Michigan International Speedway

NASCAR Power Rankings after Michigan doubleheader

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After sweeping the weekend, Kevin Harvick leads the series with six wins and continues to hold a tight grip atop the NBC NASCAR Power Rankings. His chief rival, Danny Hamlin, right behind him.

Cup heads to Daytona International Speedway this weekend for its inaugural race on the track’s road course. Sunday’s race is at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): What? Were you expecting someone else? Weekend sweep at Michigan, won all but one stage in the two races and has nine consecutive top-five finishes.

2. Denny Hamlin (Last week No. 3): His runner-up finish Sunday gives him nine finishes of first or second in 22 races. He’s finishing in the top two 40% of the time.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 5): He has placed third or better in five of the last six races.

4. Aric Almirola (Last week No. 4): Hot dog jokes aside, he has scored a top-10 finish in 10 of the last 11 races.

5. Joey Logano (Last week No. 8): Good weekend for him at Michigan. Scored top 10s in both races after he had a top 10 at New Hampshire. This is the first time he’s scored three consecutive top 10s this season.

6. Kyle Busch (Last week unranked): Showed signs of life with a pair of top-five finishes at Michigan. Is this team finding its way?

7. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 9): Scored top 10s in both Michigan races. Benefitted from the new choose rule in Saturday’s race, using the bottom lane to work his way to the front when others stayed on the outside lane.

8. Austin Cindric (Last week unranked): Has won four of the last five Xfinity races. He finished second in the other.

9. Kurt Busch (Last week unranked): Finished 10th in both Michigan races. This seems like the right place for him here.

10. Matt DiBenedetto (Last week No. 10): He’s scored two top 10s in the last three races.

Fell out of rankings: Brad Keselowski (No. 2 last week), Cole Custer (No. 6 last week), Tyler Reddick (No. 7 last week),

 

Short race: Michigan Cup race lasts just over 2 hours

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Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway lasted just over 2 hours, making it the shortest Cup points race to run a full distance since 2017.

Kevin Harvick won Sunday’s Cup race, which lasted 2 hours, 9 minutes, 35 seconds. The short race was reduced to 312 miles since Cup teams ran twice there this weekend. Michigan races are typically 400 miles.

Sunday’s race is the shortest Cup race since the rain-shortened June 2018 event at Michigan that went 2 hours, 15 seconds.

The last Cup race that ran a full distance that was shorter than Sunday’s event was the 2017 Watkins Glen race that lasted 2 hours, 7 minutes, 3 seconds.

MORE: What drivers said after Michigan race

MORE: What’s in the future for Kevin Harvick’s undefeated car?

Nine of the 22 Cup races this season have taken less than 3 hours to run, including six races that were shortened this season after the series resumed in May from the COVID-19 pause.

The issue of shorter races has been a topic in the sport for years. The doubleheader weekend in two weeks at Dover will see both those races shortened from 400 miles to 311 miles each.

“The shorter races, seems like it’s been a good thing,” crew chief Rodney Childers said after Harvick swept the weekend at Michigan International Speedway. “Keeps things exciting.  Everybody is racing harder the whole time, shorter stages. Not much for people riding around or waiting till the end, any of that kind of thing.

“I think the doubleheaders so far have been good. I think putting two of them in the same weekend has been something that probably saves a lot of money for the teams, you’re able to put on a good show two days in a row. We’ll just have to see how that plays outgoing forward.”

Here are the nine races that lasted less than 3 hours this season:

2:09:35 — Michigan II (312 miles)

2:25:01 — Pocono I (325 miles)

2:29:23 — Charlotte II (312 miles)

2:34:55 — Michigan I (322 miles)

2:37:07 — Auto Club (400 miles)

2:42:23 — Darlington II (284 miles)

2:50:54 — Pocono II (350 miles)

2:58:11 — Las Vegas (400 miles)

2:59:49 — Kentucky (400 miles)

What’s in the future for Kevin Harvick’s undefeated car?

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The car is referred to as 081 by Rodney Childers’ crew and in the three Cup Series races it has run this year, it’s unbeatable.

It’s the No. 4 Ford that Kevin Harvick is now 3-for-3 with after his win Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing team first brought the car to the track for the July 5 Brickyard 400.

In the three races the car has raced, including both parts of this weekend’s doubleheader, Harvick has led 250 of 478 laps and earned four stage wins.

