NASCAR: Three Big Stories from Michigan International Speedway

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From Kevin Harvick’s surprise win to Bubba Wallace letting victory slip & the playoff picture, let’s break down NASCAR’s weekend in Michigan.

What a weekend in the Irish Hills of Michigan! After 200 laps, Kevin Harvick, an all-time NASCAR legend, proved he isn’t finished yet. Despite a solid outing and runner-up finish, Bubba Wallace let his best chance at victory slip through his hands. Furthermore, with three races left in the regular season, only one spot remains for a first-time winner.

So without further adieu, let’s dive into the Three Big Stories from the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

 1 – Kevin Harvick’s not done yet

NASCAR - Kevin Harvick - Michigan
BROOKLYN, Mich. – AUGUST 7: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Light Apple #BuschelOfBusch Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 7, 2022, in Brooklyn, Michigan. Photo: Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

After doing a Polish victory lap down the frontstretch, burnouts at pit entry, and getting doused in beer by his crew, Harvick took his daughter, Piper, for a ride in his car to victory lane. Even though he and his wife, Delana, had to talk her into it.

“She had mentioned that she wanted to go for a ride if we won today,” he said. “Just a really cool moment to be able to let her experience a lot of these things that (son) Keelan has got to experience so many times. Hopefully, she’s old enough to where she might remember some of it and at least have some great video and footage of everything that’s happening.”

Piper was two, the last time she was at a NASCAR Cup Series race her father won. “So a great day from a lot of different perspectives,” he said, “whether it’s family or team or just a lot of things that feel good.”

While Harvick didn’t dominate on Sunday, he demonstrated that he’s not done yet. He just needed a push from Kyle Larson.

“I knew I needed to drive it in the corner far enough, but the 5 had given me such a good push,” he said. “I had a car length, and I think Bubba got about up to my door. I knew that if we could just get off of Turn 2, we would have a chance.”

In a streak that stretched 65 races, Harvick bested Wallace on the final restart to score his 59th career victory and first since Bristol Motor Speedway in September of 2020. A season in which he won nine races.

For some athletes, those kinds of losing streaks eat away at them. For Harvick, that’s “just the way that it goes.”

“You look back at anybody’s career, and they go through losing streaks,” he said. “We’re just fortunate to end it. I think that’s the best part, right, is ending the streak.”

Now, the focus turns to winning his second Cup Series championship.

 2- NASCAR Victory slips through Bubba Wallace’s hands

Bubba Wallace - NASCAR
BROOKLYN, Mich. – AUGUST 7: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Light Apple #BuschelOfBusch Ford, and Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 McDonald’s Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 7, 2022, in Brooklyn, Michigan. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Wallace stood next to his car on pit road after the race to do his post-race media interviews. He spent the last few minutes sitting in his car pondering what more he could’ve done to win.

“Took the top there on the restart,” he said. “Thought I could hang with (Harvick), and just got to racing (Larson) and (Joey Logano). And 22 did a good job of getting another Ford contract, helping a Ford win.” During which, he held his head down.

“Just all in all an incredible weekend,” he said. “Appreciate my team. Wished we could have got Toyota in the victory lane. Wish we got McDonald’s back in victory lane. She was fast all week, man.”

After winning his first career pole Sunday’s Cup Series race presented him with his best opportunity to score a victory. He led the first 21 laps, then pitted during the competition caution. After that, he led just one lap.

At Michigan, where tire falloff isn’t that great, Bubba Wallace spent the rest of the day regaining track position. In the end, Harvick bested him. For a driver as hit and miss as Wallace, who knows if he’ll get another perfect setup for an excellent race and victory. “I’ll wear this one on my heart for a while,” he said. “I failed everybody.”

3 – The NASCAR Playoff Picture

NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400
BROOKLYN, Mich. – AUGUST 7: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 McDonald’s Toyota, Erik Jones, driver of the #43 FOCUSfactor Chevrolet, Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Cardell Caninetry Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Light Apple #BuschelOfBusch Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 7, 2022, in Brooklyn, Michigan. Photo: Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

Ryan Blaney entered Michigan with a 121-point cushion. When the checkered flag fell, he leaves with a 19-point cushion.

Once unthinkable, Blaney, who sits second in points, is one bad race away from missing the playoffs. All because he’s winless.

Martin Truex Jr., who sits fourth and had a similar cushion just a week ago, is on the outside of the cutoff. Now with three races left in the regular season, one spot remains for a new winner. After that, we run the possibility of up to two winners missing the playoffs. At least he can race his way in on points, barring another winner. For Erik Jones and Wallace, it’s win or go home.

Welcome to Mr. NASCAR’s Wild Ride! And this already crazy season hasn’t hit its climax yet. Finally, here’s an updated look at the NASCAR Playoff Standings:

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Featured Image: Mike Mulholland/Getty Images