Consumers Energy 400

With enough fuel in tank, Denny Hamlin earns fifth straight top-five finish

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The back-half of the Cup Series schedule continues to treat Denny Hamlin well.

With his second-place finish Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver earned his fifth straight top-five finish.

The runner-up finish came with help as multiple drivers had to pit for fuel in the closing laps and Hamlin admitted he didn’t have enough speed to chase down winner Kevin Harvick. He still earned his best Michigan finish since 2011.

“We finished. We had enough (fuel), just part of it,” Hamlin said. “Wish we were just a little faster. That last run we were down a little bit on speed to keep up with those guys. I was happy that we were able to keep up, but certainly needed a long, long run for our car to come in. Proud of the FedEx team for making great adjustments from the last time we were here.”

Hamlin finished 11th at Michigan in June, but showed his speed early on Sunday. After starting 14th, he had his No. 11 Toyota in eighth by Lap 10 and in third by Lap 27.

He then chased down and passed race leader Brad Keselowski on Lap 40 and led five laps.

He would lead one more lap while dueling with Martin Truex Jr. before finishing the first stage in second.

Hamlin wouldn’t finish in the top 10 in Stage 2 after a green flag pit stop late in the stage, but was consistently in the top 10 in the final stage.

“It seemed like we definitely had the best handling car when it was really hot and slick, but as the day went on and the track cooled off, the guys that had built more speed into their car, it kind of handicapped it for them,” Hamlin said.  “We were able to hang on to those Fords there at the end, and then just got ‑‑ (Harvick) was trying to save fuel I’m guessing there, (Brad Keselowski) and (Joey Logano) peeled off. But we were right there, just a really fast car. 

“The whole FedEx team did a great job adjusting from the last time we were here.  (Finishing) first and second on these tracks that we’re going back to twice, so (Crew chief) Chris (Gabehart) is doing a great job making those adjustments.”

Hamlin will now take his hot hand to Bristol Motor Speedway where he finished fifth in April. He has one career win in 27 starts on the half-mile track. That came in the 2012 night race.

 

What Drivers Said after Michigan

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Kevin Harvick – winner: “It was a day of a little bit of adversity that we were able to overcome. But we just had a really fast car all weekend. Our car handled really well today, and with the multiple lanes, we were able to run all three lanes pretty well and make our way through traffic. So just really proud of everybody on our Mobil 1 Ford, everybody from Busch and Hunt Brothers and Jimmy John’s and everybody back at the shop from Haas Automation and Stewart‑Haas Racing, just put a really fast car on the racetrack and we were able to capitalize on it, and that’s always fun. …

(Are you guys peaking at the right time?) “Yeah, you know, we really got off on the wrong foot as far as where we needed to be on the cars, and it’s been kind of an uphill battle really all year to get where we needed to be.  The cars have been running a lot better as we’ve got into the last two months, and Dale knows this, I’ve been nursing a shoulder injury for the last two months to try to make sure I made it through Watkins Glen, and that was no problem.  I hurt myself throwing a baseball to him, so it’s cut into my golf game.  So, we’ve had a lot of things that we’ve had to overcome to get to this point. But it’s kind of like last year; we started off on fire, we won eight races and then didn’t win the championship.  In the send you want to win that championship, and hopefully we’re peaking at the right time.”

Denny Hamlin – finished 2nd: “We were right there. Really fast car. The FedEx team did a great job adjusting from the last time we were here. First and second on these tracks that we are going back to for a second time. They are just doing a great job making those adjustments. Nothing that I could really do, just didn’t have enough speed. The 4 (Kevin Harvick) was about a half-a-second faster than us in qualifying. … The fastest car won the race – speed wise. Who knows what the right thing to do is, but I feel like we had a great FedEx Camry. Just came up one spot short.”

