NASCAR Michigan Auto Racing

Stewart-Haas Racing crew members congratulate Kevin Harvick after he won at Michigan International Speedway for the second consecutive year.

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Kevin Harvick is so confident in his talent and team he doesn’t get excited when he wins.

“It’s more of an expectation,” Harvick said.

He raced to the 47th NASCAR Cup victory of his career and his second in less than a month Sunday, pulling away from the pack to win at Michigan International Speedway for the second straight year.

With just three races before the playoffs, the timing of his latest strong performance may help him win a second championship.

“Hopefully, we’re peaking at the right time,” he said.

Late in the race, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver created a cushion between his Ford and the competition and finished more than a second ahead of the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota piloted by Manchester graduate Denny Hamlin.

“Nothing I could really do,” said Hamlin. “Didn’t have enough speed.”

Kyle Larson was third, more than 16 seconds behind Harvick. He was followed by Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez and points leader Kyle Busch.

Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson will have to close the regular season strong to extend his streak of postseason berths since the format was created 15 years ago. He started the race tied for the 16th and final spot in the playoffs and slipped to 18th. Johnson had an early setback, making contact with a wall on Lap 15 that damaged his right rear quarter panel and tire, and finished 34th.

Johnson was several laps back for much of the race, but got a break when Clint Bowyer was knocked out of the race after Paul Menard appeared to bump him. Bowyer began the day 15th in the playoff standings and finished 37th at MIS, putting him in 16th in the race for the final spot.

Johnson finished 30th or worse for the third time in five races and in the other two, he was 15th and 19th, putting his postseason chances in peril.

“The guys around that cutoff point all seem to be having bad luck,” he said.

Johnson’s last Cup victory was on June 4, 2017 at Dover International Speedway.

Newman, who started the day tied with Johnson in the playoff standings, was 12th in the 38-car field and that was good enough to move him up to 15th.

Pole-sitter Brad Keselowski was 19th, extending his winless streak to 21 at the track about 70 miles from his hometown in suburban Detroit. Keselowski got off to a strong start and led for a race-high 66 laps, but a flat tire during the second stage set off sparks behind him and was a setback he couldn’t overcome.

“Someone once told me faith isn’t believing when everything is going your way, it’s believing when nothing is going your way,” Keselowski posted on Twitter. “Today was a test of faith. We will return and win here, just not today.”

Joey Logano won at Michigan in June, helping Ford win four straight at the track and bragging rights over Chevrolet and Toyota in a state where the manufacturers have a big presence.

“We want to win every race, but definitely here,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director for Ford Performance.

Harvick also won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last month, giving him two wins in a four-race stretch. He finished sixth and seventh between the victories.

“We still have to get a lot better, but we’re in better shape than we were,” crew chief Rodney Childers said.

Harvick said he has been driving with an injured shoulder, hurting it while throwing a nerf ball. Harvick said he couldn’t lift his arm in June at Sonoma Raceway, but estimated his shoulder is 80-percent healthy.

RESULTS

(Start position in parentheses)

1. (2) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 200; 2. (14) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200; 3. (17) Kyle Larson, Chevy, 200; 4. (15) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 200; 5. (11) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 200; 6. (22) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200; 7. (29) Ryan Preece, Chevy, 200; 8. (3) William Byron, Chevy, 200; 9. (6) Chase Elliott, Chevy, 200; 10. (4) Alex Bowman, Chevy, 200

11. (21) Ty Dillon, Chevy, 200; 12. (20) Ryan Newman, Ford, 200; 13. (37) Austin Dillon, Chevy, 200; 14. (25) Chris Buescher, Chevy, 200; 15. (9) Paul Menard, Ford, 200; 16. (24) David Ragan, Ford, 200; 17. (8) Joey Logano, Ford, 200; 18. (16) Erik Jones, Toyota, 200; 19. (1) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200; 20. (27) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 200

21. (31) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 200; 22. (23) Michael McDowell, Ford, 200; 23. (13) Kurt Busch, Chevy, 200; 24. (7) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200; 25. (19) Matt Tifft, Ford, 199; 26. (38) Daniel Hemric, Chevy, 199; 27. (26) Bubba Wallace, Chevy, 199; 28. (18) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 199; 29. (30) Ross Chastain, Chevy, 198; 30. (28) Landon Cassill, Chevy, 196

31. (32) Quin Houff, Chevy, 196; 32. (33) Austin Theriault, Ford, 194; 33. (12) Aric Almirola, Ford, 193; 34. (10) Jimmie Johnson, Chevy, 192; 35. (35) Garrett Smithley, Chevy, 192; 36. (34) Cody Ware, Ford, 191; 37. (5) Clint Bowyer, Ford, accident, 139; 38. (36) Spencer Boyd, Ford, accident, 123

Stage winners: Martin Truex Jr. (first), Kyle Busch (second)

Race statistics

Average speed: 149.084 mph; Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes, 59 seconds; Margin of victory: 1.054 seconds; Cautions: 6 for 24 laps; Lead changes: 19 among 8 drivers

Lap leaders: Keselowski 1-39; Hamlin 40-44; Truex Jr. 45-55; Hamlin 56; Truex Jr. 57-63; Keselowski 64-81; Truex Jr. 82; Keselowski 83-90; Truex Jr. 91-108; Keselowski 109; Harvick 110-113; Truex Jr. 114-119; Kyle Busch 120-122; Kurt Busch 123-126; Logano 127-141; Kurt Busch 142; Logano 143-150; Blaney 151-153; Logano 154-182; Harvick 183-200

Leaders summary (driver, times led, laps led): Keselowski 4 times for 66 laps; Logano 3 times for 52 laps; Truex Jr. 5 times for 43 laps; Harvick 2 times for 22 laps; Hamlin 2 times for 6 laps; Kurt Busch 2 times for 5 laps; Blaney 1 time for 3 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 3 laps

Wins: Kyle Busch 4, Truex Jr. 4, Keselowski 3, Hamlin 3, Logano 2, Elliott 2, Harvick 2, Bowman 1, Haley 1, Kurt Busch 1

Points: 1. Kyle Busch 892; 2. Logano 872; 3. Harvick 822; 4. Hamlin 815; 5. Truex Jr. 805; 6. Keselowski 754; 7. Elliott 711; 8. Kurt Busch 701; 9. Blaney 654; 10. Bowman 653; 11. Almirola 645; 12. Byron 642; 13. Larson 624; 14. Jones 623; 15. Newman 569; 16. Bowyer 559

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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