Kevin Harvick kissed the bricks for a third time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.
A late-race wreck that eliminated Denny Hamlin from the lead, opened the door for the defending race winner to capitalize with seven laps to decide the contest. With the sun setting as the race went into overtime, teammate Cole Custer offered an assist on the restart and Harvick easily wheeled the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford by Matt Kenseth.
Harvick extended his lead by .743-seconds over the final two laps for his fourth win of the season and the 53rd victory of his career.
“The Brickyard 400, great job, awesome job,” Harvick exclaimed following his consecutive IMS win. “Just really proud of all these guys and everyone at SHR for everything that they do for our car to be able to put it in Victory Lane is just a big effort right now to get the cars to the racetrack.
“Our Ford Mustang was fast today. Denny had his issues there and we were able to capitalize and get a great push from Cole there at the end and bring it home.”
Kenseth, who took over the No. 42 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet at Darlington when racing resumed in May, finished a season-high second.
“It was a great day for the 42 team today,” said Kenseth after his fourth second-place finish in 20 Indy starts. “It’s always nice to be up front and be in contention late in the race. Chad (Johnston, crew chief) did a great job on the box with his calls today. We had a really good strategy and the best tires coming to the end of the race, lining up fourth behind the leader late in the race, but just couldn’t get it done to take the lead.
“I tried everything to get to the front, but just didn’t have quite enough to get around the No. 4 car. If we had gotten to the lead though, I know we would have been hard to beat. All in all, though, a great race for us. It felt good to run up front and was a confidence booster for all of us. Looking forward to getting to Kentucky and carrying that momentum forward.”
Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Custer, Kyle Busch, Michael McDowell, Tyler Reddick, Bubba Wallace and Joey Logano rounded out the top 10.
Although lightning delayed the start of the race, the fireworks started early at Indy. When the field came to pit road under the competition caution on Lap 16, a chain reaction occurred when Christopher Bell hit his brakes. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Corey LaJoie, Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Justin Allgaier and Brennan Pool all piled into each other with Allgaier and Pool making contact with the No. 12 Team Penske Ford of Ryan Blaney.
While jackman Graham Stoddard took evasive action by leaping on top of the roof, Blaney’s rear tire changer Zach Price was pinned between the cars and had to crawl to safety. NASCAR red-flagged the race for 11 minutes as safety personnel attended to Price and track workers cleaned pit road. Price was taken to a local hospital.
Harvick, who pitted on Lap 11, remained on the track during competition yellow and took the lead for the first time on Lap 17. He pitted again, 23 laps later, during the second caution after Ryan Newman wrecked in Turn 3.
William Byron remained on the track and held the lead to the end of the segment for his second stage win. Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Harvick, Hamlin, Matt DiBenedetto, Kyle Busch, Keselowski and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top 10.
Elliott elected not to pit and took the lead from Byron on Lap 52 for the start of Stage 2. Tires would prove problematic over the balance of the race. Elliott held the lead for 26 laps prior to Erik Jones triggering the fourth caution after his right front blew on Lap 75 while running 10th. Elliott pit and turned over the lead to Byron on Lap 78—but the No. 24 Chevy’s advantage was short-lived. Byron developed a vibration on his car and blew a left front tire on Lap 84. Blaney was the next casualty after his left rear tire came apart on Lap 88, causing the No. 12 to careen into Turn 3.
Once again, Harvick passed on pit road. He took the lead on Lap 88 with Elliott and Hamlin in tow and held on for the Stage 2 win. Elliott, Hamlin, DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Bell and Clint Bowyer collected stage points.
Harvick, Elliott and Bell continued on the track with Hamlin lining up fourth following a two-tire stop. After the first lap, Hamlin advanced to second setting up to battle with Harvick once again. Although crew chief Rodney Childers called for Harvick to pit on Lap 124 with Hamlin, one of the spotters keyed the radio the driver never heard the command.
"Getting into turn three, I called him to pit road at the same time the spotter in turn three was talking on top of me," Childers said. "Kevin never heard me. There was some miscommunication there for about half a lap on what we were doing. He couldn't hear me because us talking on top of each other.
"We came down pit road. Our pit crew has been absolutely incredible all year. The front changer, his button switched on his gun during the middle of his pattern. The rear guy, his button switched on his gun the middle of the pattern, which is odd. I feel like the guns have got a lot better. We haven't had any issues. Just so happens on the money stop of the Brickyard 400, both buttons switched. Didn't have a very good stop, just a lot of things that didn't go our way in those couple laps."
Hamlin pitted with Harvick following on the next lap. Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Keselowski had yet to pit when Alex Bowman ignited the eighth caution on Lap 133 after blowing a right front tire.
Hamlin cycled back to the lead on Lap 135 followed by Harvick, Bell and Kenseth—the first driver off of pit road. The race returned to green with 22 laps remaining. After five laps, Hamlin held a .452-second lead over Harvick, who was told to apply pressure on the No. 11.
With seven laps to go, Hamlin’s right front disintegrated and the No. 11 slammed into the wall. Harvick gasped and responded over his radio, “Ouch, I hope he’s all right.”
Hamlin, who led 19 laps, finished 28th—the 12th driver to wreck out of the event.
“It’s just tough,” Hamlin said. “I hate it for the FedEx team. We didn’t do what we needed to do and it didn’t work out for us today. I had a fast car obviously and was stretching it out there but wasn’t pushing right front at all. It’s kind of roulette if you’re going to get one that will stay together or not and mine didn’t. You saw the end result.
“These big races—things don’t go my way all the time. We’re still going to go next week and try to win the next one. We’ll do all we can.”
Harvick admitted after the race that he had nothing for Hamlin in the closing laps had the No. 11 Toyota went the distance.
“We knew he was gonna be really close on tires and Rodney told me on the radio he said, ‘Just make sure you keep the pressure on him,’ and that was all the pressure I could give,” Harvick said. “Those guys do a really good job. I’ve just got to thank everybody who is a part of this program and just keeps bringing good race cars to the race track.”
Harvick increased his point lead to 85 over Chase Elliott.