Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, MI — August 9, 2020
If Kevin Harvick wins today’s Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway, just hand him the keys to the place, he owns it. After a dominant performance in yesterday’s Firekeepers Casino 400, he has 4 wins at the track nestled in the Irish Hills of Michigan. Including three of the last four Cup races held there.
Maybe the only thing standing in Harvick’s way is track position, he ran no lower than the 7th spot during his Saturday afternoon victory parade. NASCAR inverts the top 20 finishers from yesterday’s event, meaning Harvick will start 20th and have to work his way through some traffic.
A couple of cars in front of Harvick will vacate their starting positions and move to the rear of the field. Chris Buescher will give up the pole to go to a backup car, Tyler Reddick forfeits the 3rd spot in the grid for the same reason. After a wreck-filled Final Stage on Saturday, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Michael McDowell, Ryan Preece, John Hunter Nemechek, and Cole Custer all went to backup cars for today’s race. Reed Sorenson and Daniel Suarez were penalized and sent to the rear for failing inspection twice.
Two other cars move to the rear, Brennan Poole due to an engine change, and the No. 7 car swapped their transmission and their driver. Josh Bilicki will slide into the seat in place of Joey Gase.
The VizCom 200 for the ARCA Menards Series cars ran before the Cup Series race at MIS today. Just 17 cars took the green flag, Mike Basham wrecked in Turn 2 just past the mid-point of the race. A scheduled five-minute pit stop break after lap 60 set up the competitors for a sprint to the finish.
Bret Holmes led most of the early portion of the race. He and Riley Herbst mixed it up over the last 30 laps with Herbst slowly pulling away for the victory.
The Consumer’s Energy 400
Race particulars for the Consumer’s Energy 400 are the same as Saturday. Stages are 40/45/71 laps for 156 circuits of the 2-mile speedway, covering a distance of 312 miles. No competition caution will be needed today as crews know what to expect based on results from the 1st race of the doubleheader. After all the lineup shuffling Clint Bowyer and William Byron with lead the field to the green.
Bowyer and Byron raced side-by-side through the first lap with Bowyer gaining the advantage at the start-finish line. Bowyer pulled away as the Top 10 settled into position. Behind the leaders, the scramble for positions went two, three, and even four-wide.
On Lap 10 Kevin Harvick passed Bubba Wallace to move into the Top 10. Bowyer built a two and a half-second lead over Christopher Bell in 2nd. With Matt DiBenedetto, Byron, and Erik Jones making up the Top 5.
Bowyer easily won the Stage and the much needed 10 bonus points that will help his battle to make the playoffs on points alone. Harvick worked his way to 8th and was the fastest car on the track in the latter laps of the Stage.
Stage 1 Results
Kyle Busch wins the race off pit road, followed by Harvick, Bowyer, Byron, and Jones. Again, the choose cone is in use for this race and it played a significant factor in Saturday’s Cup race. The first three drivers took the top lane allowing Byron to move up to the front row in the lower lane.
Harvick pushed Kyle Busch to the lead in Turn 1, then jumped to the high side and drove past him for the lead. Wasting no time, Harvick began to drive away from the pack. It looks like Deja vu as Harvick once again has the superior car in comparison to the rest of the field.
At the conclusion of Stage 2, Harvick had built his to over four seconds. Brad Keselowski finished 2nd and Kyle Busch
Stage 2 Results
The Final Stage
It was at this point in the race Saturday that things got dicey, multiple cautions over the closing laps caused Harvick to fight off challengers on multiple restarts.
Harvick wins the race off pit road. Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Bowyer, and Denny Hamlin follow. It will take one more pitstop for the cars to complete the remaining 71 laps. When that happens depends on if the caution flag waves inside of 50 laps to go.
At the choose cone, the first 4 leaders take the high line, Hamlin moves to the front row on the inside. With a push from Ryan Blaney, Hamlin takes the lead. Blaney moves around Hamlin and he takes over the top spot, Harvick moves to 2nd.
Hamlin is able to get around Harvick for 2nd and Keselowski makes a run. Brad and his Penske teammate Blaney get together on the backstretch and both slam the wall hard sending them each to the garage and out of the race.
