Kevin Harvick holds off Bubba Wallace to snap winless streak
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
So when he took the lead on pit road with 38 laps remaining and then outpaced the field, he was elated just to have a trophy, let alone earn a berth to the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
"It felt like a lot more than that," Harvick said about his winless streak with his previous win coming in September 2020 at Bristol.
Here are three takeaways from Michigan.
Harvick upends playoff picture
Harvick entered the race 10th in the point standings but 96 points out of the playoff cutoff with four races remaining in the regular season.
His victory vaulted him into the playoffs, where the regular-season champion and then the 15 drivers based on wins (with ties broken by points) comprise the 16-driver field.
"I'm more worried about the trophy," he said. "Being in position to win a race is something that you have to do to even think about having a chance at racing for a championship.
"Doing that and knowing how we've run the last month has been exciting."
Truex, Blaney now on the bubble
Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney swapped spots a couple of times late in the race with Blaney finishing fifth and Truex in sixth. But with stage points earned earlier in the race, Truex earned six more points than Blaney to cut the gap between them to 19 points.
With 15 winners this year, there would be at most one spot available in the playoffs for a winless driver based on points. Blaney is clinging to that spot.
"We're racing the 19 [of Truex] for points and try to win," Blaney said. "We'll try to do both."
As Harvick did his burnout, Truex knew his situation after going from 96 points to the good to now being outside the bubble looking in.
"We didn't know before," Truex said. "Now we know. We've got to win. Simple as that."
Bubba Wallace and Harvick started side-by-side on the front row on the restart with 35 laps remaining, and Wallace got shuffled back to third.
Wallace had one of the best cars, sat on the pole and led 22 laps. But he came up empty and wondered if choosing to start on the front row beside Harvick instead of behind him (and potentially pushing him to where maybe they could separate themselves from the field) made the difference.
"You're going up with one of the best and Harvick, right? What do you do? Push him? Race him?" Wallace said. "And you have that chip on your shoulder. It's like, ‘Man, we've been fast all weekend. I can outrace him.'
"If we were able to get away and I was able to stay with him, we could have beat him. It would have been a challenge."
Wallace took several minutes to compose himself after the race.
"[It's] a humbling moment," said Wallace, whose sole Cup victory came at Talladega last year. "You've got to lose one before you win one and just proud of the momentum that we're on. ... I'm going to carry this one with me for a while. I failed the team."
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!