Harvick Controls Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard
SPEEDWAY, IN - RIS - Kevin Harvick's #4 Mobil 1 Ford was the class of the field today at the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard. While the main focus today was on who would occupy the final playoff spots, Harvick controlled the race by winning the pole and leading over 70% of the laps en route to his 2nd Monster Energy Cup victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Today's race featured exciting racing with a lot of passing with the final playoff spot being determined on the final lap.
After climbing out of his winning car, Harvick said, "I've got to say thanks to all the fans! As a kid, I watched Rick Mears win Indy 500s. He was my hero, so coming here and winning here is pretty awesome! I don't know if we had the best car, but we had the fastest car. We had control of the race and kept control of the race. The guys on this (Stewart-Haas) race team built a heck of a race car."
Harvick led 118 of the 160 laps, held off all challengers, and avoided all the trouble here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was his 48th Monster Energy Cup victory, and his 3rd win this year.
Much of the focus today was on the contention for the remaining 2 Playoff spots with the most likely contenders being Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez, and Jimmie Johnson.
Bowyer avoided trouble by qualifying his #14 Rush/Cummins Ford 3rd to get a good starting position, kept the car near the front all day, and missed all the accidents and mishaps to finish 5th and secure the 15th of 16 playoffs spots with a 15 point margin. Bowyer said, "It was one of those chaotic days, like I said before the race. It all worked out in the second phase. We were fast, a top 5 car. We were just trying to survive; you just needed to survive this thing."
Ryan Newman started the day tied for the final playoff spot, did not qualify well (22nd), and methodically worked his way through the field to finish 8th, earning the final playoff spots by 4 points over Daniel Suarez. Newman said, "It was a struggle a lot of times. At the end of the first stage, I had a lot of confidence. At the end of the second stage, I didn't have a whole lot of confidence. We didn't have a fast enough race car to go up there and lead, and we have to be able to do that for these next 3 races. I am proud of our entire team and using our experience collectively and turn that into a playoff position."
Daniel Suarez started the day tied for the final playoff spot, did not qualify well (20th), was the first of the playoff contenders to encounter trouble, however Suarez had a fast car and he worked his way toward the front. He almost went a lap down earlier in the race due to a ill-timed caution, however he was the recipient of the Lucky Dog and remained on the lead lap. He again worked his way back toward the front, running out of time as he could see Ryan Newman 3 cars in front of him as the checkered flag fell, leaving him 4 points short of earning the final playoff spot.
Jimmie Johnson started the day furthest from playoff contention, 18 points behind Newman and Suarez, qualified 5th to establish track position early, and run up front most of the day before having an accident on lap 106. Johnson missed the playoffs for the first time in its 16-year existence. Johnson said, "Unfortunately, we had a bad 25 races that led to the position we were in. We needed to have a stellar day, we were having a strong day, and I'm really proud of my team and where we are at and what has been going on. (As for the accident) It was just super tight. I couldn't go anywhere below the white line and got turned around, and around we go. Our goal is to win a race. Our team is getting stronger each and every week. Cliff Daniels is doing an amazing job. We'll dust ourselves off and go to Vegas and try to get a trophy."
With today's commanding victory by Kevin Harvick, the Monster Energy Cup series playoff picture is now complete. The 16 playoff spots belong to Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, William Bowman, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman. The Monster Energy Cup series playoffs begin next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, September 15.
Has been an RIS contributor for over 20 years. John retired from the Ohio Army National Guard as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2015.