INDIANAPOLIS — As Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race wound down to its final laps it appeared that for the second straight race that Kevin Harvick would be finishing as a runner-up to Denny Hamlin.
But with seven laps to go in the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at Indianapolis and Hamlin holding a fairly comfortable lead, he blew a tire and slammed into the wall in Turn 1 and that handed the lead — and eventual victory — to Harvick.
"We knew he was going to be really close on tires," Harvick, who won at Indy a year ago, said of Hamlin. "Rodney (Childers, Harvick's crew chief) told me on the radio, he said, 'Just make sure you keep the pressure on him.' That was all the pressure I could give."
The overtime victory at the famed track was the fourth of the season for Harvick and tied him for most in the series with Hamlin in that category.
It was his second win in the last nine days as he edged Hamlin in the first race of last weekend's doubleheader at Pocono.
It was the Stewart-Haas driver's third at the iconic 2.5-mile flat Indy oval. It came by .74 seconds over 48-year-old Matt Kenseth — the oldest driver in the field — of Chip Ganassi Racing.
"It's the Brickyard, man," said Harvick, who led for 68 of 161 laps. "This is what I grew up wanting to do as a kid. Win at the Brickyard and to be able to come here and have won for the third time is something I could have ever dreamed of."
Kenseth saw his chance to win vanish when Harvick was perfect on the overtime restart.
"They were just really, really fast. I could never get a big enough run to pass," Kenseth, who was brought out of retirement earlier this year after Ganassi driver Kyle Larson was fired for making racists remarks. "It was a fun day for sure."
Aric Almirola, Harvick's teammate, finished third.
Fourth was Brad Keselowski, who was driving at the Indy track that was recently purchased by his team owner, Roger Penske.
Another Stewart-Haas Driver, rookie Cole Custer, finished fifth.
Hamlin appeared to have secured the victory with a quick pit stop with 22 laps to go. That stop moved him past Harvick, who pitted one lap later. But then came the wreck and a chance for a first victory at the Brickyard for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
"It's just tough," Hamlin said. "Just didn't do what we needed to do. It just didn't work out for us today. I had a fast car, obviously. I wasn't pushing the right front (tire) at all. It's just kind of roulette whether you get one (tire) that's going to stay together or not. Mine didn't and you saw the end result.
"Been so good lately and I feel like I'm doing all I can. These big races just a lot of times don't go my way all the time."
His duels with Harvick have been a big story over the last weeks.
"It's been a great battle," said Hamlin, whose wins this year include the Daytona 500. "Those guys are great competitors and the last few weeks it's been kind of a head to head with me and him. So congrats to them and their team. Two very, very close and equal cars but they got it today."
Not driving on Sunday was seen-time series champion Jimmie Johnson. Earlier in the week, it was announced that Johnson and his wife Chandra, had tested positive for Covid-19. Both are in quarantine.
Prior to Sunday, Johnson had started in 663 straight races.
Taking the wheel of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was Justin Allgaier, a regular in the Infinity Series.
Allgaier's day was ruined early when he got caught up in a wreck in the pits on Lap 16.
Crews were already working on cars in their pit stalls when the wreck occurred. Zach Price, Ryan Blaney's rear tire changer, was clipped by Allgaier's car and then briefly pinned between the cars of Blaney and Brennan Poole.
Price was placed on a gurney and taken by ambulance to the infield media center. His injury was described on the team radio as one to the leg and he was taken to an area hospital for further evaluation.
Defending series champion Kyle Busch's season-long frustrations continued at the Brickyard. He finished sixth, extending his season-long winless streak to 16 races.
The start of the race was forced back by about an hour because of lightning strikes the vicinity of the track.