Kevin Harvick forced his way past Kyle Busch, then fended off hometown threat Brad Keselowski.
It takes a lot to beat Harvick these days – especially in Michigan.
Harvick claimed his fifth NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season, overtaking Keselowski in overtime on Saturday in the weekend’s opener at Michigan International Speedway. Harvick now has four wins in Michigan, including three in the past three years. He was instrumental in what is now a five-game winning streak for Ford at the Cup level at MIS.
“I just got challenged by a whole bunch of reboots at the end that drove him a little bit crazy,” Harvick said. “But in the end it was a great day for us. Everyone did a great job, called a great race, and we capitalized on a fast car and put it on Victory Lane.
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Keselowski was again refused in his home state. He’s never won a Cup race in Michigan, but he will have another chance on Sunday. It would have been difficult to defeat Harvick’s dominant No.4 car that day. Harvick also won the first two stages of the race.
“At no point did I think we or anyone was better than 4,” Keselowski said.
Martin Truex Jr. was third, followed by Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch.
Busch has gone winless this year with five races left in the regular season.
For the first two stages, the only yellow flags concerned a competition warning and the end of the stage. Then there were six warnings in the final phase and even a brief red flag for cleaning the track.
The race, normally a 200-lap, 400-mile affair, was this time scheduled for 156 laps. He went to overtime after Christopher Bell contacted Austin Dillon to bring out the final warning.
As of this weekend, NASCAR is incorporating the “rule of choice” into the restart procedure for all National Series races except those held on road courses and superspeedways. When approaching a designated location, drivers must enter the inside or outside lane for restart.
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“I think it definitely gave some guys a chance that was buried eighth or ninth,” Harvick said. “You can try your luck and win a position on the track. So I thought it had gone well and that was exactly what everyone thought it would do.
In the final reboot, Harvick and Chase Elliott went outside, while Keselowski and Denny Hamlin went inside. Harvick and Keselowski ran side-by-side for a while, but Harvick had a clear lead in Turn 4 and then held on for another lap to win.
Keselowski watched the replay to see if he could have done something differently, in hindsight.
“I had three ideas, and I watched the replay and none of them would have worked,” Keselowski said. “For now, I couldn’t have done anything other than to be a little faster or to have a little more speed.”
Harvick, the series’ points leader, won for the 54th time, even pulling with Lee Petty for 11th place on the career list. He has one win behind Rusty Wallace and two behind Busch.
For a brief moment, Busch was in front after one of the late restarts, but Harvick came inside him, and Busch’s car came loose and fell back. At first it seemed like there had been very slight contact between the cars, but Harvick said there was not.
“I didn’t know if I hit him or not, but I saw the video and I didn’t hit him. I had to pack a bunch of air on his left rear, ”Harvick said. “I knew I had to be there. You have to take the risk when you have it and I needed that side project up front right away. I put in an inch like on the video. ”
Busch managed to finish in the top five despite this incident.
“I don’t know if he hit me or if he just looks. It was close enough that it obviously bothers my car and made me get out of it really badly, ”he said.
It was eighth in a row in the top five for Harvick, who has now tied Hamlin’s five-game winning streak for the series.