INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Harvick’s dream season continued Sunday as the Stewart-Haas Racing driver won his third Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
It was Harvick’s second Brickyard win in as many years.
Seven laps from an apparent victory, Denny Hamlin’s chance at winning his first race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ended when a right-front tire failed, sending Hamlin’s Toyota into the turn one wall.
Hamlin, who won his third Daytona 500 in February, was attempting to win both Daytona and Indianapolis in the same season.
After Hamlin’s crash the race resumed with a green-white-checkered restart. Harvick got a push from his teammate, rookie Cole Custer, to help move him ahead of second-place Matt Kenseth. Harvick’s Ford began to pull away as the field spread out, leaving Kenseth’s Chevrolet in his wake.
Harvick’s Ford led by half a second at the white flag and he went on to score his 53rd victory by .743 seconds over Kenseth, who earned his best finish since returning to NASCAR competition in May. Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola was third, followed by Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Custer.
It was Harvick’s fourth win since NASCAR returned from the COVID-19 hiatus on May 17 at Darlington Raceway.
“We knew it was going to be really close on tires and Rodney Childers said put some pressure on him and that is all the pressure I could give,” Harvick said at the Yard of Bricks after taking the checkered flag. “It’s the Brickyard, man. This is what I wanted to do growing up as a kid. To come here and win for a third time, it’s more than I could ever dream of. I’m really, really proud of this team.”
Hamlin was treated and released from the IU Health Care Center in the infield after his crash. Hamlin finished 28th.
“It just didn’t work out for us today,” Hamlin said. “I was pushing and it’s like play roulette with the right front wheel. It stinks. We’ve been so good here lately. Things don’t go my way all the time, but we will go out and next week and try to win another one.
“It’s been a great battle (with Harvick). The last few weeks have been head-to-head with him. There isn’t another guy I would rather battle with every week. We had two very close and equal cars.”
The start of the race was delayed 55 minutes because of several lightning strikes within 10 miles of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 55-minute stoppage marked the fifth consecutive time – and the eighth overall since NASCAR’s season resumed in mid-May – that drivers dealt with a weather-related delay.
A major collision at the entrance to pit road on lap 15, brought out the red flag as a crew member for Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 Ford was injured. The crash was involved multiple cars, including the No. 48 driven by Justin Allgaier, who replaced four-time Brickyard winner Jimmie Johnson after he tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.
Zach Price, the rear-tire changer on Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 Team Penske Ford, got crushed between the No. 12 and another car that pancaked the side of Blaney’s car while trying to avoid the pileup on pit road. Price was later taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital for further evaluation.
“I was starting in the back trying to go forward, the No. 15 (Brennan Poole) actually got in the back of me,” Allgaier said after he was evaluated in the infield care center. “I didn’t know if I got (hit) the gentleman on the No. 12 (Ryan Blaney’s crew member) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.
“It’s just a shame. I hate it for these guys on this Ally No. 48. They’ve done such a great job. They’ve prepared so well for the circumstances. Obviously, our hearts and thoughts are for Jimmie (Johnson) and his family right now. That’s the most important piece of all this is getting him back to the race track soon. And, I wanted to do well for them today and it’s disappointing to be standing here talking to you, unfortunately. But we’ll go on. I don’t know what next week looks like yet. We’ll go run the Xfinity Series race and go have a good shot at it. It’s a disappointing way to end the Brickyard 400.”
Following a caution later in the race, the green flag waved on lap 139 with Hamlin in the lead. Harvick made a great move down the backstretch to pass Kenseth for second place and chase after Hamlin.
Darkness began to fall over Indianapolis Motor Speedway shortly thereafter, but 20 laps remained in the race. Hamlin’s Toyota remained in the lead as the laps began to wind down.
With 10 laps to go, Hamlin led Harvick by .359 seconds, but a few laps later Hamlin was out of the race after his crash and Harvick was in the lead, a position he didn’t give up for the remainder of the race.
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