FORT WORTH, Texas – Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 wasn’t a truly dominating Kevin Harvick performance, but it was still more than enough to lock him into the Championship 4 for the third straight year.
Harvick started from the pole and led a race-high 120 of 334 laps en route to victory at Texas Motor Speedway, winning for the 49th time in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career and the fourth time this season.
More importantly, Harvick’s third straight playoff win at Texas – all in the last three years – gave him a guaranteed spot alongside Martinsville (Va.) Speedway winner Martin Truex Jr. in the title decider on Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.
The Bakersfield, Calif., native took control of the race during the final restart of the race, following a lap-242 spin by Bubba Wallace that drew the 11th caution flag on the day.
He restarted outside the top four but wasted no time slicing his way back to the front, using a nifty two-for-one move to pass a pair of cars and go to third on lap 250, before moving inside of teammate Daniel Suarez for the runner-up spot a lap later.
Finally, on lap 255, Harvick got underneath Aric Almirola for the top spot and never looked back after that, opening up a lead of as much as four seconds at times down the stretch and only giving up the point again from laps 307 to 313 when he made his final green-flag pit stop for fuel and tires.
Once he cycled around to the lead again on the 314th rotation, Harvick was unchallenged in taking home the trophy – which tied him with boss Tony Stewart in terms of all-time Cup Series victories.
“Texas has always been so great to us, and what a race track the last few years,” noted Harvick. “These guys brought a great Ducks Unlimited/Busch Beer Ford to the race track this weekend. … It’s just been a lot of work put into this race. We knew this was a good one for us and we felt like it fit the style of our cars, and man … did it ever today.
“We got put back in the back there for a pit road violation (under caution at lap 193), and I didn’t really know what was going to happen. We had a bad restart after that, and then all of a sudden we got on a different set of tires and got on a different cycle, and wound up making our way back to the front,” Harvick added. “It was a fast car and we made it all work today.”
Harvick’s secret weapon may have been son Keelan, who helped the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing crew set the air pressures prior to Sunday’s race before Harvick drove on to victory in commanding fashion.
“I think he’s three for three or four for four,” said the elder Harvick of his son. “I think all four races (we’ve won) he’s set the air pressure this year, so if anything, we’re at least helping him with math.
“It’s fun to have him at the race track and this has been a fun weekend.”
Harvick led the second-career top-three sweep for Stewart-Haas as an organization on Sunday, with Almirola finishing 1.594 seconds adrift in second after making a late charge when Harvick was hung up by the slower car of Ryan Newman.
Suarez completed the SHR trifecta by earning a third-place finish.
Joey Logano crossed fourth and Alex Bowman was fifth. Truex and Kyle Busch followed in sixth and seventh, respectively.
Busch, 22 points clear of elimination, and Logano, 20 points ahead of fifth place, are the two drivers in the Championship 4 on points with one race at Arizona’s ISM Raceway remaining in the semifinal round.
Denny Hamlin, who entered the day above the cut line, lost control of his car off turn four on lap 81 and spun through the frontstretch grass – sustaining damage to the front splitter as a result of the incident.
Hamlin finished 28th, and along with eighth-finishing Ryan Blaney, 12th-finishing Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott – who crashed nine laps in and ended up 32nd – will likely need a win next week to advance to Homestead with a shot at the Cup Series title.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.