On Sunday, Harvick officially started 20th after a field inversion of the top-20 finishers from Saturday. Harvick won the second stage and eventually led the final 41 laps, holding off Denny Hamlin by .093 seconds to keep 081’s winning streak alive.

Surely, they’ll bring it back at some point in the final 14 races of the season?

“I bet we don’t run it anymore, to be honest with you,” Harvick said after Sunday’s race. “I think there’s so many different styles of racetracks that we’re going to as we go forward here. Obviously, we’re going to a road course (Daytona) next week, then we go to a low downforce track two races in a row at Dover, then a superspeedway car (Daytona), then you go into short tracks, Darlington with high downforce cars. I know you won’t run it at Vegas or Charlotte.

“Honestly, I don’t think you’ll run this car anymore.”

When asked about the future of 081, Childers wouldn’t budge.

“That’s kind of up to me to decide. It’s top secret,” Childers said. “It’s going to be a surprise.”

Don’t expect the No. 4 team to christen 081 – a number assigned to it in production – with any affectionate nicknames, like the name Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave to a car a few years ago, “Amelia.”

“We don’t really talk about that kind of stuff,” Childers said. “We’ve had some good cars over the years with the 4 team and some of them have won a lot of races. We call it 081 and we keep it going through the system just like any other car. Just have to figure out our car schedule and figure out where we’re going to run it again and keep moving forward with it.”

Michigan Sunday Cup results, point standings

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Kevin Harvick completed the weekend sweep with his victory Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, his sixth win of the season.

Denny Hamlin placed second in the Sunday Cup results. Martin Truex Jr. placed third and was followed by Kyle Busch and Joey Logano.

Click here for race results

Point Standings

With four races left in the regular season, the last three drivers currently inside the top 16 in points are William Byron (+26 points above cutline) and Erik Jones and Jimmie Johnson, who are tied with 511 points.

The first driver outside the top 16 who has not won a race is Tyler Reddick. He’s 10 points behind Johnson and Jones.

Click here for the points standings.

Kevin Harvick completes sweep of Michigan doubleheader

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Kevin Harvick narrowly held off a late charge from Denny Hamlin coming to the checkered flag to win Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.

Harvick beat Hamlin by .093 seconds, the second closest margin of victory in track history, to complete a sweep of the series’ doubleheader weekend at the 2-mile track.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver led 90 of 156 laps despite officially starting 20th due to a field inversion from Saturday’s race.

“It was a big challenge (holding off Hamlin),” Harvick told NBCSN. “Our Ford Mustang got real tight there in (Turns) 3 and 4. I could run really good through (Turns) 1 and 2 still, but I was just tight on that other end all day.”

More: Race results and point standings

More: Bubba Wallace has offers from RPM and Chip Ganassi Racing

Harvick is the first driver to wins Cup races on back-to-back days since Richard Petty in 1971.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve raced back-to-back days, let alone in the Cup car,” Harvick said. “We’ve done that a couple times this year. I think for us it’s worked out pretty well. I hope it goes the same way at Dover when we got there in a couple of weeks.”

Harvick earned his sixth win of the season, breaking a tie with Hamlin that Harvick established Saturday. It also tied his personal record for wins through 22 races.

It is Harvick’s fourth win in the last five races at Michigan.

The top five was completed by Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Joey Logano.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Clint Bowyer led all 40 laps of the stage.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kevin Harvick led every green flag lap of the stage.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Austin Dillon finished eighth after he had to serve a drive-through penalty at the start of the race for an unapproved adjustment … Martin Truex Jr. finished third for the third consecutive race … Kyle Busch earned consecutive top fives for the first time since Race No. 9 and 10 of this season … Aric Almirola finished sixth for 10th top 10 in the last 11 races and his career-best finish at Michigan.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE:  Teammates Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski wrecked while racing for the lead on Lap 96, ending their day. Keselowski finished last for the first time in his Cup career … Alex Bowman finished 36th after he had to pit for a flat tire with 19 laps to go. As he entered the pits, debris from the tire came off on the frontstretch, forcing a caution.

NOTABLE: With his fourth-place finish, Kyle Busch has now gone 22 races without a win this season. That’s the deepest into a season he’s gone winless since he joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “That’s kind of up to me to decide. It’s top secret.” – Rodney Childers on whether the team would bring Harvick’s winning car, which is three for three in races this season, back to the track this year.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race on the Daytona road course, 3 p.m. ET Aug. 16 on NBC.