Kyle Larson – finished 3rd: (Not a bad day after all, is it?) “No, I guess if you’re going to get a speeding penalty, the first run of the race is the time to do it. But yeah, I was surprised when they said I was speeding because I hadn’t hit a read light at all until after leaving my pit stall. That was the only time I hit a red. I was conservative on my lights the rest of the day and maybe I don’t know if we just misjudged a little bit or maybe I just was a little too fast. But anyway, our race was good. Our car handled really well, so I was happy about that. And, we had a great points day. So we saved just enough fuel there at the end to get to the finish line and now we’re well above the cutline. So, I’m happy about our day.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished 4th: “It was a hot rod early. We were able to drive by everybody. The first couple runs of the race were really sporty. To get up there and win Stage 1 was a big deal. I felt through the middle of the race we had the best car. Just those last couple restarts, we got off sequence and lost all of our track position and restarted 19th. Just could not get in the right spot. Every restart we were in the wrong lane, we lost spots. Then we would just have to pick them off one at a time. Amazing race car. Thanks to everyone back at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), Toyota and TRD. The Auto Owners Camry was a rocket ship today, just didn’t get to show it at the end.”

Daniel Suarez – finished 5th: “It was a decent day for us. We had ups and downs. There was something wrong, a bad set of tires or something in that second stage. We couldn’t control it. The team was able to overcome that with good adjustments and they put me back in the game with track position and we were able to get a good result from there.”

Kyle Busch – finished 6th: We won Stage 2 and then I had to get back in traffic there. We were up to fifth on another restart, and just got shuffled back. I’d gain three spots in the corner and then lose four spots on the straightaway, and then gain three spots in the corner and then lose four spots on the straightaway. Just could never get going right with the balance of the car either. We just never felt in the racetrack all day long. It was always up on top, just sliding the back or sliding the front. Really ugly, but we persevered. Guys had to pit, and some guys ran out, and we finished sixth. We’ll take what we can get here and go on to Bristol.”

Ryan Preece – finished 7th: “It was a good day. Expectations-wise, it was a top 20 or 15 would be fantastic. Well, we ended up with a top 10 and we made the car better and better every lap. It was good. We had a good race car. Track position, like fuel helped, but we were still going to end up anywhere from 12th to 10th, so it was a good day.”

William Byron – finished 8th: “Honestly, I thought we tried a little different approach today and our car was just really hard to handle. We struggled in traffic a lot. But, to come out with a top 10 is good. I feel like we ran in and around there. We just struggled on restarts. But, not bad overall. I think we made up a lot of points. Just kind of needed a couple of different things to play a little bit differently for us to have a better finish. … (You may not be the winner but you’re solid). Yeah, I think so. Besides last week. I think we’ve finished in the top 10 in a two out of three, I guess. That’s great. And we can really build on that. It seems like (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) just calls really solid races. I think if we get our practice structure to be a little bit better, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Chase Elliott – finished 9th: “We finally got our car going pretty good there at the end and then ran out of gas on that last lap. I just needed to save a little better after the caution. … I need to be better, for sure. I just need to be a little faster. I needed to do a better job of saving.”

Alex Bowman – finished 10th: “We had a really good car in practice and just took off really right there in the race and nothing touched it. It was really tight. It was on the splitter all day. Track position was so key. A lot of opportunities to take a big swing at it and Greg did a good job calling the race. Strategy kind of bit us a little bit there getting buried. We didn’t have it today.”

Austin Dillon — finished 13th: “It was a battle all weekend at Michigan International Speedway, but this Richard Childress Racing team never gave up. We started far back in the field in our Chevy Accessories Camaro ZL1 but opted for two-tire pit stops during the early part of the race in order to get track position. That strategy worked because we were able to race our way into the top 10. There was a one-lap shootout to end Stage 2 and things got wild when we got spun through the grass at 200 mph. That was a scary moment, for sure. We ended up with damage that again put us far back in the running order. Luckily, our Chevy Accesories Camaro ZL1 remained fast. On a restart we gained a lot of spots but came really close to wrecking and lost them all. We drove back to the front and were on our way to a 10th-place finish but ran out of fuel with one lap to go and coasted to the end to finish 13th. What a day! Bring on Bristol Motor Speedway!”

Joey Logano – finished 17th: (Why he made a late pit stop with three laps left) “I needed more gas. The Shell car isn’t supposed to run out of gas. The positive is we were way better than we were on Friday and Saturday. The negative is that we almost won the race but ended up finishing 17th. You win some, you lose some. If the caution comes out, we would have been in good shape but it stayed green, and that is it. That is the gamble. We took the gamble and it didn’t pay off. Pocono, we played it the other way and the caution came out. That is two races and we played it wrong both times.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 19th: “Man, I want this one so bad. We got that flat tire early on and we recovered and got up to third there in the late stages and then we just ran out of gas. That is just the way it goes sometimes.”

