Event: FireKeepers Casino 400 (Round 15 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (2-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 29th/5th (Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
Point Standing: 1st (526 points, 30 points ahead of second)
Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished fifth in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The fifth-place finish marks Harvick’s seventh top-five of the season and 14th in 31 career Sprint Cup starts at Michigan.
The Sprint Cup Series points leader started 29th after ill-timed cautions interrupted his first two qualifying attempts on Friday at Michigan. The starting position proved to be difficult in the early going as cars struggled to pass on the 2-mile oval. Harvick fell a lap down to the leaders twice during the first half of the race after cautions immediately followed green-flag pit stops. However, the No. 4 team took the wave-around in each case to return to the lead lap.
Harvick was scored 22nd on the lap-107 restart just past the halfway point of the 200-lap event, but he immediately began working his way toward the front of the field. Harvick took right-side tires and fuel on lap 112 to restart 21st, and the two-tire strategy paid off as he raced up to 11th by lap 128.
A quick four-tire stop under caution on lap 149 allowed the 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion to gain two spots on pit road and enter the top-10 for the first time in the event. He raced his way up to the third position on the lap-155 restart and held the spot until a lap-164 caution. Harvick stayed out with the leaders but fell to fifth by the final caution of the day on lap 190.
The Bakersfield, California, native restarted fifth on lap 194 and raced his way up to fourth on the restart before losing one position and reaching the checkered flag in the fifth spot.
“Yeah, I got loose on the restart where we restarted third,” said Harvick, who won the Sprint Cup race at Michigan in August 2010. “I’ve just got to say thank you to everybody from Stewart-Haas Racing, especially on the No. 4 Outback Chevrolet, and everybody from Busch Beer, Jimmy John’s and Mobil 1 and everybody who helps this car. We fought all day and had great pit stops on pit road. We were able to overcome some mistimed cautions again. It seems like the weekend of cautions; that’s what got us in our starting spot, anyway. But all in all, everybody kept their heads up and kept digging, and we got a good finish out of it.”
Harvick led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday at Michigan.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished seventh. It was his second top-10 in 2016 and his 21st top-10 in 33 Sprint Cup starts at the two-mile oval.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 10th. It was Busch’s 13th top-10 finish this season and his 11th top-10 in 31 career Sprint Cup starts at Michigan.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 21st.
Joey Logano finished .889 of a second ahead of Chase Elliott, while Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski and Harvick rounded out the top-five. Carl Edwards, Stewart, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray and Busch comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 46 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the 200-lap race.
With round 15 of 36 complete, Harvick leads SHR and the series in the championship standings. He is first with 526 points, 30 ahead of teammate Busch. This marks the fourth straight week SHR drivers have been 1-2 in the championship standings.
Patrick is 25th with 265 points, 79 ahead of 31st-place David Ragan. Stewart is 35th with 152 points, 45 out of the top-30. If Patrick or Stewart win a race and finish among the top-30 in points following the 26th race of the season Sept. 10 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, each will earn a Chase berth. Harvick earned a Chase spot via his win March 13 at Phoenix International Raceway, and Busch secured his position via his win at Pocono.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Save Mart 350 on Sunday, June 26, at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. Can Harvick add a road course win to his impressive Sprint Cup resume? Stay tuned for the answer to this question!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!