FORT WORTH, Texas — Kevin Harvick and his crew were already preparing as if the NASCAR finale would matter to them. With another win at Texas Motor Speedway, they now know they will be racing for a Cup Series title in two weeks.
Harvick won the fall event in Fort Worth for the third year in a row Sunday, again securing one of the championship-contending spots for the Nov. 17 season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"Well, we've already been going down the road," Harvick said after taking the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford Mustang to victory lane. "We've already been to the simulator, we've already built the car and now we've just got to make sure that we do what we think is right and go with our gut and see what happens."
After starting in pole position, Harvick led 119 of 334 laps and paced a 1-2-3 finish for SHR drivers. He had arrived at Texas fifth in points, below the cutline for a championship run.
"It's a scenario that takes a lot of pressure off next week," car owner Tony Stewart said. "It does take that edge off. It's big for the organization."
Harvick led six times, including the final 21 laps and 73 of the last 80, and finished 1 1/2 seconds ahead of teammate Aric Almirola. Daniel Suarez, the SHR driver still unsigned for next season, was third.
With Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. already locked in for the final four at Homestead thanks to his win the previous Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, the final two spots for the title run will be determined next weekend at ISM Raceway near Phoenix. At least one driver will get in on points.
"It is going to be a good battle for sure," said Team Penske driver Logano, the 2018 Cup Series champion who remained fourth in points after finishing fourth at Texas. "We are definitely racing for that last spot just in case someone behind us outside of the top four wins. It's going to be fun."
JGR's Kyle Busch is third in the standings, only two points ahead of Logano.
"We all know one guy is going to move through on points," Busch said, "and we have to do whatever we have to do in order to be that guy."
Truex was sixth and fellow playoff drivers Busch and Ryan Blaney were seventh and eighth, with Kyle Larson 12th. The other remaining contenders, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott, had crashes that put them deep in the field.
Hamlin's 28th-place finish, six laps behind Harvick, dropped him from second to fifth in the standings. He is 20 points behind Logano and only three ahead of both Larson and Blaney. Elliott is eighth and 78 points outside the final four, and he must win next Sunday to get in the final four.
Harvick's fourth win this year was the 49th of his career, matching Stewart for 14th on NASCAR's career list. Harvick's only championship in his 19 Cup Series seasons came via victory in the finale at Homestead five years ago.
Seven-time season champion Jimmie Johnson has gone a career-long 93 races without winning, but he led nearly half of the second stage at Texas before winding up 34th after hitting the wall. The 44-year-old Hendrick Motorsports driver was up front for 40 laps in the second 85-lap segment at a track where he has won a record seven times, most recently in the 2017 spring race.
That was about two months before the most recent of his 83 Cup Series wins, which came at Dover International Speedway. He owns the record for Cup Series wins at that venue, too, with 11 — his most at any track.