Ryan Blaney – finished 24th: “I had a really good car. Our Mustang was fast, especially later in the race. I just got off pit road too early and we ended up running out of gas. It is easy to second guess those types of decisions after the race, but I didn’t second guess anything at the time. Just the way it shakes out sometimes.”

Daniel Hemric – finished 26th: “Luck certainly has not been on the side of this No. 8 team the last two weeks. We started at the back of the field but we had a strong Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet and were able to race into the top 15 at the beginning of the race. Our troubles started at the end of Stage 2. There was a one-lap restart to end the stage and I don’t know if Aric Almirola thought he was clear or what, but he came right across my nose, put me into the outside wall and damaged the left front, collecting our teammate as well. From there, we just tried to salvage all we could out of the damaged race car. I’m proud of these guys for never giving up and doing all they could to get me back out on the track without losing a lap after that incident. We fell a lap down at the end but I was doing all I could to maintain position as best as possible.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — finished 28th: “We struggled this weekend with overall speed. We started the race really tight and were making gains on our Fastenal Ford before we got a flat tire. I think we are all looking forward to getting to Bristol as our Ford was really strong there in the spring.”

Aric Almirola — finished 33rd: “We had decent day today before the accident. I’m not sure what happened there, but our guys worked hard to bring us a good 3D Systems Ford Mustang today. We still have a decent cushion right now for the playoffs. I’m looking forward to Bristol.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished 34th: “The right-side tires went into the PJ1 and as soon as I got my tires in it, I went straight into the wall. When you’re aggressive, it doesn’t work and then sometimes you’re cautious and it doesn’t work. It was a great car. That hurt, for sure. We’re just going to have to rally on and these guys are doing an amazing job. We’ll keep digging. It’s super disappointing. It’s a little easier when it’s not on you and you can call it a mechanical or a flat or get caught up in a wreck. But, I’m behind the wheel and I’m the one that got us in the fence. … (What’s your attitude about being 12 points behind Bower for the final playoff spot?) To just fight hard for every point. The guys around that cutoff point, all seem to be having bad luck. If one of us could just string together some good races and get in the clear and get away. I think that’s what the No. 24 (William Byron) has been able to do is just have some good, consistent races and built a nice gap. You’ve just got to keep fighting for every point.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 37th: “Somebody got in the back of me. When I went around I just saw (Alex) Bowman and thought it was him. I guess maybe (Paul Menard) or somebody. As soon as it happened, I was just along for the ride. I don’t know. We have to get something figured out with these race tracks. We are really fast by ourselves, practice and qualifying really well, in the top five almost every single time but then we start the race and don’t make the grip we need to compete. We definitely need to find some things out. You can talk about the bubble and worrying about points but I am way more worried about getting established and running up front at these types of race tracks. If you make the playoffs and can’t compete in it then what is the use? We have some things to work out. We have some time. We have some good race tracks for us including Bristol coming up. We have plenty of racing but we have to get some things figured out.”

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Results, points after Cup Series race at Michigan

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Kevin Harvick led the final 18 laps and raced his way to a win Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

It’s his second win of the year. Both wins have come in the last four races.

After multiple drivers ran out of fuel in the closing laps, the top five was completed by Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Daniel Suarez.

The rest of the top 10 was Kyle Busch, Ryan Preece, William Byron, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman.

Click here for the race results.

Point Standings

With his sixth place finish and a Stage 2 win, Kyle Busch leads the standing and has a 20-point advantage over Joey Logano.

After his mid-race wreck eliminated him Clint Bowyer now holds the final playoff spot in 16th with 559 points. That is six points ahead of Daniel Suarez.

Here’s a look at how the bubble looks after Michigan

15th – Ryan Newman      +16

16th – Clint Bowyer        +6

Cutoff

17th – Daniel Suarez      -6

18th – Jimmie Johnson   -12

19th – Paul Menard      -53

20th – Chris Buescher    -73

Click here for the point standings.

Kevin Harvick roars to second win of season, holds off Hamlin at Michigan

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After the last nine Cup races ended with nine different winners, Kevin Harvick finally snapped that mark with his win in Sunday’s Consumer’s Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

It was Harvick’s second win of the season and the 47th of his Cup career. His other win of 2019 came three races ago at New Hampshire. He also successfully defended his win at Michigan a year ago, as well.

