Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service
BROOKLYN, Mich. – Last week at Watkins Glen, Chase Elliott’s maiden victory on the road course interrupted the season of the Big Three.
But on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, Kevin Harvick restored the status quo, winning for the seventh time this season and breaking a tie with third-place finisher Kyle Busch for most victories in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Harvick led 108 of the 200 laps in the Consumers Energy 400 and cruised to a 3.233-second win over runner-up Brad Keselowski, who took over second place when Austin Dillon slowed with a cut tire on the next-to-last lap. Dillon nevertheless held fourth place at the finish, one spot ahead of Ryan Blaney.
The victory was Harvick’s second at the 2.0-mile track—the first having come in 2010—and the 44th of his career, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott for 17th on a all-time win list. Harvick swept the first and second stages of the race and leap-frogged past Busch into the lead in Playoff points. Harvick now has 40 to Busch’s 35.
“The most important thing is winning races right now and getting all the points that you can get to position yourself well to get to Homestead,” Harvick said. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do all year is win races.
“That was our only goal. We didn’t want to learn anything. We don’t want to do anything different. We just want to go out, and we want to win.”
Keselowski, who drove from his 18th-place starting position to the runner-up spot, was grateful to have a clean race.
“It’s nice to be able to get the finish we deserved,” Keselowski said. “That’s important. It’s important to get what you have out of your car. Although we might not have race-winning speed, it’s important to execute.
“So with that in mind, it’s good for everybody’s morale at Team Penske, and on the No. 2 team as well, but of course we want to break through and win as well. As I indicated, we not where we need to be to just win on speed against those guys week-in and week-out, so we’ve just got to find it. We’ve got to find that little bit of performance. It’s not a lot, but it’s just enough to keep us out of Victory Lane.”
Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, pole winner Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Joey Logano completed the top 10.
After the race, Harvick’s 6-year-old son Keelan ran across the track to collect the checkered flag.
“Keelan is saving me some work,” Harvick quipped. “Usually, when I get home, the next day we have to mock up a Victory Lane celebration. For him to be here and able to do that and be a part of NASCAR and bring your son to work and do all the things that we get to do with our kids, I have had him with me by myself the last three weeks and we have had a ball.
“I couldn’t be happier to be a dad and be a part of NASCAR where they let your family come to the race track and be a part of it.”
In the regular-season series standings, Kyle Busch maintained a 62-point lead over Harvick… Dillon scored his first top five since winning the season-opening Daytona 500.
Justin Allgaier chases down Austin Cindric
for Mid-Ohio win
Holly Cain – NASCAR Wire Service
LEXINGTON, OHIO – Justin Allgaier pulled off the NASCAR version of a “spin and win” to take the Xfinity Series victory in Saturday’s Rock N Roll Tequila 170 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The JR Motorsports driver of the No. 7 Brandt Chevrolet rallied from late-race contact and a spin to pass Austin Cindric with eight laps remaining, claiming his third win of the season and first at the famed 2.4-mile road course.
Cindric’s No. 22 Penske Racing Ford won the pole position and led a dominant 59 of the race’s 75 laps but his track position gamble out front on old tires couldn’t hold off a hard-charging Allgaier, who pitted for new rubber in the race’s final caution period with nine laps remaining.
Cindric held on for second place. Richard Childress Racing driver Daniel Hemric finished third, followed by teammate and Ohio native Matt Tifft. Ryan Truex rounded out the top-five. Allgaier beomes the sixth different winner in as many Xfinity races at Mid-Ohio.
The race was typically “road course aggressive” with lots of bumping and banging throughout the field, particularly in the waning laps. And the final pass for the lead was the result of dramatic back-and-forth, give-and-take between Cindric and Allgaier, who exchanged the front position three times on a single lap before Allgaier pulled away for the checkered flag by 2.095-seconds.
“I thought we gave it away when I went off (course),’’ Allgaier said of his mid-race collision with Ford’s Cole Custer. “But that pit call (for tires) at the end is what did it. …We’ve been good this year, but to do it (win) at a road course is even better.”
And, he added with a smile, “it was a real barn-burner at the end.’’
For his part, Cindric was understandably disappointed to come home runner-up because he had clearly been the class of the field all weekend. The 19-year old Indiana-native came just two-seconds away from claiming his first Xfinity Series win, but did lead the most laps and earned a stage win as well.
“It was a big points day for me. .. but too bad we couldn’t capitalize with a dominant car,’’ Cindric said.
Four-time race winner and series points leader Christopher Bell ran as high as second place at one point, but heavy contact between him and veteran Elliott Sadler in the closing laps spun Bell’s No. 20 Toyota around and caused a final lap catch-up session. He ended up 11th and still holds a 17-point advantage over Hemric and Elliott in the standings with four races left to set the Playoff field.
Former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year, Andy Lally led seven laps and finished 15th – leading the road racing contingent to a good showing on the afternoon.
IMSA standout and former IndyCar driver Katherine Legge finished 30th, having to retire her car 10 laps from the end with engine problems. She is scheduled to compete with the Xfinity Series again at Road America in two weeks – as is NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, who is coming out of retirement for that race.
The Xfinity Series races the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway next Friday at 7:30 p.m.