Kevin Harvick made a clean sweep of the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan Speedway on Saturday.
After easily winning the first two stages, Harvick’s dominance continued throughout the second half of the race. Despite briefly losing the lead to Chase Elliott under the introduction of the new choose rule, Harvick regained the point as the race went into overtime.
With a push by Elliott, Harvick held off Brad Keselowski for his fourth victory at the two-mile track and his third win at Michigan in the last four Cup races.
“Our Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang was really fast today,” Harvick said. “We held on for the long run and would really go on the short run and did everything we needed it to do.”
Martin Truex Jr. recovered from an early mistake when he ran into Tyler Reddick and cut a tire on Lap 22 to finish third. Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Elliott, Joey Logano, Bubba Wallace and Kurt Busch rounded out the top 10.
The competition caution on Lap 17 stalled the progress of the first segment, but once Harvick rolled out to the lead on Lap 23 he held on for the Stage 1 win. The race returned to green on Lap 48 and Blaney took the lead two laps later. The Penske racer led 27 laps before Harvick grabbed the lead on Lap 77 and held on for nine circuits for his second stage win.
The final stage of the race was slowed by multiple cautions involving John Hunter Nemechek after Chris Buescher first punted the No. 38 on the front stretch on Lap 93. Harvick was still in command until Lap 106 when he pitted with the field after Nemechek spun in Turn 4.
Kyle Busch took the lead during the fifth caution on Lap 108, but Harvick passed him four laps later. Nemechek wrecked in Turn 3 on Lap 131 to trigger Caution 6. Harvick elected to remain on the track followed by Kyle Busch, Truex, Erik Jones and Elliott. However, Elliott elected the low lane at the choose mark prior to the restart and lined up on the front row with Harvick. Once the green flag waved, Truex pushed Busch up on the high lane but Elliott took the lead on Lap139. But five laps later, contact between Reddick and Ryan Preece ignited Caution 7.
Harvick tagged Kyle Busch when the race restarted on Lap 148 and motored out to the lead and the No. 18 Toyota fell to ninth.
“I just didn’t get loose and turn up to the wall by myself so I don’t know whether he (Harvick) hit me or just air,” said Busch. “It was close enough that it disturbed my car obviously and made me have to get out of it real bad. It was a race for second today overall.”
Cole Custer clobbered the wall in Turn 3 on Lap 149 which forced NASCAR red-flagged the race for 5 minutes and 45 seconds.
Harvick selected the high lane when he hit the choose mark on Lap 152. The field didn’t make it through the first lap before Austin Dillon hit the wall in Turn 3 collecting Ryan Newman and Christopher Bell in the process and sending the race into overtime.
Harvick claimed the high lane again. With a nudge from Elliott, he increased his advantage to .284-seconds over Keselowski at the finish. Harvick’s 54th-career Cup victory ties the 44-year-old driver with NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty for 11th on the all-time win list.
“I am honored,” Harvick said. “I have been very fortunate to work with some good teams and have some good race cars. When you start talking about names like Lee Petty and Rusty Wallace and Junior Johnson and all the names that are around us on that list is just an honor to be around them.
“I know that comes with a lot of responsibilities for our sport and I ask myself all the time if I have done enough or am doing enough to help make this sport go forward. It is an honor to be around those names.”
Harvick picked up a whopping seven Playoff points with his fifth win of the season and extended his lead over Keselowski by 94.
“We've had great cars the last couple years and have been able to capitalize on that,” crew chief Rodney Childers said of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team’s performance in the Irish Hills. “Kevin gets around here really good.
“But our whole team is just doing a great job this year. Our pit crew has really stepped it up and made a ton of difference for us. You never know when your last one is going to be, but they're always a lot of fun, and we enjoy winning them, that's for sure.”