Harvick Powers To Championship 4 With Texas Cup Win

Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer/Ducks Unlimited Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer/Ducks Unlimited Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500

There was just no denying Kevin Harvick on Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

Harvick powered to the lead on lap 255 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500, and drove away from the pack to score the victory.

More importantly, it punches his ticket to the Championship 4 with just one race remaining until the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Harvick came into the day under the cutoff line, and can go to next week’s race at Phoenix with no Playoff worries.

Harvick said he and his team were already prepping for Homestead.

“Well, we've already been going down the road. They've already built the car, picked a direction," he said. “Like we talked about earlier, we've got so many things that – so many things that you had to choose from an aero standpoint, and Homestead is such a unique racetrack.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]“We've already been to the simulator, we've already built the car, and now we've just got to make sure that we do what we think is right and go with our gut and see what happens."

It marks the third straight Texas Playoff victory for Harvick, not to mention the fourth win of the season and 49th of his series career. That ties him with team owner Tony Stewart for 14th on the series all-time win list.

It was not as easy as it might have seemed, however. After winning the first segment of the race, a slow pit stop put Harvick back in the pack. Later in the event, a penalty for having equipment over the wall too early again put Harvick in the back of the pack.

He raced his way forward again, and on the final restart of the night on lap 250, Harvick used a bold three-wide move to get to the third spot behind leader Almirola and Suarez.

One lap later, he powered around Suarez for second. On lap 255, he would move to the inside of Almirola to challenge for the lead. Almirola battled back, but Harvick was able to close the deal. From there, he went virtually untouched the rest of the way.

“Well, we had a bad restart one time when we got buried back there, but I think as we came in, we put another set of tires on, we were really able to make up some time," Harvick said. “Our car was just so fast through 3 and 4, as long as I could keep my momentum up, I could get up beside him. So it was definitely fast, and speed made up for our Ducks Unlimited Busch Beer Ford Mustang tonight what we lacked a little bit in handling."

It was a statement night for all of Stewart-Haas Racing, as Harvick, Almirola and Suarez swept the top three.

“Yeah, for a little while I thought we had a car capable of winning," Almirola said. “When Harvick got a good restart there and was able to keep pace with us I knew I was in trouble. His car was a good bit faster than ours in clean air."

“That was a very solid night and I am very happy with the performance and speed that we brought from the shop," Suarez said. “Everyone back at the shop did a great job. We knew we would be fast here. We had a solid performance here last time. We did a good job. We had good execution and a good clean day."

Playoff contender Joey Logano finished in fourth, with Alex Bowman in fifth.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer/Ducks Unlimited Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer/Ducks Unlimited Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500

Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones and Kurt Busch rounded out the top ten.

It was a very hard day in the Lone Star State for two of the Cup Playoff contenders, thanks in part to the traction compound officials put down in hopes of making the racing more competitive.

Instead, just as the night before in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, the compound made the upper groove slick and treacherous for the first half of the race.

Dawsonville, Georgia’s Chase Elliott came into the weekend in a must-win scenario to make the Championship 4. He leaves in the same boat.

Elliott brought out the first caution of the day on lap nine when his car got loose in turn 2 while running in the compound, making hard contact with the outside wall. After making extensive repairs, Elliott soldiered home to a 32nd place finish, 22 laps down to the leaders.

“I made a mistake, got loose and crashed. I really hate that happened," Elliott said. “Obviously, it’s not good and not what you’re looking for. It’s just my mistake and there’s really no excuse for it. It’s just all eyes on Phoenix."

Denny Hamlin came into the weekend appearing to be in strong shape to make the cut. He leaves probably needing a very strong run – if not a win – to make the Championship 4.

On lap 81, Hamlin’s car got into the compound in turn four. His car broke loose, spinning down the front stretch and into the grass. He made contact with a portion of the infield quarter-mile track, leaving his No. 11 Toyota extensively damaged.

After making repairs, Hamlin finished seven laps down in 28th.

Just got up in that stuff before it was really broke in. Just lost control," Hamlin said. “That’s all there is to it. Proud of the whole FedEx team for putting their best effort forward so we could be there at the end. Did the best we could and we’ll go to Phoenix and try to win."

Truex, Jr. and Harvick go into the final cutoff race next weekend in Phoenix locked into the Championship 4. Kyle Busch sits in third place, two points above Logano and 22 points above the cutline. Logano sits in the final transfer spot, 20 points ahead of Hamlin.

Blaney and Larson both trail Logano by 23 points, with Elliott now 78 points behind, needing nothing short of a win to make the cut.

Two non-playoff drivers had a scary moment on lap 52. Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford spun in the compound in turn four, hitting the outside wall. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. got on the brakes in an attempt to avoid Keselowski, but his Ford broke loose as well, making hard contact with both the wall and Keselowski’s car.

