Kevin Harvick closes out Michigan weekend with win

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 11: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, and his son, Keelan, pose with the trophy after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 11, 2019 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service



BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN – AUGUST 11: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, race during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 11, 2019 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

Recovering from a punctured right front tire that cost him track position early in the race, Kevin Harvick passed Joey Logano on Lap 183 of 200 and cruised to a 1.595-second victory in Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

During a closing 48-lap green-flag run that began with a restart on Lap 153, Harvick charged from seventh to first, recording his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season, his third at the 2.0-mile track and the 47th of his career.

“It was a day of a little bit of adversity that we were able to overcome,” Harvick said. “We had a really fast car all weekend. Our car handled really well today, and with the multiple lanes (thanks in part to the application of traction compound in the high grooves), we were able to run all three lanes pretty well and make our way through traffic.

“They (the team) put a really fast race car on the track, and we were able to capitalize on it, so that’s always fun.”

When Harvick crossed the finish line, leading his 22nd lap of the afternoon, Denny Hamlin was running second after Logano pitted for a splash of fuel on Lap 197. Kyle Larson ran third, followed by Martin Truex Jr. and Daniel Suarez, who re-entered the Playoff picture when two drivers on the bubble ahead of him — Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer — had disastrous days in the Irish Hills.

Thirty-one laps into the race, Harvick steered his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford onto pit road with a flat right front tire. But with the first 60-lap stage running green from start to finish, Harvick was able to drive up to sixth by the end of the stage.

Martin Truex Jr. won Stage 1 after starting from the rear because of two pre-race inspection failures, but his No. 19 Toyota wasn’t as strong in traffic late in the race than it had been early on. Kyle Busch won Stage 2, but his car, like Truex’s, wasn’t as effective in traffic after pit stops at the end of the stage scrambled the running order.

Likewise, Hamlin’s car was best in the heat of the day on a hot, slick track, but the speed in Harvick’s car prevailed as the asphalt cooled down.

“Well, it seemed like we generally had the best-handling car when it was really hot and slick, but as the day went on and the track cooled off, the guys that had built more speed into their car, it kind of handicapped it for them. So, we were able to hang on to those Fords there at the end, and then just got — the 4 (Harvick) was trying to save fuel I’m guessing there, the 2 (pole winner Brad Keselowski) and the 22 (Logano) peeled off.

“Nothing I could really do, just didn’t have enough speed. The 4 was about a half second faster than us in qualifying, and when we were holding it wide open there at the end, just couldn’t overcome it.”

Kyle Busch ran sixth, and Ryan Preece came home seventh, posting his first career top 10 in his 28th series start. The Hendrick Motorsports trio of William Byron, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman completed the top 10.

Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson wasn’t as fortunate. On Lap 15, his No. 48 Chevrolet slapped the outside wall, severely damaging the right side of the car. Johnson finished 34th, eight laps down.

Bowyer’s misfortune came on Lap 137, after contact with the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford of Paul Menard. Bowyer’s car slammed into the Turn 3 wall, and efforts to repair the car proved futile. Bowyer retired from the race in 37th place.

Johnson dropped two places to 18th in the series standings, 12 points behind Bowyer and 12th-place finisher Ryan Newman, tied for the last Playoff-eligible position. Suarez moved past Johnson to 17th in the standings and trails Newman and Bowyer by four points with three races left before the cutoff at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson has a bad day at Michigan—but it could 

have been worse

Jimmie Johnson never really had a chance to show what he could do at Michigan International Speedway, and the early trouble he experienced in Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 kept the seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion squarely on the Playoff bubble.

On Lap 15 of 200, Johnson ventured up the race track, trying to challenge Denny Hamlin for position. The result was disastrous, as Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet drifted toward the outside wall and collided with the barrier.

The impact flattened the right side of the car, and Johnson lost three laps on pit road before his crew could put the Chevrolet back in running condition. Ultimately, Johnson finished 34th, eight laps down and fell to 18th in the series standings, 12 points outside the current Playoff cut line.

“The right-side tires went into the PJ1 (traction compound), 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.”

Daniel Suarez ran fifth on Sunday and vaulted into 17th in the standings, eight points ahead of Johnson, who has      qualified for every Cup postseason since NASCAR introduced its first Playoff format in 2004.

“It’s super disappointing,” Johnson said. “It’s a little easier when it’s not on you, and you can call it a mechanical or a flat or get caught up in a wreck. But I’m behind the wheel, and I’m the one that got us in the fence.”

If there was a saving grace for Johnson, it was a late crash that relegated fellow bubble driver Clint Bowyer to 37th at the finish, depriving Bowyer of a golden opportunity to gain ground in the standings.

“The guys around that cutoff point all seem to be having bad luck,” Johnson observed.


Calamity strikes Clint Bowyer at worst possible moment

When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars lined up for a restart on Lap 137, Clint Bowyer was in an enviable position.

His No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford was running 18th, with fresh tires, and one of his chief rivals for a berth in the series Playoffs, Jimmie Johnson, was eight laps down after early contact with the outside wall.

