POCONO, Pa. - Kevin Harvick held off a fast-closing Denny Hamlin for his third victory of the season Saturday, scratching Pocono Raceway off his winless list in the opener of a NASCAR Cup Series weekend.
The win marked an impressive eighth of the season for Ford in NASCAR’s premier series to date.
Harvick’s first win at the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania track was the 52nd of his Cup Series career. Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford led 17 of 130 laps in the Pocono Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute.
Pole-starter Aric Almirola took third, his best career finish at the “Tricky Triangle”, joining his teammate in the top-five.
Joey Logano and Almirola divvied up the stage wins. But Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske Mustang struggled its way to pit road with a flat left-front tire with seven laps remaining while running eighth, relegating him to a 36th-place finish. Almirola led a race-high 61 laps while securing his third top-five finish of the year.
The 130-lap race began 56 minutes after its scheduled start time of 3:54 p.m. ET because of pesky afternoon rain.
The series’ next race is scheduled Sunday at 4 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM), the back end of a weekend doubleheader. The top 20 finishers from Saturday will be inverted to set Sunday’s starting lineup.
MENCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st - Kevin Harvick
2nd - Denny Hamlin
3rd - Aric Almirola
4th - Christopher Bell
5th - Kyle Busch
6th - Martin Truex Jr.
7th - Clint Bowyer
8th - Michael McDowell
9th - Brad Keselowski
10th - Chris Buescher
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
12th - Ryan Blaney
13th - Matt DiBenedetto
15th - Ryan Newman
16th - Cole Custer
23rd - Corey LaJoie
24th - John Hunter Nemechek
31st - JJ Yeley
36th - Joey Logano
37th - Joey Gase
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Busch Head for the Mountains Ford Mustang
“I just gotta thank everyone on this Busch Beer Ford Mustang. We weren’t where we needed to be to start the race and lost a bunch of track position but we came back and made some great strategy calls to get in clean air and get out front and make some good laps. It is great to finally check Pocono off the list. Everybody at Stewart-Haas racing has done such a great job with all our cars over the last several years. I guess it takes special paint schemes to get to victory lane. I want to say hi to my family. I know Keelan raced all day and Delana and Piper and everybody at home. I am really proud of everybody and I am just glad it didn’t rain all day.”
YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO GO BACK TO BACK FOR THE SEVENTH TIME IN YOUR CAREER. SIZE UP TOMORROW STARTING 20TH
“Well, we were back to 20th today> I think in the end it will come down to strategy. I gotta thank everybody from Mobil 1, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Jimmy Johns, Fields, everybody from Haas that puts this car on the racetrack. I wish I could explain to everybody how hard the guys and gals are working in the shop right now with this schedule and everybody broke up. We appreciate all you guys. Thank you to all the fans. I wish you were here. This isn’t near as exciting. I feel like I am my seven year old. I have all this pent up energy and am going to just share with nobody.”
IT HAS TO BE GREAT TO FINALLY CHECK THIS RACETRACK OFF
“Yeah, it really is. I have to thank everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for all the great cars they have given me through the years. We finished second a bunch of times here. I know that they wanted to win here as bad as everyone else so we could stop answering the questions. The PR guy isn’t going to know what to do now. He will have to come up with a new title for the Pocono lead ins. I want to thank everyone from our Head to the Mountains Busch Beer Ford Mustang and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing. Everybody has put a lot of time and effort into week after week and working their guts out at the shop just to get these cars tot he track and we appreciate that.”
LAP 95 YOU CAME DOWN PIT ROAD WITH A QUICK TWO-TIRE PIT STOP. WHEN DO YOU KNOW, AS A DRIVER, WHEN THIS WORKED OUT?
“I knew when we came out of the pits and they told me how big of a lead we had. I saw the 11 come out of the pits and he was in second. I knew that the tire gap was going to be a little less. He caught us a little in traffic but I knew I could be pretty patient with the gap we had. As I started to see everything cycle out and see with the track position we had with the fresher tires you could kind of start to put it together in your mind as we started to run through the last stage and cars started to have to pit. Just a great call by Rodney Childers and aldl the guys up on the pit box for having the right strategy and getting us to victory lane.”
WAS IT STILL MANAGING THAT DISTANCE OR LAP TRAFFIC OR WHAT THAT CLOSED THE GAP?
“I just caught a couple of lap cars in the wrong spots going in the corner and messed up my entry and lost some of my momentum down the straightaway and you lose a second there and then you do that two laps in a row and there goes the lead. It definitely got closer than it needed to.”
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR TOMORROW? YOU HAVE A RACE WINNING CAR. HOW DO YOU APPROACH THIS?
“I think we can make oru car quite a bit better. We kind of crutched it today to get the problems that we had. I think there are a lot of problems we can fix on it and make it better. Hopefully we can do that. Sometimes it goes the opposite way and you think you can make it better and it slows down. We will find out when they drop the green flag tomorrow.”
