BROOKLYN, Mich. -- When you have a comfortable points lead, you can afford to gamble. That's what Kevin Harvick did -- successfully -- in Sunday's Carfax 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. Staying out on...
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- When you have a comfortable points lead, you can afford to gamble.
That's what Kevin Harvick did -- successfully -- in Sunday's Carfax 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway.
Staying out on old tires under the final caution of the race, Harvick tracked down Denny Hamlin on Lap 190 of 200 and pulled away to beat Hamlin to the finish line by 1.731 seconds. Harvick extended his series lead to 293 points over Jeff Gordon and became the first driver to clinch a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
After NASCAR threw a yellow for debris on Lap 167, Harvick restarted second behind Tony Stewart on Lap 173. Hamlin, who restarted third, took the top spot from Stewart on Lap 178, with Harvick following. Running the top of the 2-mile track, Harvick passed Hamlin through Turns 3 and 4 after Hamlin's Toyota began to lose grip on the bottom.
The victory was Harvick's first at Michigan, his third of the season and the 14th of his career. Roush Fenway Racing drivers Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth claimed positions three through five. Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr., Elliott Sadler and Joey Logano completed the top 10.
"The biggest concern I had was the tires," Harvick said of the call to stay out.
"Once we got through those first three or four or five laps, the new tires kind of evened out. Our car was so good up on the top. We were a little off on the restarts, but what a great day. This hasn't been the best track for us."
Harvick's pass of Hamlin represented a 20-point swing in bonus points to start the Chase. Harvick now has 30, 10 for each win, and prevented Hamlin from adding to his 50-point total. The bonus points will kick in after the Chase field is set Sept. 11 at Richmond.
Hamlin, who also stayed out during the final caution, said he wasn't sure whether the strategy would serve him well until the last restart.
We didn't know whether the guys with four tires were going to eat us up or not," Hamlin said. "I think five laps into that (run) when me, Harvick and Tony started pulling away, I realized it was a three-car race for the win at that point.
"But really it just seemed like whoever could get their car up front was pretty strong. You lose one spot, next thing you know your car handles a little worse and you lose more. It's a tough balance out there to try to get track position, but you got to have everything working right for you to get that track position. Once you get it, obviously the fastest car won today. So it was at least good to see that."
In the race within a race, Mark Martin dealt a blow to his chances to qualify for the Chase in the opening laps. Racing in dirty air in close quarters with Edwards, Martin scraped the outside wall, damaged the right-front of his No. 5 Chevrolet and crippled the handling of the car.
Martin finished 28th and lost the 12th position in the standings to Clint Bowyer, who came home 13th. Martin trails Bowyer by 35 points with three races left before the Chase field is set.
Notes: Polesitter Kasey Kahne faded in the late stages of the race and finished 14th. ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran 19th and dropped to 17th in the standings, 129 points behind Bowyer. ... Edwards posted his sixth straight top-10 finish, as Roush Fenway Racing placed three cars in the top five for the first time this season.