ford into the tire wall on Lap 49. NASCAR ended the stage under caution with Logano winning the segment followed by Larson, Harvick, Blaney, Newman, Johnson, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Bowman and Chris Buescher. Playoff contenders Bowyer and Suarez finished the stage 11th and 19th, respectively.

After a 12-minute, 36-second red flag to repair the damage to the tire barrier and clean the track, the race returned to yellow, then resumed on Lap 57 with Larson in the lead. With a push from Blaney, Harvick once again shot out to the point and held the position until Lap 84 when he pitted.

Kyle Busch pitted a couple of laps later just prior to his engine exploding on Lap 87. Busch attempted to come to pit road but stalled and ignited the fourth caution. The yellow flag played into Harvick’s favor as the field pitted and the No. 4 Ford cycled to the front of the field and held on for the Stage 2 win.

The final stage started on Lap 105 with Harvick in command followed by Kyle Larson, Blaney, Logano and Suarez. Entering Turn 2, Johnson became loose racing to the inside of Byron, then slid up and destroyed Kurt Busch’s car.

“It’s really disappointing,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, we had a bad 25 races that led to the position we’re in here today and we needed a stellar day. I think we were having a strong day. I’m really proud of my team with what’s been going on.

“The No. 1 car (Busch) had a little trouble on the restart. I’m on the inside going into the corner and it was just super tight. It’s unfortunate that happened. Certainly, it’s not what we needed on that restart. I couldn’t go below the white line and kind of got snipped there and turned around; and around and round we go.”

Blaney claimed the lead on the restart and led the next 19 laps. His pace was slowed by Kyle Larson’s spin in Turn 2 on Lap 130. That opened the door for Harvick to take the lead and sail off to his 48th-career victory and a signature win to start the Playoffs.

“We've definitely made some strides in getting closer to where we want to be,” Harvick said. “I think we still have some things that we have to work on at certain styles of racetracks. But this is survive and advance, and you don't necessarily have to have the fastest car. 

“We had the fastest car today, maybe not the best handling car, but we survived, and really a day like today is a lot like how you're going to have to approach every race in the playoffs.”

Once NASCAR reset the standings to add the Playoff points, Kyle Busch continues to lead the standings by 15 over Denny Hamlin.

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