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Vote For Bacon Ford Mustang
“Bugga and I talked about it coming here. This was a great opportunity to score a lot of points with a double header. If you unload and you have a good car in the first race, you have an opportunity to score a lot of point in two days. Our Smithfield Ford Mustang was really, really fast. We opted to score a lot of points and that probably hurt us on strategy a little bit> I am proud of Bugga and these guys. They have been bringing some awesome race cars. I felt like we were tit for tat with the 4 when we were on older tires there and in clean air. I am proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and Roush Yates engines and Ford Performance and everybody that helps this program out. We are just trying to keep the momentum going. Three top five’s in a row. I am really proud of my race team.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Western Star/Alliance Auto Parts Ford Mustang
FROM WHERE YOU STARTED TO WHERE YOU FINISHED, WHAT DID YOU LEARN THAT WILL HELP TOMORROW?
“We didn’t start where we wanted to but we adjusted really well and I thought by the end we were one of the best cars. It was incredibly difficult to pass. I caught cars that I was a second faster than and then I just couldn’t pass. It was a big track position day. I think you saw that with the guys that started up front all finished up front. We tried to make some moves to make some passes and probably caught ourselves some spots. If we rode around all day we would have maybe got two or three more spots out of it. I appreciate the fact that my team has a lot of effort and was shooting for the stars.”
HAVE YOU REACHED OUT TO BUBBA AT ALL THIS WEEK AND WHAT DID YOU GUYS TALK ABOUT? DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TAKEN ANYTHING AWAY FROM THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS?
“Yeah, I talked to him a little before the race Sunday, or gosh, I don't know what day it is anymore with all this rain. Whatever day it was that we raced Talladega, Monday. Yeah, I talked to him Monday before the race. I pulled into the race track and he was just finishing a workout and I told him that if he needed anything I was there for him. Other than that I didn’t have a lot to say. I feel like he has enough people in his ear he probably doesn't need me to be bothering him. It has certainly been an interesting few weeks. It kinda feels a little like a soap opera. I am not sure if it is real or fiction. We are all just trying to get through it and keep our own lives going at the same time, which is a challenge.”
HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE LAST MONTH OR SO BEING QUITE EVENTFUL OFF THE TRACK FOR THE SPORT COMPARES TO ANY OTHER TIME YOU CAN REMEMBER IN YOUR CAREER WHEN THINGS WERE HECTIC THAT DIDN’T HAVE TO DO WITH THE RACE TRACK?
“I don't know that there has been any time period like this that I can ever remember but my memory ain’t so great either, to be honest with you. It feels like a soap opera with the turn of events left and right and it is almost not even believable. But it is real and happening and we are all trying to do the right thing by each other and the sport and the fans. I think we are doing that. I feel good about the things we are doing but it is a flurry of emotions and obligations mixed in with rain days and delays not being able to be with your team. Everything you are operating with is partial facts all the time in everything you do and it is very hard to make heads or tails of what is going on to be quite honest.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS DOUBLEHEADER WEEKEND?
“I really like the schedule stuff that I have seen from NASCAR so far. I think that we are making the most of what is a really tough situation and they -- I should say making the most -- that is not to me at the level of praise I think they deserve. They have done it better than I ever thought they could do with this schedule. Given the COVID and the Governors and all the precautions we have to do, I challenge you to find any sport doing a better job with making this whole deal work than NASCAR right now. Has it been flawless and perfect? No. But I think that would be an unrealistic expectation. I think it has been really impressive and done really well to date. I am proud of that. They deserve a lot of credit for what they are doing with the schedule and making things happen. On top of rescheduling around tracks that are open and race shops that are closed, I feel like we have had rain for at least three-quarters of these races that has pushed our schedule around. They find a way to make it work and I have to give NASCAR a lot of credit for that.”
DO YOU FEEL SAFE COMING TO THE TRACK AND THEN GOING HOME TO YOUR FAMILY EVERY WEEK LIKE THIS?
“Yeah. Everyone has their own definition of safe, right? Which is probably why you are asking my opinion. We accept risk the second we walk out of our house, everyday. It is just what level of safety - what is your threshold, that is what safety is. The second you walk out of your door you are taking a chance of getting hit by a bus or meteor or whatever. It is a pretty low chance. I think getting sick is probably a higher chance than getting struck by lightning but I also am more nervous getting on an airplane and that thing running into a mountain that I am of getting COVID. Maybe that is some perspective for you. I am not saying I won’t or can’t get sick, shoot, but from a safety factor I am okay.”
CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang
“That was a struggle early today for our Mobil 1 Ford. We were really loose and in traffic we were terrible. But I think we found our direction in the last part of the race. We had a vibration late or I think we could have gotten more spots. What a swing! Johnny Klausmeier and my guys did a good job calling the race. Glad Kevin could get the win. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
COLE CUSTER, No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang
“Solid day for us today. We ended up 16th and at the end, I felt we were fast enough to run up front. It’s just trying to get track position and I think I can get my restarts better for tomorrow. It was a solid day, which is what we needed. We can improve on it tomorrow. I think we have a good car and I cannot thank my guys enough. Looking forward to improving on it all tomorrow.”