Both drivers were eliminated from the race.

#48 Jimmie Johnson just needs to retire. He's either slow, or he looses control and crashes, like he did today
#48 Jimmie Johnson just needs to retire. He's either slow, or he looses control and crashes, like he did today. It's sad to watch

“I just busted my butt," Keselowski said. “I feel terrible for Ricky (Stenhouse, Jr.), he didn’t deserve to get caught up in it. I was just real loose and trying to make something happen. When you are getting passed by other cars you kind of lose your confidence and you try something and I knew better. My butt told me I would wreck if I do that. I was getting passed and swung for the fence and I hit it. It just sucks. I am kind of embarrassed to do that. I was just trying to make something happen for my team and swung too hard."

“We got our car better there and we were running top-five but with the flip-flop of track position we made an adjustment and I got running 1 and 2 really good and passed some really good cars," said Stenhouse, Jr. “Then we got around to Brad (Keselowski) there in 1 and 2 and he got loose underneath me and almost crashed us down there. We lost a lot of track position. Then going into turn 3 there I was running the top and saw him getting loose. When I checked up my car got loose as well. I was just trying to avoid him and it got mine sideways. It is a bummer of a weekend."

Jimmie Johnson appeared to have the best run of his season in hand, as he led several laps during the second segment of the race. But it all came apart on lap 185 when Johnson’s car broke loose in turn one, making heavy contact with the outside wall in turn two.

After attempting repairs, Johnson was unable to meet minimum speed, and was parked by NASCAR officials for the rest of the day.

Results

Fin Str No. Driver Team Laps Status
1 1 4 Kevin Harvick (P) Busch Beer/Ducks Unlimited Ford 334 Running
2 6 10 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 334 Running
3 7 41 Daniel Suarez Walmart Family Mobile Ford 334 Running
4 11 22 Joey Logano (P) AAA Insurance Ford 334 Running
5 5 88 Alex Bowman Valvoline Chevrolet 334 Running
6 17 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) Bass Pro Shops Toyota 334 Running
7 12 18 Kyle Busch (P) M&M's Toyota 334 Running
8 15 12 Ryan Blaney (P) Wabash National Ford 334 Running
9 4 1 Kurt Busch Monster Energy Chevrolet 334 Running
10 2 20 Erik Jones Sport Clips Toyota 334 Running
11 24 14 Clint Bowyer Mobil 1/Rush Truck Centers Ford 334 Running
12 13 42 Kyle Larson (P) McDonald's Chevrolet 334 Running
13 21 3 Austin Dillon RigUp Chevrolet 334 Running
14 10 95 Matt DiBenedetto Procore Toyota 334 Running
15 25 6 Ryan Newman Roush Performance Ford 333 Running
16 16 8 Daniel Hemric # Cat Dozers Chevrolet 333 Running
17 18 24 William Byron Axalta Chevrolet 333 Running
18 19 13 Ty Dillon GEICO Military Chevrolet 333 Running
19 20 37 Chris Buescher Slim Jim Chevrolet 333 Running
20 31 21 Paul Menard Menards/Jack Links Ford 333 Running
21 29 36 John Hunter Nemechek(i) Speedy Cash Ford 333 Running
22 30 96 * Parker Kligerman(i) TRD 40th Anniversary Toyota 332 Running
23 28 47 Ryan Preece # Kroger Chevrolet 331 Running
24 22 43 Bubba Wallace Covert Auto Group Chevrolet 331 Running
25 27 34 Michael McDowell Love's Travel Stops Ford 329 Running
26 34 53 * JJ Yeley(i) Factor One Source Pharmacy Ford 329 Running
27 32 00 Landon Cassill(i) Pop-A-Lock Chevrolet 328 Running
28 3 11 Denny Hamlin (P) FedEx Office Toyota 328 Running
29 38 15 Joe Nemechek(i) Xchange of America Chevrolet 327 Running
30 39 51 Josh Bilicki(i) Jacob Companies Chevrolet 323 Running
31 35 27 * Ross Chastain(i) Low T Center Chevrolet 319 Running
32 14 9 Chase Elliott (P) NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet 312 Running
33 37 77 Quin Houff Chevrolet 202 Hub
34 23 48 Jimmie Johnson Ally Chevrolet 199 DVP
35 26 38 David Ragan Mystik Lubricants Ford 189 Accident
36 36 52 Garrett Smithley(i) Victory Lane/Kendall Oil Ford 188 Accident
37 40 66 * Timmy Hill(i) TEX TALK Toyota 156 Engine
38 33 32 Corey LaJoie Schluter Systems Ford 67 Accident
39 8 2 Brad Keselowski Wurth Ford 52 Accident
40 9 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fastenal Ford 52 Accident

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