Less that a lap later, Bowyer’s race fell apart. After contact with Paul Menard’s Ford, Bowyer’s car shot into the outside wall, damaging the Mustang beyond repair. After a failed attempt to get the car up to speed, the clock ran out on the team’s attempts to fix the No. 14 Ford.

Bowyer’s 37th-place finish left him tied with Ryan Newman for the final Playoff-eligible position—on a day when merely staying out of trouble could have earned him a significant advantage.

“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 (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.

“If you make the Playoffs and can’t compete in it, then what’s the use? We have some things to work out. We have some time. We have some good race tracks for us including Bristol coming up. We have plenty of racing, but we have to get some things figured out.”

Strong fifth-place run puts Daniel Suarez 

back in the playoff mix

Driving a car that had to be repaired after a brush with the outside wall in practice, Daniel Suarez avoided trouble and the sort of fuel shortage that plagued other competitors to run fifth in Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

The top five moved the driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to 17th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, only four points behind teammate Clint Bowyer and fellow Ford driver Ryan Newman, who are currently tied for the final Playoff position.

“It was a decent day for us,” Suarez said. “We had ups and downs. There was something wrong, a bad set of tires or something in that second stage. We couldn’t 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.”

As Suarez was interviewed on pit road, he watched teammate and race winner Kevin Harvick light up his tires in a celebratory burnout.

“Someday soon, you’re going to see us doing that,” Suarez promised.


Austin Cindric collects his second consecutive 

Xfinity career win at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, OHIO – AUGUST 10: Austin Cindric, driver of the #22 PPG Ford, celebrates after winning the B&L Transport 170 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 10, 2019 in Lexington, Ohio. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

LEXINGTON, Ohio _ Austin Cindric claimed his second NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in as many weeks – earning an impressive 3.78-second win over Christopher Bell and former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup driver A.J. Allmendinger Saturday afternoon at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

The 20-year old Cindric had just celebrated his career first win last week at the iconic Watkins Glen International road course and with a huge smile, effusively wondered what

LEXINGTON, OHIO – AUGUST 10: Austin Cindric, driver of the #22 PPG Ford, celebrates after winning the B&L Transport 170 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 10, 2019 in Lexington, Ohio. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

may be next for his No. 22 Team Penske Ford as the series heads to the half-mile Bristol  Motor Speedway next week. Should he win at Bristol he would become the first driver in NASCAR Xfinity Series history to earn his first three wins in consecutive races.

“It feels so good,” a smiling Cindric said after climbing out of his Ford Mustang. “These guys are the best and thanks for bringing me a great car again this year. And hell of a job by Christopher Bell keeping me honest all day.

“It feels good, two in row and going for three at Bristol. I’ll probably go crazy if I win there. Should be a lot of fun. This is great momentum for our group.”

Cindric is the seventh different winner in seven Xfinity Series races at the 2.258-mile, 13 Turn Mid-Ohio course and his day included impressive feats of both maintaining the lead and high pursuit to reclaim it between pit strategies. He won the pole position by a full three-tenths of a second and held “favorite” status before the green flag even dropped.

Much of the race was spent negotiating re-starts and high speed turns with Bell on his bumper or at his door – as well as fending off another road racing star Jack Hawksworth, who actually won in class in an International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) race at Mid-Ohio already this year and made his series debut in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota.

Hawksworth started from the outside pole and challenged the frontrunners for much of the race, eventually finishing 15th and leading five laps. He actually won the second stage, which finished under caution – one of six yellow flags for 17 laps on the afternoon.

“I enjoyed it, it was a lot of fun,” Hawksworth said after the race. “I was having a lot of fun out there. I had a great time and would like to come back.”

Cindric led 46 of the 75 laps and Bell, the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, was the only other driver in double digits out front. Bell is second in the championship standings to Tyler Reddick, who finished fourth Saturday. And after the race, the short track superstar conceded he is getting better on the road courses. Bell was second last week to Cindric as well.

“I don’t know about that, but I do know we’re going to Bristol next week and I can’t wait,” he said smiling about the road course prowess he’s shown with the back-to-back runner-up finishes.

“The last two weeks have been really great for us points-wise and road racing isn’t my strong suit.”

Reddick, Bell and Cole Custer – who finished eighth Saturday after an eventful day on track – combined to win 13 of the first 18 Xfinity Series races of the season. With Bell’s second straight runner-up showing and Reddick’s fourth place finish, the defending series champion Reddick maintains a 24-point championship lead on Bell heading to Bristol next week. Cindric joins this threesome as the only Xfinity drivers with multiple wins in 2019.

Chase Briscoe, defending race winner Justin Allgaier and rookie Noah Gragson persevered for a good day as well. Briscoe won Stage 1 and finished seventh. Allgaier, the defending race winner, rallied to a sixth-place finish after a couple of off-track excursions. And the rookie Gragson, impressed with a fifth-place finish after also being involved in some tight, full contact racing as well.

The series races next Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Food City 300. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup star Kyle Larson won the Xfinity race last year.