With 18 laps to go, Harvick passed Joey Logano for the lead and began to pull away. Harvick didn’t need to save fuel like several other drivers had to do in the closing laps, as crew chief Rodney Childers told Harvick he was two laps to the good with 13 laps remaining.

“Winning races is what it’s all about,” Harvick told NBCSN’s Marty Snider on the frontstretch after climbing from his car. “We just can’t do it without all you guys (the fans) and getting a win for Ford.”

When asked if his team is starting to peak at the right time, Harvick replied, “We really got off on the wrong foot as far as where we needed to be on the cars, and it’s been kind of an uphill battle really all year to get where we needed to be. The cars have been running a lot better as we’ve got into the last two months.

“We’ve had a lot of things that we’ve had to overcome to get to this point. But it’s kind of like last year; we started off on fire, we won eight races and then didn’t win the championship.  In the send you want to win that championship, and hopefully we’re peaking at the right time.”

MORE: Results, points after Cup Series race at Michigan

Harvick had to overcome an early-race flat right front tire issue that forced him to make an unscheduled pit stop, making it to pit road with no damage being incurred on his car as it made its way around the two-mile oval. Harvick’s car took only two right-side tires and astute fuel management on succeeding stops helped get the No. 4 to victory lane.

Logano hoped to have one last shot at Harvick but had to pit with three laps to go for a splash of fuel, ending his chances of a strong finish (Logano finished 17th). Denny Hamlin then moved up to finish second.

Kyle Larson finished third, followed by Martin Truex Jr. and Daniel Suarez. Truex’s finish was significant in that he was forced to start the race from the back of the field due to failing pre-race inspection twice. Even so, Truex rallied back to win Stage 1 and finish fourth.

“We lost track position for the start of Stage 3, restarted 19th and lost some spots, got going a little bit and got some back and then another restart got in the wrong lane and lost some more,” Truex, making the 500th start of his Cup career, told NBCSN. “The track position deal really hurt us but we just had to pick them off one-by-one and of course fuel mileage helped us get some more.”

Sixth through 10th were Kyle Busch, Ryan Preece, William Byron, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr. (after starting at the back of the field for failing pre-race inspection twice).

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch.

Playoff update: Even though he finished 37th, Clint Bowyer maintains the 16th and final playoff-eligible spot with three races remaining before the start of the playoffs. Bowyer holds a six-point edge over Daniel Suarez, Jimmie Johnson is 18th (12 points behind Bowyer), followed by Paul Menard (-53) and Chris Buescher (-73).

“We changed tires (after Stage 2), made a little adjustment and I was back up in the top-five,” Suarez told NBCSN. “We just have to be calm and do our thing. Hopefully we can be mistake-free in the next few weeks and hopefully burn some rubber soon (after a victory).”

Who else had a good day: By grabbing second place late in the race, Denny Hamlin continued his recent run of success. Hamlin has five consecutive top-five finishes in his last five races, including a win at Pocono, second at New Hampshire and now Michigan, and third at Watkins Glen. “The fastest car won the race, speed-wise,” Hamlin told NBCSN. “We had a great car today, just came up one spot short again.” … Ryan Preece earned his best finish and his first top-10 since he was third at Talladega.

Who had a bad day: After making contact with the wall Jimmie Johnson had tire issues in the first stage that cost him valuable time with an unexpected pit stop. Johnson had to come back on pit road on Lap 44, leaving him four laps down at that point. Johnson finished 34th, his third finish of 30th or worse in the last five races. … Clint Bowyer had a good day going until he wrecked early in Stage 3 after contact with Paul Menard. Bowyer finished 37th.

Notable: Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones were both hoping to finally snap a unique record of sorts – no Michigan native has ever won a Cup race at MIS – but once again fell short.

What’s next: Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, Saturday, August 17, Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

We’ll have more information including driver quotes, results and updated standings shortly. Please check back.

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Starting lineup for Cup Series race at Michigan

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Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick will start on the front row of Sunday’s Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Keselowski will start from his second pole of the year and his second career pole at Michigan.

The top five is completed by William Byron, Alex Bowman and Clint Bowyer.

Austin Dillon and Daniel Hemric will start from the rear after they failed inspection.

Click here for the starting lineup.