Winners and losers from the Sunday Michigan Cup race:
Kevin Harvick — Sweeps the weekend and scores his ninth consecutive top-five finish. He fell one stage victory short of a perfect weekend. His team is so good that he talks of having an undefeated car and possibly not running it again this year.
Denny Hamlin — Scores his fourth runner-up finish of the year. It is the second time he’s finished second to Kevin Harvick this season. Said Hamlin: “I definitely don’t like not winning. But we’re competitive. We’ve given ourselves a shot here these last few weeks.”
Short races — Sunday’s race was 2 hours, 9 minutes, 35 seconds. It is the shortest Cup points race to run the full distance since 2017. Still, there was much packed into that race with Kevin Harvick coming through the field and holding off Denny Hamlin in the final laps to win. Short races force the action.
Joey Logano — His fifth-place finish is his third consecutive top 10. This is the first time this season he’s scored three top 10s in a row.
Martin Truex Jr. — Finishes third in back-to-back races at Michigan. Has finished third or better in five of the last six races.
Alex Bowman — Failed to score a top-20 finish in either race at Michigan and placed 36th Sunday.
Brad Keselowski — A day after finishing second at his home track, he crashed and took out teammate Ryan Blaney as they raced for the lead Sunday. “I just lost it,” Keselowski said. “It’s my fault. I feel really bad for my teammate, Ryan Blaney. He didn’t deserve that.”
Michigan winners and losers after Saturday’s Cup race:
Kevin Harvick — That’s five wins this season, two in a row at Michigan and eight consecutive top-five finishes this season. He also won both stages Saturday, sweeping the day. He’s ready for the playoffs now.
Choose rule — Good rule change and that added some intrigue before each restart on what lanes drivers would pick. At one point, it made a big impact in helping Chase Elliott take the lead late in the race.
Brad Keselowski — His runner-up finish marked his third consecutive finish of first or second but he still has yet to win at Michigan, his home track. He gets another chance Sunday.
Chris Buescher — He finished 20th but benefits because the top-20 finishers are inverted for Sunday’s race, putting him on the pole for the race.
Martin Truex Jr. — His third-place finish marked his fourth top-three finish in the last five races. He made a nice recovery from making contact with Tyler Reddick early and cutting a tire that forced him to pit under green and lose a lap.
John Hunter Nemechek — Tough day. Had contact with Chris Buescher that spun him and then had tires go down twice, leading to him causing three cautions.
Cole Custer — Crash led to a 34th-place finish and the need for his team to prepare a backup car for Sunday’s race.
Winners and losers from Thursday night’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway:
Denny Hamlin — Scored his series-best fifth win of the season. Snapped a streak of three consecutive finishes outside the top 12 in points races, a stretch that started with him crashing while in the lead late at Indianapolis.
Brad Keselowski — Runner-up finish was his 12th top-10 in the last 14 races.
Kevin Harvick — Fourth-place finish was his sixth consecutive top-five finish, top active streak in the series.
Clint Bowyer — He finished 14th but it was enough to move him up a spot in the owners points to 12th. That’s significant. The top 12 in owner points draw for starting positions 1-12. Bowyer will have a chance to start on the pole next week at New Hampshire. Had he remained 13th in owner points, he would have started between 13th-24th.
Quin Houff — Finished 24th a few days after his crash at Texas raised questions about his ability. “Man, it felt good to just get back on track,” Houff said in a video message on social media.
JTG Daugherty Racing — Team finished last for the fourth consecutive race. Ryan Preece finished last in the previous three races. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished last on Thursday after a cockpit fire ended his race.
Matt DiBenedetto — While Clint Bowyer was happy with climbing into 12th in the owner points, Matt DiBenedetto was left with the frustration of falling to 13th after he was hit and crashed. Now, DiBenedetto can start only between 13th-24th next week at New Hampshire. By falling out of the top 12 in car owner points, he no longer is are eligible for positions 1-12 in the random draw.
Jimmie Johnson — Collected in a crash and finished 32nd. Team couldn’t make enough repairs for him to reach minimum speed and they had to exit the race. Johnson falls out of a playoff spot with seven races left in the regular season. He is 18 points out of what is the last playoffs spot and has two other drivers between that spot and him.
A look at the winners and losers at Texas Motor Speedway.
Surprise winners — Who really saw Cole Custer winning his first Cup race last weekend at Kentucky and Austin Dillon winning Sunday at Texas except for family and dedicated fans? The wins by Custer and Dillon meant two drivers outside the top 16 in points before their trips to Victory Lane each grabbed a playoff spot. That puts pressure on those at or near the cutoff line.
Richard Childress Racing — Winner Austin Dillon and runner-up Tyler Reddick gave RCR its first 1-2 Cup finish since Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton did it at Talladega in 2011. Reddick was 15 years old when that happened.
Joey Logano — His third-place finish was his best result since he won at Phoenix, the last race before NASCAR suspended the season for 10 weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christopher Bell — His 21st-place finish doesn’t seem like much but he climbed from 25th to 23rd in car owner points. That’s important because the starting lineup draw is based on car owner points. Those in positions 1-12 are eligible for the pole, those in positions 13-24 can draw for those spots and those in positions 25-36 draw for those spots. Bell had been stuck in the 25-36 group and had drawn 32nd of worse in the last seven races that had a random draw. Now, he knows he can start no worse than 24th on Thursday at Kansas.
Kyle Busch — He drove through the grass in that multi-car crash and rebounded to finish fourth. Busch said going through the grass “killed the front end” and that the car was “definitely not right after that.” Asked by NBCSN’s Dave Burns how he drove his car to a top-five finish after that damage, Busch responded: “KFB.”
Quin Houff — Trying to head to pit road from the middle lane in Turn 4 led to contact with Christopher Bell and Matt DiBenedetto and created a late caution that changed the race’s complexion. Houff took blame for the mistake. The incident led to Brad Keselowski, responding to a reporter’s question about that caution, to note that NASCAR should consider demoting drivers when they’re involved in numerous on-track issues.
Jimmie Johnson — Hit the wall early and then was penalized two laps for too many crew members servicing the car while under the Damaged Vehicle Policy. He placed 26th, finishing 12 laps behind the leaders. Worse for him, he holds what would be the final playoff spot by two points on teammate William Byron.
Ryan Preece — He has finished 40th, 38th and 40th in his last three races.
Ryan Blaney — Led 150 laps and won both stages but didn’t come up with the race win. The caution for the incident involving Houff, Bell and DiBenedetto impacted his team’s strategy and left him deep in the pack. Blaney finished seventh.
Chase Elliott — Scores what he considers his first signature win with his first All-Star victory and the sport’s most popular driver did so in front of the largest gathering of fans at a U.S. sporting event since March. “To me tonight felt like an event again. I feel like we’ve been missing that piece for a couple months. It just felt really good to get NASCAR back. I mean, NASCAR is built on the fans.”
Kyle Busch — Finished second. He’s still winless in Cup in points races and non-points races but this was a step in the right direction for a team that normally has won by this point in the season.
Clint Bowyer — He won the fan vote and got into the All-Star Race. That would the highlight of his night, as he finished 15th.
Bubba Wallace — Wrecked after contact from Michael McDowell early in the Open and never got a chance to make the All-Star Race. A frustrated Wallace said after the incident: “Just disrespect.”
Jimmie Johnson — His final All-Star appearance was forgettable, finishing 17th. Of the three cars he placed ahead of, two were in crashes.
Chip Ganassi Racing — Matt Kenseth finished 18th and Kurt Busch finished 20th in the 20-car field Wednesday night.