NASCAR Cup Series at Michigan results: Kevin Harvick wins FireKeepers Casino 400, his first victory since 2020

Michigan International Speedway
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Two years ago, Kevin Harvick was practically automatic when he and his team came to the racetrack, winning a total of nine times in 2020. Then, the winning stopped for 65 straight races and almost two full years -- until today, when the 46-year-old from Bakersfield, Calif. took advantage of a timely late-race caution to bring him from the brink of playoff elimination to another chance to race for a championship.

After a late-race caution during a round of green flag pit stops gave him the lead, Harvick drove away over the final green flag run to win the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan by four seconds. The win was his first of the 2022 season and ended a 65-race winless streak.

Harvick's win is the 59th of his Cup Series career -- but more importantly, it puts him on the playoff grid with three races remaining after he entered Sunday as the first car below the playoff cutoff line.

FireKeepers Casino 400 results

  1. #4 - Kevin Harvick
  2. #23 - Bubba Wallace
  3. #11 - Denny Hamlin
  4. #22 - Joey Logano
  5. #12 - Ryan Blaney
  6. #19 - Martin Truex Jr.
  7. #5 - Kyle Larson
  8. #43 - Erik Jones
  9. #48 - Alex Bowman
  10. #45 - Ty Gibbs

In a race rife with pit strategy, a combination of happenings on pit road and the racetrack ended up swinging the race in Harvick's favor. Shortly after Harvick made his final stop under green, the caution came out for a crash by Christopher Bell on the front straightaway. Harvick was able to stay out having already made his stop, while the rest of the leaders came to pit road.

Denny Hamlin won the race off pit road, but he saw his chances of winning dashed when his crew was assessed a penalty for too many men over the wall. Harvick was able to hold the lead on the ensuing restart, and he then drove away after Bubba Wallace was held up behind Joey Logano for too long to try and run Harvick down.

After Bell's win at New Hampshire knocked Harvick below the cutoff line, crashes at Pocono and Indianapolis forced Harvick into a must-win situation. A must-win situation that played out over the final 35 laps at one of Harvick's best racetracks.

"Everybody who doubted us," Harvick told NBC Sports, "doesn't know us."

Playoff Bubble Pops

On the other side of Harvick's trip to Victory Lane was a disastrous outcome for Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. If there hadn't been any new winners in August, both could have felt relatively comfortable with their points position relative to the cutoff line. Now, neither driver is safe.

Harvick's win now pits Blaney and Truex in a dogfight for the final spot in the playoffs on points, a spot Blaney currently holds by 19 points over Truex. There's plenty that can change that scant margin over the next three weeks, and Sunday's results showed the potential for a nightmare scenario for both drivers: Wallace scored his second runner-up finish of the season, while Erik Jones was a factor throughout the day and ran in the top five late before fading to eighth.

If anyone has a greater sense of urgency between the two, it's likely Blaney. Next weekend at Richmond Raceway presents a golden opportunity for Truex to score a victory, as he has won the second race at Richmond two out of the last three years and led 80 laps in the spring race earlier this year.

Missed Opportunity for Bubba

Bubba Wallace had one of the fastest cars in Michigan, if not the fastest car outright. After winning his first career pole, Wallace was in a position to upset the playoff grid himself and earn a win that would have erased his rough first half of the regular season.

Although it ended up being a great day that continued Wallace's recent hot streak, the greatest possible outcome was not to be. A sequence of events on the restart caused Wallace to lose too much ground to Harvick, and he beat himself up for the moves he could have made in his post-race interview.

"I'll wear this one on my heart for awhile. I failed everybody," Wallace told NBC Sports. "(If) I got clear of the No. 5 sooner. He was doing his part, putting it on my quarter (panel) there, keeping me tight. And just the side-by-side here allows the No. 4 to get away. I could have taken the top, pushed the No. 4, and then I could have been the No. 5 in that scenario, right? Just hate it, hate it for our team. It sucks."

