Kevin Harvick Capitalizes On Fuel Strategy In Consumers Energy 400 At Michiganby Hunter Thomas August 11, 2019 0 comments
BROOKLYN, Mich. – As drivers ran out of fuel in the closing laps of Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400, Kevin Harvick saved enough to win at Michigan International Speedway.
Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano dominated the 200-lap race, but as the final 48 laps went caution free, it was Harvick who battled his way to the front. He completed the race-winning pass on Logano with just 18 laps to go to win the race for the second year in-a-row. In the closing laps, teams weren’t sure if they’d make it to the finish, but Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Mobile 1 Ford team were very confident that they’d make it to the checkered flag without having to make another pit stop. The win marks Harvick’s second of the season and 47th of his career.
“Well, for me I wasn’t really having to save fuel, and I felt like the key to winning the race was getting around the 2 (Brad Keselowski),” Harvick said. “I felt like in clean air he was going to be the hardest one to pass. I felt like the 22 (Joey Logano) 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.
Denny Hamlin finished second, capturing his fifth consecutive top-five finish. The driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota saved enough fuel, but he felt that he needed more speed to compete with Harvick for the win.
“We finished,” Hamlin said. “We had enough. Just part of it. Wish we were just a little faster. That last run we were down a little bit on speed to keep up with those guys. I was happy that we were able to keep up, but certainly needed a long, long run for our car to come in. Proud of the FedEx team for making great adjustments from the last time we were here. Another good finish.”
As for Kyle Larson who finished third, he was able to take advantage of the drivers in front of him who ran out of fuel. Without a win so far this season, the driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No 42 McDonalds Chevrolet has to stay above the NASCAR Playoff cutline, and Sunday’s top-five finish certainly helped with that effort.
“Yeah, the last thing I knew I was running like ninth and I passed a couple guys, but so yeah, I guess more people ran out of fuel than I thought,” Larson said. “I don’t really know what happened there. But yeah, it worked out. That was a great point saver, well above the cut line now, so happy about that.”
Stage 1 winner Martin Truex Jr. and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top-five. Kyle Busch who won Stage 2 finished sixth, followed by Ryan Preece, and Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman.
Two drivers who took a hard hit in the standings were Jimmie Johnson in 34th and Clint Bowyer in 37th.
Johnson, who is now below the NASCAR Playoff cutline, hit the wall early in the race. He slid up into the PJ1 on the high side of the track and continued into the outside wall exiting Turn 2.
“The right side tires went into the PJ1 and as soon as I got my tires in it, I went straight into the wall,” Johnson said. “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.”
Bowyer crashed hard in Turn 3 to bring out the caution on lap 138. On a wild restart, Bowyer got caught up in a pack of cars while battling into Turn 3. Paul Menard either made slight contact with the rear of Bowyer’s car or he came extremely close. Either way, Bowyer lost control and slapped the outside wall. He now sits just above the NASCAR Playoff cutline.
“Somebody got in the back of me,” Bowyer said. “When I went around I just saw (Alex) Bowman and thought it was him. I guess maybe the 21 (Paul Menard) or somebody. As soon as it happened, I was just along for the ride. I don’t know. We have to get something figured out with these race tracks. We are really fast by ourselves, practice and qualifying really well, in the top-five almost every single time but then we start the race and don’t make the grip we need to compete. We definitely need to find some things out. You can talk about the bubble and worrying about points but I am way more worried about getting established and running up front at these types of race tracks.”
Following the Consumers Energy 400, Kyle Busch leads Logano in the standings by 20 points.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will visit Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, August 17 for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. Live coverage of the race will broadcast on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images