EditorsNote: adds quotes, adds picture
Kevin Harvick collected his series-leading seventh victory of the season when he drove away from the field late in the race to win the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.
Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, led a race-best 108 of 200 laps at the two-mile oval in earning his 44th career victory.
“What a car,” Harvick said. “The most important thing is winning races right now and getting all the points that you can get to position yourself well to get to Homestead (in South Florida, site of the final and championship determining race).”
Brad Keselowski finished second, 3.2 seconds back, in the No. 2 Ford of Team Penske.
Finishing third was points leader Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing. He is a six-time race winner in 2018.
Busch, who led 22 laps, said his car was not as good as Harvick’s but, “it was pretty close. I certainly wish we had a tick more but, you know, overall, a good day for us.”
Rounding out the top five were Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing and Ryan Blaney of the Penske team.
Denny Hamlin started the race from the pole in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He held the lead until a Lap 14 restart when he was passed by teammate Kyle Busch.
Busch lost his lead to Harvick, who finished second at MIS in June, on a Lap 31 restart. Harvick kept the lead and went on to win the 60-lap Stage 1 victory. Jimmie Johnson opted to take just two tires during pit stops between the first and second stages but gave up the lead to Busch four laps later.
Johnson briefly moved back to the lead when he stayed out when the yellow flag waved on Lap 74. Ten laps later, Johnson pitted under caution, turning the lead over to Martin Truex Jr.
On Lap 110, Harvick moved past Truex Jr. and back into the lead, held it and collected the Stage 2 victory.
Harvick dominated the third and final stage even though he lost the lead for a bunch of laps as pit sequencing changed on the final fuel run.
Three races — short tracks at Bristol Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway, and then at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — remain until the start of the playoffs at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sept. 16.
—Field Level Media