While Wallace will have to lament what might have been -- a rough first half of his regular season has left him with too big a points gap to try and make the playoffs on points -- it still continues a remarkable turnaround for the driver of the No. 23. Wallace has now set career highs for top-five and top-10 finishes in a single season, and his 22 laps led was just one off of the most he has ever led in a single race (23 at Martinsville in the spring of 2021).

Major Incidents

While Sunday's race featured many long green flag runs, several accidents ended up playing a factor in the race's outcome. The most significant came on a Lap 25 restart, when J.J. Yeley got turned sideways in the middle of traffic to create a nine-car pileup that saw Austin Cindric take a vicious head-on hit into the outside wall and also eliminated Kyle Busch from the race, continuing a string of poor finishes for the driver of the No. 18.

Another dramatic sight occurred on Lap 98, when a series of left front tire failures for Cole Custer resulted in his No. 41 Ford going up in flames. The fire interrupted a cycle of green flag pit stops, but Custer was able to quickly climb out of his burning car after driving it back to the pits.

Race Results Rundown

  • Erik Jones continues to show why he's been signed to a long-term contract extension by Petty GMS, as his stat line continues to grow. Jones is the first driver of Richard Petty's No. 43 to score eight or more top-10 finishes in a season since AJ Allmendinger in 2011. If Jones can score three more top 10s, he'll be the first driver of the No. 43 to score more than 10 top 10s since Bobby Hamilton collected 11 in 1996.
  • No one was happier to see the month of July end than Alex Bowman, and it showed on Sunday. With a ninth-place finish, Bowman earned his first top-10 finish since the Coca-Cola 600 in May, finally taking the bad taste out of his mouth after four DNFs due to crashes in the last six races.
  • Ty Gibbs once again showed he's a quick study, and he overcame adversity in order to do so. After a pit road speeding penalty on his final stop, Gibbs drove all the way up to 10th at the checkered flag, scoring his first top-10 finish in just his third career start as the substitute driver for Kurt Busch.
  • A nice day for the Dillon household, as Ty Dillon joined his brother Austin inside the top 15. A 14th-place finish for Ty made for his best finish since a 13th-place run in the Coca-Cola 600.
  • NASCAR Xfinity Series star Austin Hill's first Cup start had its share of ups and downs, as he ran into the back of Cody Ware in a tight squeeze on pit road while also getting a pit road penalty for too many men over the wall. Despite that, Hill was able to finish a respectable 18th in his first action behind the wheel of a Cup car.
  • Go Spartans! Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker and basketball coach Tom Izzo gave the command to start engines on Sunday, and Josh Bilicki rewarded them by taking his Michigan State Chevrolet to a 21st-place finish -- Bilicki's second-best finish of the entire season.
  • In addition to Bilicki, two other drivers -- Cody Ware and B.J. McLeod -- both had nice runs inside the top 25, finishing 22nd and 23rd, respectively.

Next Race

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Richmond Raceway next weekend for the Federated Auto Parts 400, the first short track race of the second half of the season, next Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network.

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The winless streak is over! Kevin Harvick ends a nearly two-year long winless streak, picking up his 59th career win at Michigan and putting himself into the NASCAR playoffs!

1 - #4 - Kevin Harvick
2 - #23 - Bubba Wallace
3 - #11 - Denny Hamlin
4 - #22 - Joey Logano
5 - #12 - Ryan Blaney
6 - #19 - Martin Truex Jr.
7 - #5 - Kyle Larson
8 - #43 - Erik Jones
9 - #48 - Alex Bowman
10 - #45 - Ty Gibbs

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White flag is out for Kevin Harvick.

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Kevin Harvick pads his lead by a couple tenths. Two to go.

Ryan Blaney has passed Martin Truex Jr. back for fifth, and now he's going to go after Joey Logano for fourth. One to go this time by.

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Four laps to go for Kevin Harvick. His lead is now 3.8 seconds over Bubba Wallace.

