Harvick Wins at Texas, Places Ford in the Championship Battle at Miami

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Chase Elliott(24) led Martinsville just laps from the finish last week. Denny Hamlin(11) put him into the wall and Elliott finished in 27th. That outcome means Elliott stands 26 points below the cut line to advance in the playoffs. Given only four of the eight playoff contenders remaining will advance to the finals at Miami-Homestead. It’s likely Elliott might have to win today or next week to be one of those four. The job today will be a little tougher as Elliott starts from the rear of the field.

The 24 car failed inspection and did not make a qualifying run for the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Forcing Elliott to the rear of the pack when the 40 driver’s take the green flag today. He starts 34th from the 17th row. The other seven playoff contenders start in the first five rows. Including Elliott’s nemesis from Martinsville, Hamlin, starting on the front row. Kurt Busch(41) won the pole with a speed of 200.915, the fastest pole speed for a 1.5-mile track ever.

Hamlin jumped into the lead at the start. Brad Keselowski(2) and Kyle Busch(18) tangled in turn one and both cars suffered minor damage. Both drivers came to pit road, Keselowski for a flat tire and Busch for a tire rub. Leaving them a lap down just two laps into the race. Just 25 laps into the race Elliott drive from the rear to the 15th position. Making a bid for Stage points at the conclusion of 85 laps.

Halfway through the stage Kyle Larson(42) took over the top spot. Green flag pit stops began shortly after the lead change. As drivers cycled through stops, Larson resumed the lead after everyone pitted. Kevin Harvick(4) passed Larson for the lead with 10 laps to go in Stage One. The 4 car held on to take the stage win and the 10 bonus points that go with it.

Stage One Results

Position Car Number Driver Points Earned
1 4 Harvick 10
2 78 Martin Truex Jr. 9
3 11 Hamlin 8
4 42 Larson (NP) 7
5 41 Kurt Busch (NP) 6
6 77 Jones (NP) 5
7 20 Kenseth (NP) 4
8 21 Blaney 3
9 3 Austin Dillon (NP) 2
10 19 Suarez (NP) 1

NP=Non Playoff Competitor

Elliott just missed out on bonus points, finishing Stage One in 11th. Keselowski finished 26th, one lap down to the leaders. Jimmie Johnson (48) and Kyle Busch finished 28th and 30th, both two laps down.

Stage 2

Racing resumed on lap 92 and it did not take long for the first accident caution of the day to occur. On lap 93 Daniel Suarez(19) slipped up the race track in turns one and two, made contact with Kasey Kahne(5), and the two spun out. Minor damage to both cars could have been worse. Fortunately, both drivers avoided making contact with the wall.

After the early incident, Stage Two remained caution free with Kyle Larson dominating most of the second 85 lap segment. The next five finishers all were playoff drivers.

Stage Two Results

Position Car Number Driver Points Earned
1 42 Larson (NP) 10
2 4 Harvick 9
3 21 Blaney 8
4 78 Martin Truex Jr. 7
5 24 Chase Elliott 6
6 11 Hamlin 5
7 41 Kurt Busch (NP) 4
8 20 Kenseth (NP) 3
9 77 Jones (NP) 2
10 3 Austin Dillon (NP) 1

NP=Non Playoff Competitor

Keselowski finished 14th, Kyle Busch 25th, and Johnson three laps down in 30th.

The Final Stage

The caution flew early again in the final stage as Clint Bowyer(14) tapped Landon Cassill(34). Once again avoiding serious damage as Cassill kept the car off the outside wall. Unsuprisingly Truex Jr. worked his way to the front and took the lead on the restart. Keselowski, rebounding nicely from the earlier cut tire, settled into fifth place early in the final stage.

In the middle of green-flag pit stops, Michael McDowell(95) spun with 100 laps to go. the timing of the incident allowed Joey Logano(22) and Kyle Busch to move into the top six for the post-caution restart. Ray Black Jr.(51) spun with 93 laps to go to bring out the caution again. During the caution, Dale Earnhardt Jr.(88) experienced a problem with the left front hub. The mechanical problem sent Dale Jr. to the garage for repairs.

Late Trouble

Black spun again with 66 laps to go setting up a final pit stop for all the leaders. Two-tires only pit stops put Hamlin, Logano, and Khane out 1-2-3. With Truex and Harvick rounding out the top five. On the restart, Hamlin prevailed and held the lead until Larson crashed and hit the wall hard with 51 laps to go. NASCAR red-flagged the race to allow track workers to clean up the mess from the Larson mishap.

With 46 laps to go the green flag signaled the restart. Hamlin spun his tires and Truex resumed the lead. A Truex win would actually be beneficial to the drivers racing to make it to Miami-Homestead on points. A top 10 locks up a spot for Truex based on points alone. With another playoff driver winning that would leave only one final spot to gain on points. A win provides two positions still open for advancement to the final round.

The Finish

With 20 laps to go Harvick closed within a car length as Truex lost time navigating lapped traffic. With 10 to go and Harvick on his bumper, Truex wiggled coming out of turn two. By the time they reached the start-finish line Harvick held the lead. Harvick quickly opened the lead and took the checkered flag to lock up his spot in the final. Assuring at least one Ford will compete for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

Hamlin finished third, Kenseth fourth, and Keselowski fifth. Playoff contenders Blaney finished sixth and Elliott eighth. Kyle Busch’s 19th place finish was not crucial as he is already locked in. Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson’s 27th place position means he will have to win next week at Phoenix if he is going to compete for his record-breaking 8th title.

Playoff Standings

Position DRIVER Car POINTS Cut Line Diff
1 Martin Truex Jr. 78 4168 Locked In
2 Kyle Busch 18 4118 Locked In
3 Kevin Harvick 4 4112 Locked In
4 Brad Keselowski 2 4111 0
5 Denny Hamlin 11 4092 -19
6 Ryan Blaney 21 4089 -22
7 Chase Elliott 24 4062 -49
8 Jimmy Johnson 48 4060 -51

 

With a top 20 finish Keselowski could advance depending on the awarding of stage points and next weeks winner. Hamlin and Blaney will have to hope Keselowski encounters trouble and they can score a top five. Elliott and Johnson will have to win their way in to qualify for the final.

The Can-Am 500 from Phoenix is scheduled to take the green flag shortly after 2:30 pm Eastern time next Sunday on NBC. Will another Ford qualify, will Chevy get locked out of the final entirely. Can’t wait to find out.

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Steve Sweitzer
Steve is the Sports Editor for the Lasco Press and highlights our coverage of NASCAR and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Steve is a nationally published author of automotive related articles for industry trade magazines, a freelance technical writer, and a contributing author to a consortium that provides “how to” articles for eBay Buying Guides. A 25-year resident of Southeast Michigan, Steve’s passion for reporting on our community, it’s residents, and our automotive connections allow us to use his skills to cover a number of events. Steve’s ability to seek out the unique behind the scenes accounts that tell the often-overlooked aspect of a story makes for entertaining reading. Follow Steve on the Lasco Press with weekly NASCAR updates and featured articles.

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