INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Harvick had a brilliant plan this weekend. See, his team knew that they would likely have single lap speed in his No. 4 Ford for qualifying. With the lineup not being set until Sunday morning, they elected to get his car race ready in the two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice sessions from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday.
It paid off.
Harvick, led a race-high 118 of the 160 laps in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 en route to a dominating performance. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver started the day by earning the pole, as both of his wins now on the famed 2.5-mile track have come from the pole position.
Kevin Harvick wins Sunday’s 26th annual Brickyard 400
“Yeah, I don’t know if we had the best car, but we had the fastest car,” said Harvick after scoring his 48th career Cup Series win tying Herb Thomas for 15th all-time. “We gave up the lead there on one of those restarts and then we came and pitted and the caution came out and it worked in our way. We’ve given so many away just because of circumstances here, and the way that the caution flag fell today actually worked in our favor. It gave us control of the race and we were able to keep control of the race and not make many mistakes and here we are in victory lane at one of the greatest places on earth to race.”
Harvick, did luck out by the caution too. He had just hit pit lane on Lap 128 when Kyle Larson crashed in Turn 2. That meant that everyone else would still need to pit under that caution period which handed the lead back to Harvick on Lap 131. He’d lead the final 30 laps in scoring his third win of the season.
How dominant was he?
We saw a final caution on Lap 146 for Matt Tifft and Daniel Suarez in Turn 1. The green flag would wave with nine laps-to-go. Harvick and Joey Logano had an intense battle for the top spot for the first three corners but Harvick put the hammer down exiting Turn 1 and set sail.
He’d beat Logano by 6.118-seconds. That’s a big margin, the largest in the races’ 26 year history at that, and he only needed nine laps to get there.
The 16 year drought between wins for Harvick here is the longest in the event’s history too. The previous longest was 10 years between Jeff Gordon’s fourth and fifth wins.
For Logano, Sunday was his first top five finish since June 30 at the Chicagoland Speedway. He entered the final race of the regular season at Indy on the heels of five straight finishes of 13th or worse. But, his Team Penske Ford was strong from the get go as he even won the first stage of the race.
Logano, just inched back up to bring his No. 22 Ford home with his sixth top eight finish in his last seven tries at the Brickyard. But, it was that final restart to where he lost it.
“The top line was definitely an advantage,” said Logano on the final restart. “I was able to hang with him (Harvick). I was happy with that. I thought I could pull him back enough down the backstretch and have a shot at this thing. If I could get in front of him, nobody was going to pass anybody. But, I didn’t get in front of him, so we finished second. It’s all about restarts and strategy. My team did a good job. I’m proud of the strategy that we had.”
Bubba Wallace gave a valiant effort to win but came up just short as he would finish third in his No. 43 Chevrolet. It was the second best finish of his Cup career as he came home runner-up in last year’s Daytona 500.
“It was a good day for my team,” Wallace said. “We need this. We needed this weekend. We unloaded with speed. I was bragging to everybody, saying this 43 could be kissing some bricks on Sunday afternoon. We were just shy of it. It’s incredible to think about.
“Smaller teams, you’re more like family. That truly means a lot. It’s an unforgettable day here in Indy.”
William Byron finished fourth in his No. 24 Chevrolet while Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five in his No. 14 Ford.
The race saw home heavy hitters taken out early. Erik Jones and Brad Keselowski crashed hard in Turn 2 which saw Keselowski shook down the track and into the inside SAFER barriers on the inside portion of the track. The contract got him airborne and on his side. Luckily, both drivers would walk away unscathed.
Then, Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Toyota blew up in flames and would finish 37th after completing just 87 Laps.
The biggest shock factor came when Jimmie Johnson crashed with Kurt Busch in Turn 2 on Lap 106 which brought out the sixth of nine cautions that were displayed on Sunday. Johnson, scored stage points in both stages and was in the hunt to race his way into the postseason but the crash forced him to miss the playoffs for the first time since the postseason format began in 2004.
Kyle Larson also had a strong car for a majority of the day but he crashed and finished 33rd.
Brickyard 400 Results
43 Wallace Jr.
47 Preece R
27 Sieg -3
51 McLeod -3
54 Yeley -3
19 Truex Jr. -4
52 Smithley -4
53 Bilicki -5
1 KuBusch -5
17 Stenhouse Jr. -7
36 Tifft R OUT
42 Larson OUT
8 Hemric R OUT
48 Johnson OUT
96 Kligerman OUT
18 KyBusch OUT
2 Keselowski OUT
20 Jones OUT
00 Cassill OUT