With Hamlin in the lead, Harvick, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, and Aric Almirola is the new group of leaders. As the choose cone again becomes a big factor in the outcome of the race.
This time Hamlin, Harvick, and Elliott take the outside, the Busch brothers line up on the bottom side. Harvick pushes Hamlin to the lead and in Turn 2 Harvick goes high to recapture the lead. Bowyer wrinkled a fender in a tangle with Alex Bowman during the scramble for positions, he had to come to pit road for repairs and lost a lap to the field.
As Bowyer was merging into the rear of the field, Christopher Bell spun off Turn 2 bringing out the caution again. Good timing for Bowyer as he gets his lap back as the lucky dog.
With 50 laps to go the entire field comes to pit road for fuel, believing they can save enough gas to stretch a full tank to the end of the race.
Almirola leads off pit road followed by Hamlin, Matt DiBenedetto, Harvick and Kurt Busch. Harvick chose the bottom lane to pull to the front row beside his Stewart-Haas teammate with Kyle Busch on his rear bumper.
Kyle Busch pushes Harvick to keep him even with Almirola. By the time they race back to the line Harvick is ahead. But, Almirola drives back by on the high side into Turn 1. Harvick followed for a few laps until the field sorted out and then down the backstretch he slid past Almirola to resume the lead.
The Closing Laps
Once out front, Harvick drove his usual flawless line and slowly pulled away from the field. Almirola continued to run 2nd and Martin Truex Jr. moved into the 3rd spot with Denny Hamlin just behind. Kyle Busch faded to 9th.
Almirola running in the tire tracks of Harvick was able to close the gap as the cars worked through lapped traffic. He got beside Harvick in Turn 2 but could not complete the pass. The effort cost Almirola the 2nd spot as Truex and Hamlin drove by to try their luck with Harvick. Once back in clean air Harvick began to build the lead again. With 20 laps to go the interval from 1-2 was back over a second.
Alex Bowman had a tire go down and the outer casing came off in the middle of the track. The caution flag means, just like yesterday, Harvick will have to fight off another challenge on the restart.
Almirola pitted as he was calculated to run short on fuel. The leaders stayed on the track with Harvick in front followed by three Joe Gibbs Racing cars, Truex, Hamlin, Kyle Busch.
At the choose cone, Harvick and Truex Kyle Busch go high, Hamlin chooses the low line and he is followed by Joey Logano. Harvick pulls away easily as Hamlin and Truex race for 2nd, and the Busch brothers battle for 4th. Hamlin prevails but is quickly a second down to Harvick who is stretching the lead.
With 10 laps to go, it’s Harvick, Hamlin, Truex, Kyle Busch, and Logano, the Top 5. Freeing himself from Truex, Hamlin closes the gap by a half-second. Still, catching and then passing are two separate activities.
Hamlin closes to two car lengths with 5 laps to go. In Turns 3 & 4 Hamlin closes, In Turns 1 & 2 Harvick pulls away. With the white flag in the air, Harvick pulls out to four car lengths and his weekend sweep is assured. Hamlin can not get a bumper to him, as Harvick crosses under the checkered flag for his 6th win of the season.
Harvick led 90 of the 156 laps run and the result was hardly in doubt despite Hamlin’s late run.
Playoff Point Standings
Aric Almirola and the Busch brothers improved their positions building on their point spread over bubble position. So did Clint Bowyer and Matt DiBenedetto, who now sit +60 and +57 respectively.
William Byron added 10 points to his bubble margin over Erik Jones. Jimmie Johnson moved into a tie with Jones, keeping his slim playoff hopes alive.
Next Sunday the Cup Series visits Daytona to run on the road course. Watkins Glen was moved off the schedule due to the pandemic. A surprise winner could throw the playoff chase into total chaos.
|7||Martin Truex Jr.||716||1||In-Win|
|Playoff Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Results of the Consumers Energy 400 from Michigan International Speedway
|3||19||Martin Truex Jr.||2.482||156|
|19||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||11.588||156|
|23||38||John Hunter Nemechek||15.106||156|