Kevin Harvick held off Bubba Wallace to snap a winless streak

from Bob Pokras
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer

BROOKLYN, MI – Kevin Harvick went 65 races without a win before Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

So when he led into the pits with 38 laps remaining and then passed the field, he was elated just by the trophy, let alone earning a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

“It felt like a lot more than that,” Harvick said of his winless streak with his previous win coming in September 2020 at Bristol.

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Here are three takeaways from Michigan.

NASCAR Cup Series in Michigan

NASCAR Cup Series in Michigan

Complete highlights from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan.

Harvick is changing the playoff picture

Harvick entered the race 10th in the points standings, but 96 points shy of the playoff mark with four races remaining in the regular season.

His win advanced him into the playoffs, where the regular-season champion and then the 15 drivers based on wins (with ties broken down by points) make up the 16-driver field.

“I’m more worried about the trophy,” he said. “Being in a position to win a race is something you have to do to even think about a chance to compete for a championship.

“To do that and know how we’ve been working over the last month has been exciting.”

Truex, Blaney now on balloon

Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney traded places several times late in the race, with Blaney finishing fifth and Truex sixth. But with stage points earned earlier in the race, Truex earned six more points than Blaney to close the gap between them to 19 points.

Ryan Blaney covers the season, including points, wins and playoffs

Ryan Blaney covers the season, including points, wins and playoffs

Following Michigan, Ryan Blaney covers his season including points, wins and playoffs.

With 15 winners this year, there will be at most one playoff spot available for a driver without a win based on points. Blaney has latched onto this spot.

“We are competing with the 19s [of Truex] for points and try to win,” Blaney said. “We’re going to try to do both.”

While Harvick was doing his burnout, Truex knew his situation after going from 96 points to good to be out of the bubble he’s been watching.

“We didn’t know before,” Truex said. “Now we know. We have to win. Easy as that.’

Martin Truex Jr. on whether he’ll make the NASCAR playoffs

Martin Truex Jr. on whether he'll make the NASCAR playoffs

“We have to win. Simple as that.” – Martin Truex Jr. on whether or not he’ll make the NASCAR playoffs.

Wallace what if

Bubba Wallace and Harvick started side-by-side on the front row on the restart with 35 laps remaining, and Wallace was shuffled back to third.

Wallace had one of the best cars, sat on top and led 22 laps. But he came up empty and wondered if the choice to start on the front row next to Harvick instead of behind him (and potentially push him to where they might be able to separate from the field) made a difference.

“You’re going up with one of the best and Harvick, right? What are you doing? Push him? Are you competing with him?” Wallace said. “And you have that chip on your shoulder. It’s like, ‘Man, we’ve been fast all weekend. I can outrun him.”

“If we could get away and I could stay with him, we could beat him. It would be a challenge.”

Bubba Wallace talks about her second place finish at Michigan

Bubba Wallace talks about her second place finish at Michigan

Bubba Wallace could only wonder what could have been and what he could have done differently after his second place finish at Michigan.

Wallace took a few minutes to collect himself after the race.

“[It’s] humbling moment,” said Wallace, whose only Cup win came at Talladega last year. “You’ve got to lose one before you win one and just be proud of the momentum we’re on. … I’ll be carrying this one around for a while. I failed the team.”

Bob Pokras has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after 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 with Bob Pokras newsletter!


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