By Eric Young
BROOKLYN, Mich. — With others falling short on fuel, Kevin Harvick powered through the field Sunday to lead the last 18 laps and win his second August race at Michigan International Speedway.
Harvick led a total of 22 laps on the day on the way to the win, passing Joey Logano to take the lead late in the race. Logano would have to pit for fuel with just a couple laps to go, winding up 17th.
Harvick said on the last restart, he was focused on getting to Brad Keselowski first, and figured he could focus on Logano later in the run.
“I felt like the most important pass was the 2,” Harvick said. “I felt like if he got around those guys before I did, he’d be more difficult to pass. I felt like the 22 fell off a lot as we got into the second half of a run compared to our car. He did a good job of putting himself in the right spot when I was behind him and eventually he kind of guessed wrong and I was able to get underneath him there coming through three and four and side draft and finish the pass.”
“I needed to get a good restart,” Harvick continued. “It’s kind of short-term everything. You need to have short-term memory when you get done with something and move on, and on the restart it’s just one lap at a time and really one situation at a time to be able to try to put yourself in the best position that you can lap after lap.”
Harvick had a flat tire early in the race, and said he felt it at the right spot as we he was traveling down the backstretch.
“I knew that I needed to slow down and figure out what was going on,” Harvick said. “Obviously the tire was flat and I had a hard time getting slowed down enough to get it to the bottom of the racetrack. My main concern was just not grinding the splitter off. If the splitter was gone, we would have been done.”
The win was Harvick’s 47th career victory and his second victory in 2019. He has now won three races at MIS.
Denny Hamlin was strong all day, only leading six laps but running up front throughout the day. Hamlin finished second to Harvick as he tried to run the 4 car down over the last 20 18 laps.
“He was pretty fast, but we certainly were a long-run car,” Hamlin said. “Every time the runs went long, we were extremely fast. You saw on the first run how fast we came through the field. Just needed the sun to be out more, honestly, to play in our favor. Once it got to be wide-open there at the very end and the track cooled off, the cars that had that raw speed in qualifying, it played into their hands.”
Hamlin said overall his day went pretty smoothly.
“I didn’t have much of a challenge,” he said. “We stayed up front most of the day and led some laps and stayed in the top two or three for most of the day. Had a few restarts that were pretty critical that we were able to make some time on, but other than that we had a fast car.”
Kyle Larson was able to overcome an early pit road speeding penalty to come home third, which he said surprised him at the end of the race.
“I crossed the start-finish line, I wasn’t expecting to hear third,” Larson said.
“We were just trying to pass those people in front of us and save enough fuel and thankfully I was able, I guess really, to be slow enough early in that run to save fuel without really even knowing I was or trying to,” Larson said. “Saved a little bit there at the end to get to the finish. The 19 and the 12 ran out in front of me and I got by them. I think I could have gotten by them regardless. It was a good finish.”
Larson said he was surprised about the speeding penalty.
“I really was only worried about speeding leaving my stall,” he said. “When they said speeding segment one or whatever, I was surprised by that. I felt like I was very conservative throughout pit road.”
Martin Truex Jr. was also strong all day, leading 43 laps and winning the first stage in his 500th-career start, but fell to fourth at the finish. He said he needed one thing to get a better finish.
“More time,” he said. “Those last few restarts, we restarted far back and we were in the wrong lane every damn time. So just once we got strung out there, we were like 11th or so, just didn’t have enough time to get to the front.”
Truex had to start from the rear after failing pre-race tech multiple times, but was able to battle through the field to get the stage win.
“It’s always easiest to come through the field that first run, and we certainly did a good job of that and we were able to drive up and take the lead,” Truex said. “Thought we had the best car at that point in the race, probably halfway through, and then we got too far back there on those last couple restarts and everybody has time to work on their cars all day long and it just gets harder and harder to pass, so that last run we were stuck for way too long in the wrong lane and we lost too many spots on the restarts, and we had to get them one at a time. Ran out of time there.”
Michigan’s own Keselowski led the most laps on the day, pacing the field for 66 of the 200 laps. But a flat tire and not enough fuel at the end cost him the win and relegated him to a 19th-place finish.
“Man, I want this one so bad,” Keselowski said after the race. “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 led 52 laps on the day, the second-most, but finished 17th when he had to pit late.
“I needed more gas,” Logano said. “The Shell car isn’t supposed to run out of gas. The positive is we were way better than we were on Friday and Saturday. The negative is that we almost won the race but ended up finishing 17th. You win some, you lose some. If the caution comes out, we would have been in good shape, but it stayed green, and that’s it. That is the gamble. We took the gamble and it didn’t pay off. Pocono we played it the other way and the caution came out. That is two races, and we played it wrong both times.”
There were 19 lead changes Sunday between eight drivers and six cautions for 24 laps. The time of the race was two hours, 40 minutes and 59 seconds.