SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Kissing the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an acquired taste.
Kevin Harvick’s son, Keelan, has asked to kiss the bricks every year that he’s attended the Brickyard 400.
“I tell him, we have to win to kiss the bricks,’’ said Kevin Harvick. “We just can’t go out there and kiss them, otherwise it kind of loses its luster.’’
Admittedly, that was in the back of Kevin Harvick’s mind in the closing laps of Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianpolis Motor Speedway.
“I kept telling myself, don’t lose this race,’’ he said. “You’re in control of this race, and you’ve got to get babygirl (Harvick’s daughter Piper) a picture in Victory Lane.’’
Keelan got to kiss the bricks and Piper got her photo in Victory Lane as Harvick, who dominated the race by leading 118 of the 160 laps, claimed his second Brickyard 400 by 6.118 seconds over second-place Joey Logano.
So, what do the bricks taste like?
“They don’t taste great, but it was fun kissing the bricks,’’ said Keelan, who joined his father in the postrace press conference.
Kevin Harvick said that having his kids at the track is very special.
“Being able to share these moments with them is way better than the race win itself because it’s just — it’s not something that most people get to do,’’ he said. “I get to take them to work, and we’ve been fortunate to be successful as it, so it’s definitely one of those situations that you kind of hard to look at, and smile, because they actually pay me to do this.’’
Harvick, who also won the 2003 Brickyard 400, started Sunday winning the pole, and the only driver that was able to pass him was Ryan Blaney on a lap 112 restart.
“I don’t know if we had the best car, but we had the fastest car,’’ Harvick said. “We gave up the lead there on one of those restarts and then we pitted as the caution came out. Because of the circumstances, that caution flag worked in our favor. It gave us control of the race and we were able to keep control.’’
Winning at Indianapolis was actually a childhood dream for Harvick, but not in a stock car.
The veteran driver from Bakersfield, Calif., was a huge fan for Rick Mears and as a kid, he wanted to race IndyCars.
“IndyCars were more popular than stock cars back then,’’ Harvick said. “It took a drastic turn over the next 10, 12 years.’’
Harvick admitted that he really didn’t have a choice as his dad wanted nothing to do with open-wheel racing.
“We raced go-karts and then went straight to late model stock cars, and then from there it was just a progression of getting an opportunity to go to the next level,’’ he said. “I went all the way through the whole ranks of the NASCAR system all the way to the top.
“So, it was really not my choice, but it worked out pretty good.’’
Logano admitted that Harvick was just faster on Sunday.
“Solid run, but I’m still made about it,’’ he said. “Man, just that close to winning here. It means so much to win at Indy, and I wish we could have got it.
“We had a shot on the final restart. We kind of needed something crazy to happen to be able to get ahead of him. We had a good restart ... stayed with him through (Turns) 1 and 2, maybe tighened my run a little bit early into Turn 3 and maybe I could have done a little better job there. I don’t know, if it would have been enough. Probably still wouldn’t have been enough, but I would have felt better about myself, at least.’’
Rounding out the top five were Bubba Wallace, William Byron and Clint Bowyer.
Other drivers of local interest, Ryan Newman, a graduate of Purdue, finished 8th, Ty Dillon, who is associated with Danville sports agent Doug Barnette, was 13th and Kyle Larson, whose crew chief is former North Vermillion athlete Chad Johnston, was 33rd.
Of those three, Larson was snake bitten at the 2.5-mile oval. After finishing second in the first and second stages, Larson had incident on pit road and then on Lap 129, he brought out the seventh of nine cautions when he hit the wall in Turn 2.
“I hate that I screwed that up,’’ said Larson. “Had another amazing car.’’
CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD SETWhile winning is always the main goal, there was a little something extra on the line for four drivers — Bowyer, Newman, Daniel Suarez and Jimmie Johnson.
When Harvick took the checkered flag and did the customary burnouts on the front stretch, the points were tallied with Bowyer and Newman earning the final two spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Cup. Race victories will automatically qualify drivers and the final spots are awarded by points.
The final 10 races, split into four segments, will determine the 2019 NASCAR Champion and only 16 drivers are eligible for the Chase.
Kyle Busch, who won the regular-season title, will be the No. 1 seed with 2,045 points. He will be joined by Denny Hamlin (2,030), Martin Truex Jr. (2,029), Harvick (2,028), Logano (2,028), Brad Keselowski (2,024), Chase Elliott (2,018), Kurt Busch (2,011), Alex Bowman (2,005), Erik Jones (2,005), Ryan Blaney (2,004), Byron (2,001), Aric Almirola (2,001), Bowyer (2,000) and Newman (2,000).
Johnson, who had made the playoffs every year since their inception in 2004, was 18th in points, 43 behind Newman for the final playoff spot.
“I’ve had 25 races coming into this where I’ve been worried about it,” said Johnson, who finished 35th after a crash on lap 106. “I’m not stoked by the situation at all. I am impressed that we have been in 15 consecutive playoffs. I’m not sure anybody else has done that. So, our record doesn’t stink. We wish we could have kept it going, but life goes on.”