Kevin Harvick fended off an attack from Brad Keselowski in overtime to seal victory in the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series double-header at Michigan.
Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing machine was dominant throughout the eventual 161-lap encounter around the 2.0-mile Michigan oval, scooping all three stages in his Ford Mustang after a flurry of late caution and red flag periods.
After a routine first 85 laps encompassing stages one and two, a series of three separate cautions for John-Hunter Nemechek spinning with tyre issues closed the pack up, the final such caution coming on lap 131.
Shortly before the third Nemechek caution, on lap 107, all lead lap cars opted to stop – with numerous strategies deployed by the teams – with the likes of Harvick taking just two tyres, Keselowski four new Goodyears and reigning Cup champion Kyle Busch just replenishing fuel in his Joe Gibbs Toyota Camry.
After the final caution for the #38 of Nemechek, there was just a four-lap green-flag run until lap 143 when Ryan Preece got loose and slapped the wall.
This restart lasted but a lap and ended with Chase Elliott being gifted the lead after the leading quartet all opted to take the high-line, leaving the fifth-placed Hendrick Chevrolet Camaro entry on the front-row.
A Cole Custer wreck swiftly bought about the abort of the restart.
A further late caution – the fifth of the race (not counting stage breaks or competition caution) after contact between Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman sent the race to overtime – with Harvick leading and Keselowski alongside after Elliott opted to take the high-line to fill in behind the Mustang.
In the two-lap shootout, Keselowski side-drafted Harvick on the back-stretch, but a nudge from Elliott’s #9 Camaro was enough to send Harvick into a lead he would not lose to claim the fifth win of a strong 2020 campaign, fourth at Michigan overall and 54th of his 20-year career – equalling the tally of Lee Petty.
Keselowski, on his home track made it a Ford 1-2 as Martin Truex Jr put in a stand-out drive to claim third for JGR – his third consecutive finish in the position.
The 2017 champion suffered a flat tyre early on and dropped to the rear of the field, running as low as a lapped 36th, but worked his way through the chaos to pip Ryan Blaney’s Penske Mustang from making it a 1-2-3 in the Blue Oval’s backyard.
Kyle Busch had a strong afternoon in his run to fifth, just ahead of team-mate Denny Hamlin who suffered from a lack of pace after a four-tyre stop under a Nemechek caution and was unable to recover in the same way as Harvick.
Elliott fell to seventh, ahead of Joey Logano (Penske) Bubba Wallace (Richard Petty Motorsports) and Kurt Busch (Chip Ganassi) who rounded out the top 10.
Chris Buescher will start the second race on pole position after finishing 20th – the top 20 being flipped for Sunday’s encounter as has been the case on the three other occasions NASCAR has run double-headers in the season.
NASCAR Cup Series Michigan – Result
|1||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|2||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske|
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|4||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske|
|5||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|6||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|7||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports|
|8||Joey Logano||Team Penske|
|9||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Richard Petty Motorsports|
|10||Kurt Busch||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|11||Erik Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|12||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports|
|13||Christopher Bell||Leavine Family Racing|
|14||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports|
|15||Matt DiBenedetto||Wood Brothers Racing|
|16||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|17||Matt Kenseth||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|18||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing|
|19||Clint Bowyer||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|20||Chris Buescher||Roush Fenway Racing|
|21||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports|
|22||Corey LaJoie||Go FAS Racing|
|23||Ty Dillon||Germain Racing|
|24||Daniel Suarez||Gaunt Brothers Racing|
|25||Ryan Preece||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|26||J.J. Yeley||Rick Ware Racing|
|27||Quin Houff||StarCom Racing|
|28||Ryan Newman||Roush Fenway Racing|
|29||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports|
|30||Reed Sorenson||Spire Motorsports|
|31||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing|
|32||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|33||Timmy Hill||MBM Motorsports|
|34||Cole Custer||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|35||Garrett Smithley||Rick Ware Racing|
|36||John Hunter Nemechek||Front Row Motorsports|
|37||Brennan Poole||Premium Motorsports|
|38||James Davison||Petty Ware Racing|
|39||Joey Gase||Tommy Baldwin Racing|