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Top Moments of 2019 - #4: Harvick's Brickyard Win Worth the Wait

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh of a series of 10 vignettes in which IMS Senior Communications Manager Paul Kelly picks his top 10 moments of 2019 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

When Kevin Harvick won the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard in 2003, he was a brash, young, blossoming superstar just two years removed from replacing the late legend Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing.

Many expected Harvick to become a multiple winner of the annual NASCAR classic in short order due to his prodigious talent and the RCR team’s powerful Chevrolets.

But the years ticked by, and that sweet second kiss of the bricks didn’t come. Harvick still built a Hall of Fame resume during that span, including a NASCAR Cup Series championship in 2014. He also produced 10 top-10 finishes in his 15 Brickyard starts since winning from the pole in 2003, including finishing second to Jamie McMurray in 2010.

Harvick entered this year’s Brickyard as an event favorite, as usual. His track record at IMS always makes him a marked man. And he delivered with a stirring, record-setting second victory, 16 years after his first. It was the longest gap between victories in a NASCAR race at IMS.

California native Harvick looked anything like a potential race winner in the two practice sessions Saturday. He was 16th overall in the first practice in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, dropping to 21st in final practice.

But Sunday dawned with speed. Harvick rallied to win the pole in qualifying just a few hours before the race and put on a tour de force after the green flag dropped, leading a race-high 118 out of 160 laps. He tied Kyle Busch, Dale Jarrett and his team’s co-owner, Indiana native Tony Stewart, for third third-most NASCAR Cup Series wins at Indy.

“I can’t tell you how much coming to Indianapolis means to me,” Harvick said. “As a kid, I watched Rick Mears win Indy 500s and got to be around him as a kid, and he was my hero. So, coming here and winning here is pretty awesome.”

Harvick beat defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano in the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford to the Yard of Bricks start-finish line by 6.118 seconds, a race record.

While Harvick was up front all day, the win didn’t come easy and had a deceptively wide margin of victory. The race’s nine cautions for 48 laps forced Harvick to play defense against the field all day on restarts.

Harvick’s most epic defense came on the final restart with nine laps to go after Matt Tifft hit the Turn 1 SAFER Barrier in the No. 36 Southeastern Equipment & Supply/Meijer Ford. Harvick lined up on the outside lane for the late-race restart, with Logano to his inside.

Bubba Wallace, who lined up behind Logano, gave Logano a big push entering Turn 1 on the restart. From there, Harvick and Logano raced side-by-side through Turns 1 and 2 and down the backstretch, with Logano racing inches from the backstretch grass.

Entering Turn 3, Logano had the edge on Harvick on the inside line. But Harvick had the preferred line and cleared Logano exiting Turn 3 as the crowd roared.

Harvick’s win marked the 19th time he has been running at the finish of the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard in 19 starts. He was previously tied with Stewart at 18 races.

Harvick celebrated his win by kissing the bricks with his family. He was joined on the frontstretch by wife, DeLana, son, Keelan, and daughter, Piper. Harvick’s young children were just a twinkle in his eye when he earned his first smooch of the bricks.

“I kept telling myself, ‘Get the baby girl a trophy,’” Harvick said of 21-month-old Piper. “A good weekend for her to come. She doesn’t quite know what’s going on, just a lot of noise. It’s pretty special.”

It was quite the day of joy for the driver nicknamed “Happy” and his legions of fans.

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