Kevin Harvick wins for first time at Pocono in Saturday Cup race

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If at first you don’t succeed, try 38 more times and you’ll finally break through.

That’s the situation for Kevin Harvick, who earned his first career NASCAR Cup win at Pocono Raceway in his 39th start at the “Tricky Triangle” on Saturday.

It was the 52nd career Cup win for Harvick, who now has won at every track on the current NASCAR Cup schedule, with the exception of Kentucky Speedway (two weeks from now) and the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway (later this season).

MORE: Results, standings after Saturday’s Cup race

MORE: What drivers said

“As well as we’ve run here, you definitely talk about it,” Harvick said when asked by NBC Sports in a post-race teleconference if he was glad to finally get a win at Pocono. “For us, it was just one of those things that you joke around about it because we’ve run plenty good to win races here.

“It’s kind of like Texas. We finally knocked down the wall and won three years in a row. Hopefully, that’s the same thing that happens here at Pocono because it’s definitely a place where we could have been to victory lane several times. It’s just a matter of this or that happening.”

It’s not like Harvick has performed poorly at the Tricky Triangle over the years. On the contrary: Harvick came into the race with four runner-up finishes, 12 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes at the 2.5-mile track.

“Today was just like the last seven years here, we’ve run well, been in contention to win and today we wound up on top,” Harvick said. “It doesn’t bother me because we run well. But if we were just coming here and not running well and this was a place you didn’t like driving at, but I enjoy coming up here, I enjoy the racetrack, I enjoy the challenge it creates and we’ve run well.

“When you run well, that kind of takes away all the chatter about not liking the place or being frustrated.”

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang, finally won at Pocono Raceway in his 39th career Cup start at the Tricky Triangle.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Because the top 20 finishers Saturday will be inverted in Sunday’s race, Harvick will start from 20th place in the second half of the first Cup weekend doubleheader in NASCAR’s modern era.

“We were back to 20th today, so I think in the end, it will come down to strategy and what you need to do,” Harvick told Fox Sports. “Thank you to all the fans. I wish you were here. This isn’t near as exciting (without fans in attendance). I feel I’m like my seven-year-old (son Keelan), I’ve got all this pent-up energy and I’m just going to share it with nobody.”

Harvick was unable to celebrate his third win of the season with a post-race burnout, as he — as well as all other drivers (with the exception of those who may have to go to back-up rides) — will have to use the same car in Sunday’s race at Pocono.

“I’m not doing any more celebrations,” Harvick said in a post-race media teleconference. “With nobody out there to celebrate with, until the fans come back, I’m not doing any burnouts, I’m not standing on the car, not doing any of that stuff.

“It doesn’t feel right not having my team in victory lane. It doesn’t feel right not having the emotions from the fans to share your emotion and everything you have being in the race car and being excited with what’s going on. You win the race and you get out to silence.”

Denny Hamlin finished second, followed by pole sitter Aric Almirola, rookie Christopher Bell and Kyle Busch.

Saturday’s race was the first of a two-day NASCAR Cup doubleheader at Pocono. With the inversion Sunday, Saturday’s 20th-place finisher, Ryan Preece, will start from the pole Sunday.

The start of the race was delayed nearly an hour to allow workers to dry the 2.5-mile triangle-shaped race track after rain throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. That morning rain forced NASCAR to postpone Saturday’s Truck Series race to Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. ET.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Joey Logano (fourth stage win of season)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Aric Almirola (first stage win of season)

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Michael McDowell finished eighth, giving Front Row Motorsports consecutive top-10 finishes for the first time in the organization’s history. John Hunter Nemechek finished eighth last week at Talladega. … Bell was the highest-finishing rookie, earning a Cup career-best fourth-place finish.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Erik Jones and Tyler Reddick were involved in a hard wreck near the entrance to pit road on Lap 72. Jones was checking up and trying to move around a slower car, while Reddick was unable to slow down and avoid Jones’ car. If one or both drivers has to go to a backup car for Sunday’s race, they would start from the rear of the field.

NOTABLE: After being forced to sit out last Sunday’s race at Talladega, IndyCar driver James Davison made his NASCAR Cup debut Saturday for Spire Motorsports. He finished 34th. He also has four prior Xfinity Series starts. … The cars of Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer were found to have one lug nut not safe and secure in post-race inspection, but there were no other incidents.

WHAT’S NEXT: The second race of this weekend’s Cup doubleheader at Pocono Raceway will take the green flag Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.

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Xfinity playoff grid after Indianapolis

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Chase Briscoe‘s continued dominance of the Xfinity Series over the weekend on the Indianapolis road course ensured no additional drivers locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff field.

Through 13 races, Briscoe and four other drivers have qualified for the playoffs via race wins. Briscoe, who has five race wins, leads the field with 28 playoff points.

The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Riley Herbst (+19 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+6 points).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-6), Alex Labbe (-32), Jeremy Clements (-49) and Josh Williams (-57).

Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

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With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Oval or road course? Cup drivers address future of Brickyard 400

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For 27 years, the Cup Series has competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its annual Brickyard 400. All 27 of those races have been run exclusively on the track’s traditional 2.5-mile oval.

But following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the track’s 2.4-mile, 14-turn road course, an obvious question has been raised:

Should the Brickyard 400 remain on the oval, where passing is made difficult due to a combination of the rules package and the design of the track, or should moving it to the road course be considered?

“I would never vote for that,” Kevin Harvick declared last week before he won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday. “I love everything about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me it is all about the oval … racing on the traditional track because for me I am kind of old school and I think that the Cup cars belong and really started the Brickyard 400.

“That was kind of what it was always meant to be, that iconic one-off, just the Cup cars event. I think with the Xfinity cars and the trucks and (ARCA Menards) cars and all the things that used to race at IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park), it was a great event. Hopefully the road course can kind of take that role that IRP used to have and be able to bring the Indy cars and NASCAR together to add to that event at the Speedway. For me personally, I would never vote for the Cup cars to not run on the oval.”

Harvick is joined in that camp by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, who finished third in Sunday’s race for his first top five and top-10 finish at Indy.

“I hope that we never stop running the oval,” Almirola said. “I just think it’s one of these places that regardless if it puts on the greatest race or not, it’s historic. It’s just a special place. It’s hard to explain when you don’t grow up a racer and you don’t aspire to come to race at Indy.

“But for me, I grew up watching stock car racing and dirt sprint car racing. I grew up watching Thursday Night Thunder, seeing so many guys go from USAC racing and sprint car racing to racing at Indy. It’s something I’ve always kept up with, always dreamed about getting the opportunity to race here. I get that opportunity now.”

Matt Kenseth, who finished second Sunday in his 20th Brickyard 400, said the Cup Series “should be” on the oval. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is open to the idea of Cup using the road course in some manner.

 “I think it’s one of those racetracks that we need to race at as long as we can,” Kenseth said of the oval. “It’s arguably the most famous speedway in the world, or one of them.

“To be able to race on the ovals with the Cup cars, which is the highest form of stock car racing here, we should be on the big track as well. I don’t think it would be bad to maybe test the road course and look into it, maybe do a second race on a road course, kind of like the IndyCars did this week.

“I really do think the Brickyard 400 has a lot of prestige. It’s not a southern race, but similar to the Southern 500, races like that. I think there’s a few of those races you sure would hate to see disappear.”

Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) 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.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.