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Michigan Rear-View Mirror

BROOKLYN, Mich. – This has not been the season Kevin Harvick expected after winning eight times last year and heading to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But don’t look now, maybe Harvick is starting to round into shape.

He scored his second win of the season Sunday in the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway after going to Victory Lane last month at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Harvick combined a fast car and some fuel strategy to get to Victory Lane.

This time last year, Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. had broken off from the rest of the field to create the "Big 3." While eventually that trio lost the title to Joey Logano, they were the dominant story of the season.

Harvick hasn’t been able to put together that kind of dominance in 2019 despite having speed most weeks but not the finishes to go with them.

Maybe this time it will be a different tactic from Harvick who will catch fire at just the right time and ride that wave into the playoffs.

If it is, Sunday’s Michigan performance may well be a harbinger of things to come.

  • If it’s Michigan it must be fuel mileage strategy. Once again the big, two-mile track known for long green flag runs gave crew chiefs an exercise in their math skills. Not surprisingly some flunked the exam with Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski among the biggest losers to come up empty in the closing laps. But why some crew chiefs who only have one chance to get into the playoffs and that’s by winning didn’t try something different and go off strategy from others to take a gamble is still a mystery. There’s no way to catch up if everyone does the same thing.
  • The application of the PJ1 traction compound received a great deal of attention over the weekend – maybe too much. While I have no issues at all with NASCAR working with tracks to apply the substance as an opportunity to create better competition, when it becomes the focal point it’s a problem. There are so many other stories to focus on at this time of the year that get put on the back burner in favor of the narratives around the PJ1. It will happen again this week at Bristol and surely as the season winds down depending which tracks decide to apply the substance.
  • The Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoff roster is set after Saturday’s rough and tumble affair at Michigan. Austin Hill’s second win of the season that took overtime in a wild finish to Saturday’s race put Matt Crafton into the field of eight that will begin its quest for the championship this Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway. Some believe drivers that have had better statistics but missed the playoff cut means the format is flawed. I see it the other way in that it’s an elite group that qualifies for the title run and it exemplifies just how competitive the idea to make the playoffs has become.
  • Saturday’s annual Xfinity Series trip to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course produced another entertaining afternoon of racing. It also may have been a seminal moment in the career of Austin Cindric, who won his second straight series race with back-to-back road course victories in Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. By his own admission, Cindric and the No. 22 Penske team need to improve their oval track performance in order to be a legitimate championship contender. But that does not make his two straight trips to Victory Lane any less impressive and Cindric will now have a chance for the August road racing hat trick at the end of the month at Road America.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.