INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Harvick controlled Sunday’s Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard from start to finish, with a dominant performance netting him his second victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Harvick started from the pole and won the final two stages of the 400-mile classic, leading five times for a race-high 118 laps en route to his third win of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
While pit strategy allowed Joey Logano to best Harvick in the opening segment at Indianapolis, when the chips were down, Harvick’s No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang was as good as money in the bank.
Harvick capitalized on a lap-89 caution that came out just after he made his pit stop under green, allowing the 2014 Cup champion to stay out and resume command of the race unhindered. He led the rest of the way to lap 100 to win stage two, then only had one scare the remainder of the way home.
That nervous stretch came shortly after an eight-car accident in turn two with 54 laps to go, closely following the start of the final stage where Harvick and Kyle Larson were in front of the field.
In that incident, Jimmie Johnson was squeezed down to the white line in turn two by teammate William Byron in the midst of a three-wide scramble, sending Johnson spinning into the middle of the pack and eventually hard into the outside wall – ending his 15-year streak of making the playoffs every season.
On the ensuing restart, second-running Ryan Blaney pounced on an unsuspecting Harvick, who chose the bottom lane for the one and only time all afternoon. Blaney soared around the outside to take the top spot away and then led 19 consecutive tours of the 2.5-mile oval as Harvick tried to regroup.
That bounce back came courtesy of a caution with 32 to go, when Kyle Larson smacked the inside wall off the exit of turn two, ending his strong run as Harvick was in the midst of his final pit stop.
With his service complete and remaining on the lead lap, Harvick was able to stay out again when those running ahead of him ducked to pit lane, retaking a position he wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
Harvick led the final 30 laps for the win, his 48th in the Cup Series, and showcased his utter dominance during the nine-lap sprint to the finish set up by Matt Tifft’s hard crash with 14 to go in the event.
Despite a valiant effort by Logano to maintain contact with Harvick on lap 152, when the green flag returned for good, Harvick sped away to a 6.118-second victory by the time he took the checkers.
It was a big win for Harvick, who resets as the No. 4 seed for the playoffs, in more ways than one.
“Man, I can’t tell you how much coming to Indianapolis means to me,” said Harvick. “As a kid, I watched Rick Mears win Indy 500s and got to be around him as a kid … and he was my hero, so coming here and winning here is pretty awesome.
“I can’t say enough about everybody on this Mobil 1 Ford Mustang. These guys built a heck of a race car,” Harvick continued. “This is the same stuff we took to Michigan and had a real good weekend there and went to victory lane. To come here to the Brickyard, and know how much this means to Rodney and Dax and all the guys that work on this car because we’ve been so close here before … that’s special.”
Joey Logano chased Harvick all the way home, but instead had to focus on fending off a hard-charging Bubba Wallace in the final laps to maintain second. Wallace crossed third, his best finish of the season.
William Byron and Clint Bowyer completed the top five, followed by Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, Chase Elliott and Paul Menard.
Bowyer and Newman secured the final two available playoff positions on points Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Harvick’s win was his second Brickyard 400 triumph, following one in 2003 that he earned with Richard Childress Racing just two years after the death of team superstar Dale Earnhardt.
That day, Harvick also started from the pole, but he didn’t control the race like he did on Sunday. Instead, he passed Jamie McMurray for the win with 16 laps left and held on to the finish.
This time around, there was no question who the strongest man in town was.
“I don’t know if we had the best car, but we sure had the fastest car,” said Harvick. “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 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 was nice. It gave us control of the race and we were able to keep control of the race and not make any mistakes from there.
“We’re standing in victory lane at one of the greatest places on Earth to race; what’s not to like?”
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