Through Bob Pokrassen
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
BROOKLYN, Michigan — Kevin Harvick went through 65 races without a win prior to Sunday Michigan International Speedway.
So when he took the lead on the pit lane with 38 laps to go and then out-crossed the field, he was thrilled to just have a trophy, let alone earn a berth to the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. .
“It felt like a lot more than that,” Harvick said of his winless streak with his previous win in September 2020 in Bristol.
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Here are three takeaways from Michigan.
NASCAR Cup Series in Michigan
Full highlights from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race in Michigan.
Harvick flips playoff photo upside down
Harvick started the race in 10th place in the points standings, but 96 points out of the playoff cutoff with four races left in the regular season.
His win put him in the playoffs, where the regular season champion and then the 15 drivers based on wins (with ties broken by points) make up the field of 16 drivers.
“I’m more concerned about the trophy,” he said. “Being in a position to win a race is something you have to do to even think of a chance to race for a championship.
“Doing that and knowing how we’ve been running for the past month has been exciting.”
Truex, Blaney now on the bubble
Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney switched places a few times late in the race, with Blaney finishing fifth and Truex sixth. But with stage points earned earlier in the race, Truex earned six points more than Blaney to narrow the gap between them to 19 points.
Ryan Blaney reflects on season including points, wins and the playoffs
Following Michigan’s lead, Ryan Blaney looks back on his season, including points, wins and the playoffs.
With 15 winners this year, there would be a maximum of one spot available in the playoffs for a driver with no points-based points. Blaney clings to that spot.
“We race the 19 [of Truex] for points and trying to win,” Blaney said. “We’ll try to do both.”
While Harvick was doing his burnout, Truex knew his situation after going from 96 points to the good to now look outside the bubble.
“We didn’t know it before,” Truex said. “Now we know. We have to win. It’s that simple.’
Martin Truex Jr. on whether he will make the NASCAR playoffs
“We have to win. It’s that simple.” – Martin Truex Jr. on whether or not to make it to the NASCAR playoffs.
Bubba Wallace and Harvick started side by side in the front row at the restart with 35 laps to go, and Wallace was shuffled back to third.
Wallace had one of the best cars, was on pole and led 22 laps. But he came across empty and wondered if it would make any difference starting in the front row next to Harvick rather than behind him (and possibly pushing him to a spot where they might be able to separate themselves from the field).
“You’re going up with one of the best and Harvick, aren’t you? What are you doing? Push him? Racing with him?’ said Wallace. “And you’ve got that chip on your shoulder. It’s like, ‘Man, we’ve been fast all weekend. I can outsmart him.’
“If we could have gotten away and I could have stayed with him, we could have beaten him. It would have been a challenge.”
Bubba Wallace Talks About His Second Place in Michigan
Bubba Wallace could only wonder what could have been and what he could have done differently after finishing second in Michigan.
It took Wallace several minutes after the race to calm himself.
“[It’s] a humbling moment,” said Wallace, whose only Cup win was in Talladega last year. “You have to lose one before you win one and just be proud of the momentum we have. … I’m going to carry this one with me for a while. I let the team down.”
Bob Pockrass has covered motorsports for decades, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after stints with ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bob pokras. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!
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