Kevin Harvick took the third drive of his career on his street of dreams – Victory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – after winning the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records.
Harvick became just the third driver to win this crown jewel race of the NASCAR Cup Series at least three times – joining five-time winner Jeff Gordon and four-time winner Jimmie Johnson -- as he also won last year and in 2003. He is the first back-to-back Brickyard winner since Kyle Busch in 2015 and 2016.
2014 Cup Series champion Harvick drove away from fellow veteran Matt Kenseth during a two-lap overtime finish, winning by .743 of a second in the No. 4 Busch Light Patriotic Ford with an average speed of 123.162 mph. Aric Almirola finished third in the No. 10 Smithfield Ford.
The win added to Harvick’s growing legend at IMS, a place where Rick Mears, his childhood idol and fellow resident of Bakersfield, California, won the Indianapolis 500 four times.
“It’s the Brickyard, man,” Harvick said. “This is what I grew up wanting to do as a kid, win at the Brickyard. And to be able to come here and have won for the third time is something I could have never dreamed of. Really, really proud of all the guys on this team.”
The overtime finish was set up when the right front tire of leader Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota went down in Turn 1 on Lap 154, sending Hamlin’s car hard into the SAFER Barrier. Hamlin was unhurt.
That incident spoiled a hotly anticipated duel between Hamlin and Harvick – the two dominant drivers of the day and of this NASCAR Cup Series season – over the final seven laps at sunset, as the race started 55 minutes late due to lightning in the area.
“We had a fast car, obviously, and was stretching out there, but I wasn’t pushing the right front at all,” Hamlin said. “It’s just kind of roulette, whether you’re going to get one (tire) that’s going to stay together or not. Mine didn’t, and you saw the end result. That stinks. But I’m proud of the whole FedEx Toyota team.”
Harvick jumped from second to the lead after Hamlin was eliminated and motored away from Kenseth’s No. 42 McDelivery Chevrolet on the restart for the two-lap, green-white-checkered overtime finish.
Hamlin and Harvick were the class of the 40-car field on the 2.5-mile oval during the second half of the race. They combined to lead 62 of the last 74 laps, with Harvick leading a race-high 68 laps overall.
Quick pit work eventually helped Hamlin take the lead on Lap 135. He made his final pit stop from second place, trailing Harvick, on Lap 122. Harvick made his final stop one lap later, handing the lead to Kenseth. But Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing crew was quicker during his stop, so he was ahead of Harvick when Harvick returned to the track following his stop.
Hamlin inherited the lead when Kenseth pitted from the lead under caution on Lap 134, with Harvick in second.
The pair then sailed around the oval, never separated by more than six-tenths of a second while leaving rivals in their exhaust. Only Kenseth could hang close, but he fell a second behind by Lap 152.
“We knew he was going to be really close on tires, and Rodney (Childers, crew chief) told me on the radio, ‘Just make sure you keep the pressure on him,’” Harvick said of Hamlin. “And that was all the pressure I could give.”
Two laps later, Hamlin was climbing from his crumpled car, dreams of his first Brickyard victory dashed.
William Byron won the first stage of the race, which ended on Lap 50, in the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet but ended up 27th. Harvick won the second stage, which ended on Lap 100.
The race was slowed by nine caution periods for 43 laps. There also was a red flag for 11 minutes and 17 seconds after multiple cars collided on pit road on Lap 15. That incident ended the day for Justin Allgaier, who was substituting as driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet for four-time Brickyard winner Johnson, who learned Friday of a positive test for COVID-19.