INDIANAPOLIS – As the sun set Sunday over Indianapolis Motor Speedway and with Denny Hamlin seven laps from one of the few victories that has eluded him, he went careening into the first turn wall with a flat right front-side tire, and Kevin Harvick beat Matt Kenseth off the final restart to win his second straight Brickyard.
Harvick not only raced to his 53rd victory, but teammates Aric Almirola and Cole Custer, a rookie, finished third and fifth. Fellow Stewart-Haas driver Chase Briscoe won the Xfinity Series race Saturday or the road course.
Harvick tied Hamlin with a season-high fourth victory and lead in the points.
But until the late, stunning twist, Hamlin looked as if he would take his first Brickyard.
"It's just, tough. I hate it for the FedEx team," the frustrated Hamlin said. "It was just kind of roulette if it [the tire] stays together or not and mine didn't."
After trading victories and runner-up finishes at Pocono last week and Sunday's result, Harvick and Hamlin have combined for seven of 12 victories since the season restarted at Darlington in mid-May. It's only the second time in seven races Hamlin and his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing entry hasn't finished in the top seven.
NASCAR's weather problems also continued, this time with the start delayed 55 minutes for lightning.
But once the race started, it was clean sailing for Harvick. He led for most of the first stage before giving way to William Byron, who chose not to pit with nine laps to go, and then won the second stage.
"We weren't going to get by him [Hamlin] unless he made a huge mistake," Harvick said. "We were better on the restarts so we would have needed a caution we couldn't have beaten him on a green."