Kevin Harvick ended months of frustration by surging in the final stage and winning Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway.

The victory ended a 65-race winless string for Harvick and boosted him from an outsider into a spot on the Cup playoff grid. Harvick became the 15th different driver to score a Cup win this season. Sixteen drivers will advance to the playoffs, which begin Sept. 4 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.

Harvick’s last win was Sept. 19, 2020 at Bristol Motor Speedway. He won nine races in 2020.

Entering Sunday’s race, Harvick had led only 13 laps this season.

Harvick’s victory leaves one spot in the playoffs for a points challenger with three regular-season races remaining. Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. have been racing for points playoff positions much of the year.

With 21 laps to go, Harvick had a four-second lead over fellow Ford driver Joey Logano. Harvick expanded the lead in the closing laps before winning by 2.9 seconds.

Following Harvick to the finish were pole winner Bubba Wallace, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Blaney.

“Everybody who doubted us doesn’t know us,” Harvick said. “They obviously know we thrive in these situations. A lot of things went our way today, which we haven’t had all year.”

The win was Harvick’s sixth at MIS. He has won four of the past five Cup races at the two-mile track. The victory was Ford’s eighth consecutive at MIS.

The last stage featured some feverish racing as Harvick, Logano, Christopher Bell, Wallace, Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez wrestled in the top five.

Chastain, who has been blamed for numerous accidents this season, was involved in another big crash Sunday. With 41 laps to go, Chastain tried to pass Christopher Bell on the outside. Bell drifted high, and Chastain hit his car, sending it into the outside wall. Bell’s right front was damaged. Both drivers continued in the race.

Several leading cars were damaged or eliminated in a lap-25 crash when JJ Yeley lost control of his car in the middle of a pack of traffic. Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric and Aric Almirola were among the hardest-hit victims in the nine-car accident.

Two drivers dealt with fire issues last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and fire spelled trouble for Cole Custer at MIS. After his car blew a left-front tire, flames burst from the wheel area as Custer slowed to go to pit road. As he rolled into his pit, the flames popped higher. Custer was helped out of the car as safety workers put out the fire.

Stage 1 winner: Christopher Bell

Stage 2 winner: Denny Hamlin

Drivers who had a good race: Kevin Harvick finally broke through, ended a depressingly long winless streak and punched his ticket to the playoffs. After the win, he drove his daughter, Piper, to victory lane. All in all, a fabulous day. … Bubba Wallace won the pole, raced near the front most of the day and rolled home second. … Denny Hamlin rebounded from a pair of penalties to take third.

Drivers who had a bad race: Kyle Busch’s sour runs over recent weeks continued Sunday as he was caught up in an early-race crash. … Martin Truex Jr. showed some strength but managed only a sixth-place run and now sits on the hot seat in the search for a playoff spot. … Daniel Suarez led 33 laps but experienced a blown left-front tire late in the race and finished 25th.

Next: The Cup Series rolls on to Richmond Raceway in Virginia Sunday, Aug. 14 (3 p.m.,ET, USA Network) for the final short-track race of the regular season.


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