Kevin Harvick earns his shot at NASCAR Cup Series title with win at Texas

Kevin Harvick earns his shot at NASCAR Cup Series title with win at Texas

November 4th, 2018 by Associated Press in Breaking News

NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick takes a photo with a young fan after winning Sunday's Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Harvick and Joey Logano have locked up championship-eligible spots in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Kevin Harvick won Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in dramatic fashion, then gave the checkered flag to a young fan he brought onto the track to take a selfie.

The picture could mean even more to the fan in a couple of weeks.

Harvick joined Joey Logano in securing one of the four championship-eligible spots for the season finale Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, rocketing past polesitter Ryan Blaney in overtime after the third restart in the final 35 laps. Harvick won the track's fall race for the second year in a row, and now the 2014 Cup Series champ can start thinking about another title.

But first he's thinking about getting one more win when the series closes the third round of the playoffs next Sunday at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

"We don't come here to count our fingers and toes to try to figure out how we're going to make it. We want to earn it," said Harvick, who led 177 of 337 laps. "Today we earned our way in, and we're going to go and race again next week and try to win another race and see what we can do at Homestead."

After taking the inside on the first two restarts, then briefly losing the lead after the second one, Harvick opted to start from outside for the green-white-checkered finish. By time they got to the back stretch, Harvick had pushed the Stewart-Haas No. 4 Ford in front of Blaney and raced to his eighth win of this season and 45th overall in his Cup Series career.

"I thought if I could keep him from finishing the corner, I could drive back by him," Harvick said. "It all worked out."

Of Harvick's 32 starts in the Lone Star State, his only two wins are the past two fall races to get into NASCAR's final four. He has 20 top-10 finishes at the 1.5-mile oval, where he won both stages Sunday, marking the fourth time this year he did that and went on to win the race.

With Harvick and Martinsville Speedway winner Joey Logano in the Team Penske No. 22 Ford locked in, the battle for the final two spots figures to be intense.

Kyle Busch, a seven-time winner this year and the 2015 season champion, and 2017 champion Martin Truex Jr. are among the other six title contenders. They are comfortably above the cut line for points, but Chase Elliott or any of Harvick's three SHR teammates — Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch — could advance with a win at ISM Raceway.

Logano was third at Texas, where Elliott was sixth, followed by Kurt Busch and Almirola, who had to go to the rear at the start of the race because of unapproved body modifications discovered during inspections before the race. Truex, who was close to clinching a title spot before Logano's bump-and-run maneuver on the final lap at Martinsville, finished ninth.

Kyle Busch was 17th and Bowyer 26th after starting on the front row but making contact with Denny Hamlin on the first lap.

After the first of the late restarts, Harvick was on the inside and was able to keep Blaney from clearing him on the back stretch. Harvick was already starting to rebuild his lead — it had been nearly four seconds before the caution — when another yellow flag came out.

Harvick was on the inside again for the next restart, but Blaney was able to get by him for the lead. Blaney led seven laps before Harvick went under him and was again putting distance between them before Joey Gase's spin brought out the last of eight cautions.

"They were hard. They were challenging," Blaney said about the restarts. "That was really the only shot we had to beat him, to be honest with you. We got by him one restart, and I just couldn't hold him off. The last one, he took the top, like I knew he was going to go. He motored around me."

Truex had to start at the rear of the field because of an engine change. He also dealt with a loose tire and had a pass-through penalty during the race for driving through too many pit boxes, and he was a lap down before getting that back on the first of the late cautions.

"We got a little bit of luck on our side after that to be able to get back on the lead lap. Happy about that for sure," he said. "To start exactly where we were, I think, is a decent day. The only difference is there's one less spot available."