By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 from Michigan International Speedway ended with yet another one-on-one battle between Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin for the race win.
The two lead dogs for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship inched in on one another during the final __-lap run to the end, with Hamlin doing the chasing on leader Harvick.
And while Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota only led six laps to Harvick’s 90, it was Hamlin who showed the premier speed in the closing stages, coming just half a car length shy of stealing the victory from Harvick.
Hamlin is unsure where he could have done better to beat Harvick across the line.
“I knew we had something for him (Kevin Harvick),” Hamlin said. “Just needed to maneuver a little better and I think that we could be a little better. Overall, our car handled well. Just needed a little more speed there and a little bit more handling to pass. Obviously, I thought we were definitely the fastest car by running him down there.”
Following a sixth-place finish in Saturday’s opening race of the weekend, Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart tuned on their Toyota until it was at its best performance at the very end.
“The track sped up and it fit our car,” he said. “It definitely went to where we set up our car for the race today. We just got a little bit better and things got closer at the end.
“I knew we were going to be pretty good, especially when it cooled off there. Our whole team did a great job adjusting overnight and thought we were a good 1-2 combo in both races even though we didn’t finish second yesterday. Proud of the whole FedEx team, we’re just plugging along here.
“Just really hate giving up wins to the No. 4.”
With now 11 combined victories between Hamlin and Harvick in 2020, there’s no mystery in finding Hamlin’s biggest threat for this year’s title.
“We were better [than Harvick], that’s for sure,” he said. “I thought if I could maybe get to his quarter panel, I could shove him higher and make him tighter, but just couldn’t quite do it.
“I have tremendous respect for everyone on that team and Kevin. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve gotten wiser and learned to really appreciate what each other does on the race track. Obviously, they’re having a great season as well.”