For the second straight year, Kevin Harvick earned the victory at Texas Motor Speedway to clinch his spot in the championship race.
Sunday, Harvick did so in dominating fashion. The No. 4 Ford was the class of the field in the AAA Texas 500 as Harvick won the race after winning both stages (his 17th and 18th of the season) and leading 177 laps. Harvick started the day third and quickly moved to second on the initial start.
Harvick took the lead for the first time on Lap 33 after his Stewart-Haas Racing crew him off pit road first under the lap 30 competition caution. Harvick led five different times throughout the race, taking the lead for the final time from Ryan Blaney with 17 laps to go. Harvick then held off Blaney and the field on an overtime restart.
“That last restart I knew I needed to pick the top,” Harvick said. “I wanted to be on the bottom to be safe because the top got such a good side draft getting into [Turn] 1 and the outside groove got rubbered up. I thought if I could keep [Blaney] from finishing the corner I could drive back by him. It all worked out. Everything went well today on our Mobil 1 Ford and we were able to get to victory lane.”
With an eighth win on the season, Harvick locks himself into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the fourth time in the five years since the winner-take-all championship race was established. The victory was also the 45th of Harvick’s career and his second at Texas after going winless at the speedway in his first 30 starts.
Blaney, who took the lead with 24 laps to go, couldn’t keep Harvick behind him.
“We got by the 4 on that one restart but I just couldn’t hold him off,” said Blaney, who led 40 laps Sunday. “He was really good. I kind of missed [Turns] 1 and 2 by an inch and he took advantage of it. We needed to be mistake free and then some and I just couldn’t be that. Then we had another shot at it. The last one, he took the top, like I knew he was going to and he motored around me.
“It was a strong showing by our Carlisle team. I thought we were a second-place car all night really. I thought the 4 was head and shoulders above everyone else but I thought we were second best for sure.”
Joey Logano finished in third place, with Erik Jones fourth and Kyle Larson completing the top five. Larson made a strong charge late in the race and climbed up the leaderboard when two cautions occurred inside the final 20 laps.
Playoff drivers Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth through ninth. Truex rebounded from having to pit under green on Lap 248 because of a loose wheel and a subsequent penalty for driving through too many pit stalls. After falling two laps down to 26th, Truex finally returned to the lead lap when the caution came out with 38 laps to go.
Austin Dillon completed the top 10. Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer were the two playoff drivers to finish outside the top 10 in 17th and 26th, respectively. Busch lost his track position and laps in an early-race speeding penalty, while Bowyer had to pit after the start because of Lap 1 contact with Denny Hamlin, and his day continued to get worse after that.
The AAA Texas 500 featured 16 lead changes among seven drivers and eight caution flags. Harvick led the most laps in the race with Logano leading the second-most at 54.