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Daniel Suarez has a left front tire down. Tire is down on the rim but he's going to be able to make it onto pit road. No yellow.

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Denny Hamlin has passed Joey Logano for third. First battle in the Top 10 is between Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney -- And Blaney brushes the wall off Turn 2! He'll lose that spot as both drivers have to deal with Harvick being out front.

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The gap between Kevin Harvick and Bubba Wallace has stabilized at 4.4 seconds. As was the case many times in 2020 -- but not a lot of times since then -- Harvick is on cruise control. Coming to 10 laps to go this time by.

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Ty Gibbs has picked up 14 spots since the restart to move up to 10th. Would mark his first career Top 10 in just his third start, and an especially hard-fought one after a pit road speeding penalty on his last stop.

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Bubba Wallace was two tenths faster than Kevin Harvick that lap. Wallace seems to have the faster car, but it won't be enough to make up the deficit unless Harvick has trouble in lapped traffic.

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Denny Hamlin is battling back and is battling Martin Truex Jr. for sixth.

Meanwhile, Bubba Wallace completes the pass on Logano and takes second from Logano. The problem is, he has 4.6 seconds to make up and just 17 laps to try and do it.

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Kevin Harvick's lead has now increased to 3.4 seconds. The problem for Bubba Wallace is that the longer he runs behind Joey Logano, the more Logano holds him up. And there's few drivers who are tougher to pass than Joey Logano.

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Here's how Kevin Harvick leading affects the playoff picture: If Harvick wins, he jumps all the way up to the No. 15 seed in the playoffs and leaves only one spot left for a driver on points. As they run, Ryan Blaney would have that spot by 21 points over Martin Truex Jr.

26 laps to go. Battle for second is heating up between Logano, Wallace, and Blaney. That's happening 2.5 seconds back of Harvick.

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Joey Logano is the only driver in the top five who has won a race this season. Kevin Harvick is out front by 1.2 seconds and trying to snap a winless streak dating back to 2020. Erik Jones is in fifth and trying to break a winless streak dating back to 2019. Wallace and Blaney both won last season, but not once this season.

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Harvick gets a big push from Larson to hold the lead. Larson and Wallace side-by-side for second, and that gives Joey Logano the chance to make it three-wide on both of them!

Logano didn't ave the angle to make it work and created a tight squeeze in Turn 2. Larson was the big loser as he had to get out of the gas to keep from causing a wreck. Logano now second, Wallace third, and Ryan Blaney now up to fourth.

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Kevin Harvick is the new leader for this restart. He pitted under green and will restart on the outside lane. Bubba Wallace will restart second, the first of the cars who pitted under caution.

Green flag with 35 laps to go.

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Hamlin was pitted just past an opening in the pit wall, and a wheel rolled away from Hamlin's car towards that opening. A crewmember went to retrieve it from behind the pit wall, entering the pit box.

This is now the 31st pit road penalty for Hamlin and his team this season. That's seven more than the next-closest team (No. 18)

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PENALTY FOR DENNY HAMLIN: Too many men over the wall on his pit stop. A disaster in crunch time for the No. 11 crew.

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Everyone who hadn't pitted yet now comes to pit road under caution. Denny Hamlin beats Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson off pit road.

Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, and Ty Dillon all gain three spots.

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It's important to note that Chastain was on four new tires and was obviously faster than Bell's. Bell was trying to make his car wide on corner exit and trying to keep Chastain behind him. Classic example of what happens when you try to defend a spot and aren't clear.

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CRASH ON THE FRONTSTRETCH! Christopher Bell got turned into the wall off the bumper of Ross Chastain. Right front is torn off Bell's car and the caution is out right in the middle of green flag stops.

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Four tires and fuel for the Trackhouse cars. Suarez's stop was just a touch slower than Chastain's, so Chastain takes the spot from him.

Harvick now to pit road with a 9.8 second stop.

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Suarez and Chastain coming together to pit road with 43 laps to go.

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