For Kevin Harvick, winning at Michigan International Speedway is starting to become a habit. The driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang dominated much of the FireKeepers Casino 400 on Saturday, and held off a late challenge by Brad Keselowski in overtime to claim the checkered flag, edging Keselowski by 0.284 seconds. It was Harvick’s second straight win at MIS, his third in the last four races and his fourth overall in the Irish Hills. It also was his fifth victory of 2020, tying Denny Hamlin for the most wins in the NASCAR Cup Series this year.
Harvick was dominant from the outset, winning each of the first two stages and leading 92 of the race’s 160 laps. He now has four stage wins on the year. This is also the fourth time in his career he has posted five or more wins in the same season. The win was the 54th of his career in the NASCAR Cup Series, tying Hall of Famer Lee Petty for 11th on the all-time list.
Despite his commanding performance Saturday and in 2020 overall, Harvick is trying to take things one race at a time.
“We are a week to week team,” Harvick said. “We talked about this years ago. We want to go to the track and worry about one week at a time. We want to be competitive and win as many races as we can and see where it falls in the end. These guys are awesome and when we come to Michigan to ride a car like that is unbelievable.”
Keselowski, a native of Rochester Hills, Mich., fell just shy in his bid to win the first NASCAR Cup Series race at his home track, and also become the first Michigander to record a win in a Cup Series race at MIS. His second-place showing came on the heels of winning the Foxwood Resorts Casino 301 last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. On Saturday, however, his No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang did not have enough to overtake Harvick.
“He is just superfast in the corners and the straightaway,” Keselowski said of Harvick. “He was definitely the best car out here today. We put a good effort to kind of maximize our day and that is what we did, finished second. Proud of everyone on the Discount Tire Ford Mustang team. We will go back to work on it and hopefully find a little bit more for the race tomorrow.”
Harvick also staved off runs from Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch, both of whom also led laps over the final stage of the race. With four cautions over the final 28 laps, restarts became critical.
“The restarts were obviously a handful but our Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang was really fast today and we held on for the long run and would really go on the short run and did everything we needed it to do,” Harvick added.
Martin Truex Jr. finished third, which was especially impressive considering he battled from behind most of the afternoon after experiencing a flat tire prior to the end of the Stage 1 after making slight contact with Tyler Reddick. For Truex, it was his third straight third-place finish and the third time in the last four races in which he has placed in the top-3.
“It was a good day,” Truex said. ”I just made a little mistake there and barely rubbed the 8 (Tyler Reddick) car off (turn) two there and I guess cut both of our tires down. I really don’t know how it happened. My bad on that one. I hate it for Tyler, it messed up his day early as well. We just fought back. The Auto Owners Camry was really strong. If we could ever have gotten to the front, I think we would have had something for them. Lots of restarts and they’re crazy here. A couple of them didn’t work out. The last one did. Really good car and really good job by the guys coming back like that. Just need a little bit more.”
Ryan Blaney (4th) and Kyle Busch (5th) rounded out the top-5. Christopher Bell (13th) was the race’s highest finishing rookie.
There were nine cautions for 43 laps in the race, which was extended to 160 from its originally-scheduled 156. There were 12 lead changes among seven drivers.
Ford is now the leading contender to take home the coveted Michigan Heritage Trophy, which will be given to the top OEM following Sunday’s Consumer’s Energy 400 (4:30 pm, NBCSN). If another Ford driver wins that race, they will lay claim to the trophy. If either a driver from Chevrolet or Toyota wins, the tiebreaker will be based on the points of the top-10 finishers from both Cup Series races.
The NASCAR weekend at Michigan International Speedway concludes on Sunday with a doubleheader consisting of the ARCA Menards Series VizCom 200 at 1:00 pm (MAVTV) and the NASCAR Cup Series Consumers Energy 400 at 4:30 pm (NBCSN).