A late pass by Kevin Harvick secured him a Championship 4 berth for the third time in four years after winning the AAA Texas 500. Martin Truex, Jr. also makes the final round by points after finishing second.
A late error by Martin Truex, Jr. gave Kevin Harvick the race lead with 10 laps to go and never looked back as he closed out his second win of the season in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, clinching Harvick his third Championship 4 berth in four years.
Truex wobbled in turn one, giving Harvick an opportunity to make his move on the outside line and cleared him for the lead in turn three. Harvick beat Truex by 1.580 seconds, leading 38 of 334 laps for his 37th career win, his first at Texas in the Cup Series.
Harvick said in victory lane he changed his preferred line to chase down Truex for the race win which he succeeded after Truex wobbled in turn one.
“Damn, it’s good to be in Victory Lane here in Texas,” Harvick said. “I knew I had a really good car. I knew I had to do something different. I started driving a whole lot deeper in turn one just a whole lot deeper.”
“I saw Kyle Larson doing that earlier in the race, but I was afraid I didn’t have the brakes to continue to do that all day,” Harvick added. “So I waited until the end and was able to get on the outside of Martin and got him loose and brushed across the back of him and was able to get by on the outside. My car was pretty good on the outside down there.”
Harvick’s car owner Tony Stewart said he was proud of Harvick’s team effort and was confident his driver would run well Sunday.
“I’m more thinking about the attitude of these crew guys than the driver here. I know when I talked to Kevin, he was happy with the way his car was driving, but he was just nervous,” Stewart said. “There’s so many variables that are out of your control. I told him, (crew chief) Rodney Childers and these guys and said ‘don’t make bad mistakes. You got the speed and the rest will take care of itself.’”
Stewart added he was impressed with Harvick’s closing performance that will help him capture his second championship and Stewart’s third as a car owner at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 19.
“I’m really am excited with what I saw these last 20-25 laps because I saw something in him that really encourages me about two weeks from now,” Stewart said. “Kevin’s locked in and I’ve seen this movie and I know how this one ends.”
Truex’s second-place finish gave him a 57-point advantage over fourth-place points driver Brad Keselowski, good enough to clinch him his second Championship 4 berth, leaving only one spot remaining in the final Round of 8 race at Phoenix.
Despite leading a race-high 107 laps, Truex wasn’t satisfied with his car’s performance, citing track position was key throughout the race.
“At the start of the race, our car wasn’t very good,” Truex said. “Track position was a big part of this race. We fought the car. We fought track position. We got the lead, led some laps. Ultimately, at the end, we weren’t as good as we needed to be to win.”
Truex added he didn’t have the speed to regain the lead from Harvick after his turn one error.
“He got to my outside and was just faster at the end. Once he got in front of us, he was just gone. Nothing I could do,” Truex added. Just one of those deals where he was quicker. Got me in a bad spot, took advantage, and he was gone.”
A week removed from being jeered at Martinsville, Denny Hamlin crossed the line in third, trailing Keselowski by 19 points for the final Championship 4 spot available.
Hamlin’s teammate Matt Kenseth finished fourth after announcing Saturday he’ll step away from racing in 2018 due to not finding a competitive ride.
A trio of Fords took positions 5-6-7 with the future Penske lineup of Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano taking those spots.
Chase Elliott finished eighth, moving up to seventh in the standings, but trails Keselowski by 49 points with only a win guaranteeing him a championship berth.
Two days removed from breaking the track record at 200.915 mph, pole sitter Busch came home ninth and Kenseth’s 2018 replacement Erik Jones, earned his 13th top-10 finish after finishing 10th in his third Cup trip at Texas.
Kyle Larson’s post-playoff elimination took another ugly turn on lap 282. Larson lost control of his No. 42 CreditOne Bank Chevrolet at the entry of turn four and brushed the wall before correcting his car.
Larson lost control again in turn one and slapped the outside wall, engulfing his car in flames. It’s Larson’s third straight DNF and finished 37th.
The crash marked the fifth playoff race to have a red flag and the 19th stoppage of the season.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s final race at Texas—the sight of both his first Xfinity (1998) and Cup Series (2000) win—was cut short after ahis left front hub broke, sending him to the garage. Dale Jr. would return to the track and finished 35th, 30 laps behind Harvick.
Seven-time Texas winner Jimmie Johnson’s bid of an eighth championship took a nosedive as he was the worst finishing playoff contender in 27th. His poor finish relegated Johnson from fifth to eighth in the standings, trailing Keselowski by 51 points.
Three drivers are in, one spot up for grabs in the penultimate race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona Nov. 12. Ryan Newman’s pit strategy paid off in the spring and captured his most recent Cup win March 19. Logano is the defending fall winner.