Kevin Harvick arrived at Texas Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race in a bit of trouble as he was 14 points below the cutline in the Series’ Playoffs Round of 8.
He left TMS trouble-free as he locked down a spot in the Championship 4 round of the playoffs by winning the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday night.
The victory was the fourth of the season and third in his last five starts at TMS, but it was the first of the 2019 playoffs for the 2014 champion. It came from the pole and saw him lead a race-best 119 laps.
Finishing second Sunday was Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, non-playoffs driver Aric Almirola. The margin of victory was 1.59 seconds.
Daniel Suarez, also a non-playoffs driver, gave SHR a podium sweep by finishing third.
Rounding out the top five were playoffs driver Joey Logano of Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman.
Harvick joins Martin Truex Jr., who won last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, as a berth earner in the Championship 4. The final two berths in the Championship 4 Playoffs finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks will be decided next Sunday in Phoenix.
At least one of the drivers who will secure entry to the Championship 4 will qualify by way of points.
Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott will need a victory in Phoenix in order to keep championship hopes alive. The fan favorite driver got loose and slammed the wall just nine laps into Sunday’s race. He started the day eighth in points among the eight drivers in playoffs’ third round. He finished 22 laps off the pace Sunday.
Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing started the day a strong second in points. But on Lap 81, he got loose and plowed through the infield grass. His car suffered considerable body damage and was never a factor again. He finished seven laps behind the winner.