Elliott wins his way into Championship 4; Harvick out

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Elliott wins his way into Championship 4; Harvick out

NASCAR

Elliott wins his way into Championship 4; Harvick out

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Chase Elliott won his way into the Championship 4 on Sunday night at Martinsville Speedway while Kevin Harvick was shockingly knocked out of contention.

Elliott led a race-high 236 of 500 laps and won the second stage of the Xfinity 500. He took the lead for good with 43 laps to go and drove away from the field. It is his fourth win of the season and first at Martinsville.

“Oh, my gosh. This is the biggest win ever for us,” said Elliott. “I’m just so proud to be able to be backed into a corner like that and have to win tonight. I feel like that’s what we’ve been missing these past four or five years and perform when we don’t have a choice. And, to do that tonight, we couldn’t ask for a better night. This is unreal.

“This is just unbelievable. We’re going to Phoenix with a shot to win a championship and have a beautiful blue NAPA Camaro headed out there with a shot to win a title. What more could you ask for?”

Ryan Blaney finished second, Joey Logano third, Brad Keselowski fourth, and Kurt Busch fifth. Completing the top 10 was Alex Bowman in sixth, Aric Almirola seventh, Clint Bowyer eighth, Kyle Busch ninth, and Matt DiBenedetto 10th.

Denny Hamlin finished 11th. Kevin Harvick finished 17th after spinning both himself and Kyle Busch on the final lap. Harvick needed the position and the point because he fell below the cutline by one point as the field ran coming to the checkered flag.

Harvick had to rebound from a flat tire that knocked him two laps off the pace. Forced to pit under green on Lap 180, Harvick then kept missing the opportunity to be in the free pass position when the caution came out. It wasn’t until a caution on Lap 401 that Harvick returned to the lead lap.

“For sure, with the way we’ve run here in the past,” said Harvick of knowing there was a possibility he could be eliminated. “Everybody kept battling there. I tried to run into the door of the 18 (Busch) as a last-ditch effort there and spun him out, so sorry for putting him in the middle of trying to gain a point. Just not a great three weeks — didn’t go our way. We fought for everything we had, and it just came up short.”

Martin Truex Jr. finished 22nd, the lowest of the playoff drivers. Truex needed to win at Martinsville and was in contention throughout the race until a vibration from a loose wheel forced him to pit road with 26 laps to go. Truex was running second at the time. He led 129 laps.

With his 10th career win in the NASCAR Cup Series, Elliott went from below the playoff cutline to competing for the championship. He joins Logano, who won at Kansas Speedway, and Keselowski and Hamlin, who advanced on points.

Harvick, Bowman, Truex, and Kurt Busch were eliminated from the playoffs.

There were 20 lead changes among 10 leaders and 12 caution flags at Martinsville.

“I didn’t think our car was driving as good there at the end as it was at the beginning of the race, but those last couple of pit stops made some really good changes and had a good pit stop on that last one and a good last restart,” Elliott said. “That was the difference. Everybody makes this possible. This is unbelievable. I’m just at a bit of a loss for words. Like I said, this is the piece we’ve been missing. I feel like we’ve had the group to do this. We just have to go make it happen, and we did tonight.”

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