Kevin Harvick didn’t need to win in order to advance to Miami thanks in part to a monster regular season and 7 wins piling up the playoff points, but even before the race he said: “I don’t care about points, I want to win”. Harvick did just that on Sunday in Texas, the last mile-and-a-half track before the Champion is decided in Homestead. Harvick stomped the competition all day long sweeping both stages and overcoming several late restarts in route to his eighth win of the season and 45th of his career.
Harvick led 177 laps in route to the win at Texas which punches his ticket to the Championship Four in two weeks in South Beach along with Joey Logano who locked himself in with the win at Martinsville. The 42-year-old Harvick has now compiled 865 laps led on the intermediate tracks this season along with four wins on the 1.5 mile tracks this season (Atlanta, Las Vegas, Kansas & Texas).
Harvick was the leader throughout most of the race after gaining it early on from pole-sitter Ryan Blaney and was battling the 12 for the win on all three of the final restarts. 33 to go, took the inside lane and pulled away from the 12 before another caution. Harvick with 24 to go, chose the inside lane again and lost the lead to Ryan Blaney before taking it back with 17 to go thanks to just how exceptional he was in turns 1 & 2, the spots where he nailed all race long carving out the huge lead and why the field could not touch him.
Then, in the closing laps when Harvick was on his way to a win, three cars laps down make contact sending the 51 of Joey Gase spinning bringing out yet another late yellow and sending it to OT for a green-white-checkered finish. This time the No. 4 of Harvick and Rodney Childers elected for the outside lane and quickly shot out of a rocket on the restart as they went on to win the race. A decissive win and statement from the 4 car with just one race remaing before the Championship one in Miami. Harvick is also heading to Phoenix next week, one of historically great tracks where he’s already won on this season. The 4 car has a serious chance to go out and win three straight races and cement one of the better championship seasons and performances ever. That’s the way its setting up for “The Closer” Kevin Harvick.
“We’ve been working day after day to make speed,” said Harvick, who won for the second time at Texas and the 45th time in his career, 17th most all-time. “This place has been really good to me. We finally knocked that barrier down (win last year in playoffs at Texas as well). The expectations are to win. Like I told you guys before the race, we don’t race for points. We race for wins. We don’t count our fingers and our toes trying to figure out how to make it in (Championship Race). Today we earned our way in, and we’re going to race again next week (at Phoenix) and try to win another race and then see what we can do at Homestead.”
Harvick also took care of the car following the win without any major burnouts or spinning through the grass, signaling he will go back to that same car that dominated in just two weeks on the next mile-and-a-half track. Waving to the fans, and a really cool moment where he grabbed a young fan from the grandstands to take a selfie with in front of his car with while giving him the checkered flag to boot. What a moment for that kid.
Blaney, Logano, Erik Jones and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five at Texas. Other playoff drivers below the cut-line had solid days with Chase Elliott in 6th, Kurt Busch 7th and Aric Almirola 8th while Clint Bowyer struggled from the start after early contact and finished 26th. Kyle Busch & Martin Truex Jr. both battled back from adversity and unscheduled stops to get respectable finishes, Truex in 9th and Busch in 17th. Due to that fact and their strong points advantage coming in, the bottom four are in almost must-win position next week unless something major goes wrong with the 18 or 78. Harvick and Logano are locked in via wins, and the 18 and 78 will be racing each other all day to collect as many points as possible while hoping one of those guys behind him don’t find their way into victory lane.
One more playoff race before a champion is crowned, check out the standings below. One thing is clear, Kevin Harvick remains the man to beat if any of these other guys want to be crowned champion, and I wouldn’t bet against the 4 the way that team has been executing all season.
Updated Playoff Standings following Texas:
- Kevin Harvick: advanced- win (Texas)
- Joey Logano: advanced- win (Martinsville)
- Kyle Busch +28
- Martin Truex Jr. +25
- Kurt Busch -25
- Chase Elliott -39
- Aric Almirola -57
- Clint Bowyer -73
Follow Frank Pimentel on Twitter: @frankbostontank