Kevin Harvick became the second driver to earn a berth in the four-car Championship Round of the playoffs when he won Sunday’s 500-mile Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, Harvick led a race-best 177 laps in the 337-lap race. It was his eighth win of the season, which is tops in the series.
“Just a really, really fast car,” Harvick said. “For whatever reason, since they repaved this place, it just kind of fits everything that we do.”
It sure did Sunday and at the right time.
“We don’t come to count our fingers and thumbs to see how many points we need. We come here to win and we did that today,” Harvick said.
The 2014 champion joins Joey Logano of Team Penske — who won last weekend’s Round of 8 race at Martinsville Speedway — in securing a berth in the season-ending, championship-deciding race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks.
Penske’s Ryan Blaney finished second while Logano was third Sunday.
“That was the only shot we had to beat (Harvick) to be honest,” Blaney said of challenging for the win on a couple of late-race restarts. “We got by him on one restart and I just couldn’t hold him off. He was just really good. I needed to be mistake-free and maybe then some, and I just couldn’t be that. We had another shot (in the OT restart) and he took the top ... and he motored around me.”
Rounding out the top five were non-playoff drivers Erik Jones of Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing.
The series will move to Phoenix next weekend where the two remaining berths in the championship field will be decided.
“Everything we needed to do right went right tonight,” Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, said. “That’s what we need going into Homestead. We need some things to go our way. We need everybody to have some confidence and to go down there and have a shot at the championship.”
The victory was Harvick’s second at TMS with the first coming a year ago.
“This place has been really good to me. I’m glad we got to win again here,” he said.
Texas was not good to teammate Clint Bowyer.
Bowyer was involved in a first-lap rub with Denny Hamlin. He had to pit on Lap 12 to replace a right-side tire damaged in the rub and went two laps down. Near the end of Stage 2, Bowyer was penalized when a crew member went over the wall early during a pit stop.
He finished three laps off the pace and will need to win in Phoenix to advance to Homestead.
Kyle Busch of JGR left TMS in third place, 28 points ahead of fifth and Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing fourth (+25).
Below the cutline after Texas are Kurt Busch (-25), Chase Elliott (-39), Aric Almirola (-57) and Bowyer (-73).
—Field Level Media