Kevin Harvick punched his ticket to the championship race by doing something he had never done before at Texas Motor Speedway: Find victory lane.
And Harvick did it the hard way. Hunting down Martin Truex Jr., who has been untouchable on 1.5-mile tracks this season, Harvick passed Truex on the outside of Turn 1 with 10 laps to go. The No. 4 then drove away from the playoff leader and picked up his second win of the season and first at Texas in his 30th start.
“First thing I want to do is thank all these fans in Texas! I’m just happy to finally get to victory lane here, it’s been a long time coming,” said Harvick of his 37th career win. “Just really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, our Mobil 1 Ford. But damn it’s good to be in victory lane here at Texas. Really want to thank all my guys. I knew I had a really good car and I knew I had to do something different.
“I started driving it into Turn 1 just a whole lot deeper – I saw the 42 [Kyle Larson] doing that early in the race and I was just afraid I didn’t have the brakes to continue to do that all day. So, I waited until the end and was able to get on the outside of Martin.
“I got him loose as I brushed across the back, I think, and was able to get on the outside. My car was pretty good on the outside down there. I’m just really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and our Mobil 1 Ford.”
Truex led 107 laps and finished second. However, the Furniture Row Racing driver also locked up a spot at Homestead through points.
Completing the top five were Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, and Brad Keselowski. Hamlin was strong throughout the day after starting second and leading 65 laps. Hamlin goes into Phoenix outside of a transfer spot while Keselowski holds down the final spot by 19 points.
Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Chase Elliot, polesitter Kurt Busch and Erik Jones completed the top 10. Busch started on the pole after setting a new track record Friday night, but the No. 41 Ford did not lead a lap during the AAA Texas 500.
Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson were the two playoff drivers to finish outside the top 10.
Busch started the day off in a hole after hitting Keselowski on the initial start and having to pit for right-front fender damage as well as a cut in his right-rear tire. After eventually getting back on the lead lap, Busch again fell behind because of another cut tire. He finished 19th.
As for the defending series champion, Johnson fell two laps down and never recovered after an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 68 because of a vibration. At one point, Johnson fell three laps down and the No. 48 team could never find a rhythm or play the right strategy to contend. Johnson finished 27th and goes into the elimination race the final driver on the playoff leaderboard with a 51-point deficit.
The race featured eight cautions for 40 laps and 27 lead changes among 13 drivers.