Kevin Harvick joined an exclusive club of multi-time winners at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by dominating an electric Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line from the pole Sunday, Sept. 8.
Harvick led a race-high 118 out of 160 laps in the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford on his way to his second win at the Brickyard. He tied Kyle Busch, Dale Jarrett and his co-owner, Indiana native Tony Stewart, for third third-most NASCAR Cup Series wins at Indy. Harvick last won the race in 2003. The 16-year gap is the largest between NASCAR winners at Indianapolis.
“I can’t tell you how much coming to Indianapolis means to me,” Harvick said. “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.”
Harvick beat defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano in the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford to the Yard of Bricks start-finish line by 6.118 seconds, a race record. Following Logano were Bubba Wallace in the No. 43 World Wide Technology Chevrolet, William Byron in the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet and Clint Bowyer in the No. 14 Rush/Cummins Ford, who secured one of two remaining NASCAR Playoffs spots available.
While 2014 Cup Series champion Harvick was up front all day, the win didn’t come easy and had a deceptively wide margin of victory. The race’s nine cautions for 48 laps forced Harvick to play defense against the field all day on restarts.
Harvick’s most epic defense came on the final restart with nine laps to go after Matt Tifft hit the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier in the No. 36 Southeastern Equipment & Supply/Meijer Ford. Harvick lined up on the outside lane for the late-race restart, with Logano to his inside.
Wallace, who lined up behind Logano, gave Logano a big push entering Turn 1 on the restart. From there, Harvick and Logano raced side-by-side through Turns 1 and 2 and down the backstretch, with Logano racing inches from the backstretch grass.
Entering Turn 3, Logano had the edge on Harvick on the inside line. But Harvick had the preferred line and cleared Logano exiting Turn 3 as the crowd roared.
“We were so close to winning here,” Logano said after scoring another second-place finish at Indy, with his first in 2015. “It means so much to win at Indy and gosh, I wish we could have gotten it, but I’m proud of the effort of our team. We had a solid run.”
While the Brickyard treated one of its former winners well, it was tough on other former winners in the field. Most notably, four-time Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard winner Jimmie Johnson was battling to keep his championship hopes alive in the final race of the regular season. Johnson needed a win to lock himself into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
The field took the green flag on Lap 105 to start Stage 3. While battling for sixth position with teammate Byron on the restart, Johnson found himself in a tough spot on the inside line. Johnson’s No. 48 Ally Chevrolet got loose under Byron with Kurt Busch on his rear bumper in the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet.
Johnson did a 360-degree spin and backed into the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier, triggering an eight-car wreck. Involved were Busch, Byron, Tifft, Daniel Hemric in the No. 8 Liberty National Chevrolet, Paul Menard in the No. 21 Menards/Dutch Boy Ford, Chris Buescher in the No. 37 Kroger Fast Lane to Flavor Chevrolet and Parker Kligerman in the No. 96 TRD 40th Anniversary Toyota. All drivers were unhurt in the wreck.
The crash ended Johnson’s day in Indy, but more importantly his postseason hopes. For the first time since NASCAR started using a playoff system in 2004, Johnson will not race for a championship.
“It’s pretty impressive the run we’ve been on, to be in the Playoffs for this many consecutive years,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure who’s close, but I don’t think they’re very close. So, we have that to be proud of.”
Defending Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard winner Brad Keselowski was unable to challenge for a repeat victory due to an early-race wreck.
On Lap 50, Keselowski and Erik Jones raced side-by-side into Turn 2. Jones drove his No. 20 STANLEY Wish For Our Heroes Toyota low into the corner under Keselowski’s No. 2 Discount Tire Ford. The two made contact, and Jones hit the SAFER Barrier with the rear of his car, while Keselowski made contact with the inside tire barrier. Both drivers were evaluated and released from the infield care center.
Two-time Big Machine Vodka 400 winner Kyle Busch was not able to sweep the weekend in Indianapolis after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Indiana 250 on Saturday. Busch’s car suffered engine failure on Lap 90 on the backstretch.
Denny Hamlin drove his No. 11 FedEx Toyota to a sixth-place finish after starting at the rear in a backup car. He wrecked his primary car in practice Saturday. Following Hamlin was Ryan Blaney, who led the second-most laps of the day at 19 in his No. 12 Wabash National Ford. 2013 Big Machine Vodka 400 winner and Indiana native Ryan Newman clinched a spot in the Playoffs with an eighth-place finish in the No. 6 Acorns Ford. Chase Elliott rebounded from a pit road spin under caution on Lap 13 to finish ninth in the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and 2011 Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard winner Menard rebounded from the Lap 106 wreck to round out the top 10.
Harvick’s win marked the 19th time he has been running at the finish of the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard in 19 starts. He was previously tied with Stewart at 18 races.
Harvick celebrated his win by kissing the bricks with his family. He was joined on the frontstretch by wife, DeLana, son, Keelan, and daughter, Piper.
“I kept telling myself, ‘Get the baby girl a trophy,'” Harvick said of 21-month-old Piper. “A good weekend for her to come. She doesn’t quite know what’s going on, just a lot of noise. It’s pretty special.”
The 27th annual NASCAR event weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will take place July 3-5, 2020 on the 2.5-mile oval, with the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, July 5.