Lost track position and a pit road penalty merely slowed Kevin Harvick down but couldn’t keep him out of victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway.
Harvick dominated the AAA Texas 500 Sunday afternoon for his fourth win of the season and his third straight in the Texas playoff race. With the win, Harvick will make his fifth appearance in the Championship 4 in six years. He and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team won the championship in the inaugural year of the elimination playoff format in 2014.
“Texas has always been so great to us, and what a racetrack the last few years,” Harvick said after the 49th victory of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. “They brought a great Ducks Unlimited Busch Beer Ford to the racetrack this weekend, but I’ve got to thank everybody – Mobil 1, Haas, Fields, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Jimmy John’s, everybody who helps put this car on the racetrack week in and week out, and all those guys in the race shop.
“Roush Yates Engines for putting this engine in this last week, so it’s just been a lot of work put into this race. We knew this was a good racetrack for us, felt like it fit the style of our cars, and man did it.”
Cycling back to the race lead with 21 laps to go after the final round of green-flag pit stops, Harvick crossed the finish line 1.5s ahead of SHR teammate Aric Almirola. Daniel Suarez made it a 1-2-3 finish for the company.
Harvick led six times for a race-high 119 laps and won the first stage. Differing pit strategies then shuffled Harvick from the top of the leaderboard, and he spent the rest of the race working his way back toward the front. The team was also penalized on lap 187 for having equipment over the wall too early.
Playoff driver and reigning series champion Joey Logano finished fourth. Logano continues to hold down the final transfer spot going into next week’s elimination race.
With Harvick winning and jumping above the cutline (he had been 14 points below coming into the race), it knocked one driver below the transfer spot. Denny Hamlin entered Texas with the biggest gap on the playoff cutline and leaves in a hole after spinning off Turn 4 on lap 82.
At first, Hamlin was easily sliding through the grass but when his car went across a portion of the quarter-mile track on the frontstretch, it got airborne and then suffered damage when landing back into the grass. He finished 28th multiple laps down.
“Just got up in that (traction compound) before it was really broke in and just lost control, that’s all there is to it,” Hamlin said. “But proud of the whole FedEx team for putting their best effort to get this thing running decent speed there at the end. Did the best we could, and we’ll go to Phoenix and try to win.”
The second race of the Round of 8 was as disappointing as the first one for Chase Elliott. He was trying to run a higher lane when he slipped and spun his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in Turn 2, bouncing off the wall with the right rear and then the right front. Already below the cutline after a mechanical issue in Martinsville, Elliott will need to win at ISM Raceway if he’s going to advance to the Championship 4 for the first time.