There was a lot of hard racing at Michigan but clean air ruled the day as did Kevin “The Closer” Harvick. The win ended a 65-race drought for the veteran Ford driver at a track where Fords have been dominant. The win cements Harvick’s place in the playoffs and now puts Martin Truex, Jr. in jeopardy of not making the grade.
Harvick stayed in contention all day and made it known on the last restart on lap 166 that he was in it to win it. He was chased by pole sitter Bubba Wallace but Joey Logano in a Ford slowed Wallace’s progress and left him disconsolate. Bubba is desperate for a win this season but his team has shown a lot of maturity and strength this year, especially as of late.
Martin Truex, Jr. finished 6th and sits 4th in points but without a win, he is below the cut line for the playoffs. Lucky for him, Richmond is a track that has favored him lately with 3 wins in the last 6 races there. What is unlucky is that he just hasn’t showed the speed his teammates have, especially Denny Hamlin.
You have wonder “what if?” with Hamlin. Once again penalized on pit road, he managed to drive back up to 3rd in the waning laps. He has the most penalized team followed by teammate Kyle Busch. That’s a lot of errors on two championship caliber teams. Hamlin has the second best average finish at Richmond in the past 6 races so don’t count him out. But a Hamlin win would certainly not help Truex. With 14 winners this season, it isn’t hard to imagine 16 before the playoffs start. A win by Ryan Blaney or Erik Jones would hurt Truex a lot, a win by Wallace or Austin Dillon would be disastrous.
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Good on ya, mate
Kevin Harvick (P1) for closing the deal.
Bubba Wallace (P2) for the pole and being as tough as he was.
Denny Hamlin (P3) led 38 laps but another penalty may have cost him a win.
Joey Logano (P4) was good, just not good enough.
Ryan Blaney (5) managed to be better than his 24th place start.
Martin Truex, Jr. (P6) needs a win at Richmond.
Kyle Larson (P7) managed not to miss a turn this week.
Erik Jones (P8) was solid.
Alex Bowman (P9) needs to start showing some speed.
Ty Gibbs (P10) had another good outing in place of Kurt Busch.
So you had a bad day
Austin Cindric (P37), Kyle Busch (P36), JJ Yeley (P35), Aric Almirola (P34) and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (P33) barely got their tires warm before they wrecked.
Christopher Bell (P26) was on the front row, led 31 laps but wrecked late in the race.
Daniel Suarez (P25) led 33 laps but pit strategy bit him.
Ross Chastain (P24) led 29 laps and pitting caught him a lap down.
Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing teammates hold 4 of the Top 5 highest finishes in the past 6 races. Hamlin is the defending race winner while Truex finished 4th but led 80 laps. Truex won back to back races in 2019 with his last in 2021. Alex Bowman won the spring race in 2021. In the spring race in 2022, William Byron led 122 laps while Blaney led a race high 128. Bell also led 63.
Looking at the competition right now, you have to like Toyota’s chances. But look out, Harvick was second to Hamlin in the spring race. If you doubt Harvick, you don’t know him very well.
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images/NASCAR Media)