As his fellow-competitors went into fuel-conservation mode and some opted to pit in the final laps, Kevin Harvick drove to his second-straight win of the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday. It was his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of 2019 and third win at MIS for Stewart-Haas Racing in the last four races there.
“Well, you remember those days when you made the most power and you had the best fuel mileage, right?Â It’s nice,â Harvick said.Â âDoug [Yates] and everybody at Roush Yates Engines does a great job, and obviously, Ford puts a big circle around these two Michigan races to come up here and be the top manufacturer, and when you look at our engine program, I think that these particular race tracks really fit the style of our torque curves and the things that we do, and it was right in our wheelhouse.Â A lot of things different on the car from the first race.Â The evolution of these race cars is rapid, and when you talk about the engine shop, obviously, Mobil 1 is a huge part of that in being able to develop new oils, and today was no different with the new oil and things in the car. It was a good day and a lot of pieces coming together, and hopefully, when we get to Las Vegas, there will be a few more come together, as well.”
Harvickâs win also was the fourth-straight for Ford at Michigan.
âThis is our home track and in the backyard of Ford Motor Company, and it is really important for us to perform well in front of our employees, executives and all their families,â Ford Performance Global Director Mark Rushbrook said. âIt is a big deal. We brought 1,100 employees and their families out to watch the race today, and we had great support from all our senior management here today to watch and to celebrate this victory.â
Denny Hamlin finished second.
âWe were right there. Really fast car,â Hamlin said. âThe FedEx team did a great job adjusting from the last time we were here. First and second on these tracks that we are going back to for a second time. They are just doing a great job making those adjustments. Nothing that I could really do, just didnât have enough speed. The 4 [Harvick] was about a half-a-second faster than us in qualifying.â
Kyle Larson third, Martin Truex Jr. fourth, and Harvickâs SHR teammate Daniel Suarez bookended the top-five of the finishing order for Stewart-Haas.
âIt was a decent day for us,â Suarez said. âWe had ups and downs. There was something wrong, a bad set of tires or something, in that second stage. We couldnât control it. The team was able to overcome that with good adjustments, and they put me back in the game with track position, and we were able to get a good result from there.â
Harvick was outside the top-five for the final restart with just under 50 laps remaining, but he moved into the lead with 17 laps to go after getting by a Team Penske trio of drivers. He took third from Brad Keselowski with 29 laps remaining, second from Ryan Blaney a lap later and the lead from Joey Logano. Unlike many of his fellow-competitors, the eventual race winner didnât look to go until fuel-conservation mode until he had built a large lead in the final laps.
âWe felt like we were a lap or two to the good, but we just wanted to make sure,â Harvickâs crew chief Rodney Childers told the Motor Racing Network after the race.
Harvickâs latest win came after an early-race, unscheduled pit stop for a tire problem on lap 31. He went a lap down, but his stop came close enough to a green-flag cycle pit stop for the rest of the race field for Harvick to get back on track and back on the lead lap a few laps later.
âIt was, like you say, a day of a little bit of adversity that we were able to overcome,â Harvick said.Â âBut we just had a really fast car all weekend. Our car handled really well today, and with the multiple lanes, we were able to run all three lanes pretty well and make our way through traffic.Â So just really proud of everybody on our Mobil 1 Ford, everybody from Busch and Hunt Brothers and Jimmy John’s and everybody back at the shop from Haas Automation and StewartâHaas Racing. Just put a really fast car on the racetrack, and we were able to capitalize on it, and that’s always fun.â
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch were stage winners in the first 120 laps of the race — Truex winning stage one at lap 60 and Busch up front for the second-stage win at lap 120.
Truexâs opening-stage win came despite falling to the back for the initial green flag of the race because of an issue getting through pre-race inspection earlier in the day.
âIt was a hot rod early,â Truex said of his car. âWe were able to drive by everybody. The first couple runs of the race were really sporty. To get up there and win stage one was a big deal. I felt, through the middle of the race, we had the best car. Just those last couple restarts, we got off sequence and lost all of our track position and restarted 19th. Just could not get in the right spot. Every restart we were in the wrong lane; we lost spots. Then, we would just have to pick them off one at a time. Amazing race car. Thanks to everyone back at JGR, Toyota and TRD. The Auto Owners Camry was a rocket ship today. Just didnât get to show it at the end.â
Michigan native Brad Keselowski started on the pole and led the first 39 laps before pitting during a green-flag cycle of stops on lap 40, giving up the lead to Hamlin. Truex was up front when the cycle completed on lap 49, taking fuel only during his stop on lap 47.
Keselowski was back up front to restart for stage two after a two-tire stop. Several others also took two, shuffling Truex to ninth on four new tires.
Truex retook the lead by overtaking Keselowski on lap 91, but he was overtaken by Busch on a restart following a caution for a Keselowski spin on lap 115. The second stage ended a lap later.
Logano and Blaney both led laps in the final stage before Harvick took what would become his race-winning lead late in the race, running first through third before Harvick took over up front. By the checkered flag, though, none of Penske drivers were in the top-10 of the finishing order. Keselowski made one last pit stop for fuel with 12 laps remaining, and Logano pitted for fuel with three to go. Blaney ran out of fuel.
âMan, I want this one so bad,â Keselowski said. âWe 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.â
Busch finished sixth, and Ryan Preece was seventh. The Hendrick Motorsports trio of William Byron, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman rounded out the top-10.
âWe won stage two, and then, I had to get back in traffic, there,â Busch said. âWe were up to fifth on another restart and just got shuffled back. Iâd gain three spots in the corner and then lose four spots on the straightaway and, then, gain three spots in the corner and, then, lose four spots on the straightaway. Just could never get going right with the balance of the car, either. We just never felt in the race track all day long. It was always up on top, just sliding the back or sliding the front. Really ugly, but we persevered. Guys had to pit, and some guys ran out, and we finished sixth. Weâll take what we can get here and go on to Bristol.â