Kevin Harvick Clinches Championship 4 Berth With Texas Win; Martin Truex Jr. Advances Based On Pointsby Hunter Thomas November 5, 2017
FORT WORTH, Tex. – Kevin Harvick chased down and passed Martin Truex Jr. on Sunday to win the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway and clinch a spot in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
With just 10 laps to go, Martin Truex Jr. slipped a little exiting Turn 2, and that hiccup allowed Kevin Harvick in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Mobile 1 Ford to complete the race-winning pass as he went around the Furniture Row Racing driver on the outside. Harivck led 38 laps during the race, and the win marked his first at Texas Motor Speedway in 30 starts at the 1.5-mile track.
“Today we had to earn it,” said Harvick in Victory Lane. “To be able to pass the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) car for the win is something that is huge for our confidence and team knowing we need to go to another 1.5 mile at Homestead to race for the championship. I am really proud of everyone on our Mobil 1 Ford. This thing was a hot rod today.”
Although Truex Jr. hung on for a second-place finish, he clinched a spot in the Championship 4 on Sunday based on points. Truex Jr., the driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota Camry has such a large lead over the cutoff position that no matter where he finishes at Phoenix International Raceway next weekend, he will compete for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He joins Martinsville winner Kyle Busch and Harvick in the Championship 4.
“It feels great,” Truex Jr. said on clinching a Championship 4 berth. “It feels amazing – that’s what we set out to do this year was to make it to Homestead and fight for the title and we feel like we’re right there. I just can’t wait to get there and get back to work. I wish we could have won today, it would have been a little sweeter going and locking it up in victory lane, but we were off a little bit there at the end.”
On Sunday, Truex Jr. led a race high of 107 laps. Truex Jr. knew that Harvick was quicker, but he wasn’t too happy with the way Trevor Bayne raced him as he was trying to hold onto the lead in the closing laps.
“I knew he (Kevin Harvick) was quicker – once he got around the 11 (Denny Hamlin) I guess it was, he started coming really fast and that’s all I had,” Truex Jr. said. “Just struggled a little on the long run today, which was normally where we’re our best. He seemed to be better when he got out front – we were good when we got out front toward the middle of the race and we just got too loose in those long runs. I did all I could do on the inside, but we had the 6 (Trevor Bayne) and some other dummy racing side-by-side in front of us and I was way loose in traffic and I got loose going into one and Harvick jumped to my outside. One of those deals, I think we could have held them off on a clean race track, but the 6 car is in the damn way every week – that’s pretty normal.”
Denny Hamlin, who has been the center of attention over the past week after spinning Chase Elliott at Martinsville, finished third on Sunday. Hamlin was out in front of the field on three occasions while leading 65 laps.
“We had a really good FedEx Camry, just had a couple bad restarts there where I went high, lost my track position and we had to take two (tires) to get that track position back that I lost,” Hamlin said. “Overall, a good day. I mean great points day. We scored a lot of points, but lost, lost positions there with the 4 winning, so we’ll – we’ll just keep digging, keep giving ourselves a shot to win and hopefully next week will be our week.”
Matt Kenseth announced on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway that he has no plans as of this moment to compete in 2018; however, he ran up front all afternoon long on Sunday. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led 29 laps and finished fourth.
Brad Keselowski overcame adversity that he encountered with Kyle Busch on the first lap to finish fifth. Fellow Ford Performance drivers, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano finished sixth and seventh, followed Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones.
Throughout the 334-lap race, there were 27 lead changes among 13 drivers. There were also eight cautions.
Only one caution was for a multicar accident, and it occurred when Daniel Suarez and Kasey Kahne spun in Turn 2 to bring out the yellow flag on lap 94.
The most notable accident of the day brought out a caution on lap 284 when Kyle Larson crashed in Turn 2. Larson hit the wall exiting Turn 4 and then when he entered Turns 1 and 2, he slammed the wall again. Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet burst into flames, and NASCAR displayed the red flag for 10 minutes and 29 seconds for cleanup.
“Just a day of not very good execution at least in the second half of the race,” said 37th-place finisher, Larson. “It’s kind of the spot we put ourselves in and that is the result from it.”
With only one race remaining for drivers to fill the final spot of the Championship 4, it’s Keselowski sitting fourth in the standings, only 19 points ahead of Hamlin. Blaney is sixth, 22 points back from Keselowski. Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson are so far back that they must win at Phoenix to advance to the Championship 4.
The Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway will broadcast live on NBC and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) on Sunday, November 12.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images