Harvick takes Texas to clinch championship spot

Martin Truex Jr

Harvick blew past Ryan Blaney on the overtime restart and secured his spot in the championship by defending his title in the race.

Kevin Harvick had a dominating day at the Texas Motor Speedway Sunday and won the Triple-A Texas 500.

Harvick led 177 laps on a day when the other two members of the Big Three struggled.

"We got by him on one restart (with 33 laps to go), but I just couldn't hold him off", Blaney said. "It all worked out".

Another championship contender was pushed to the back of the field for the start of the NASCAR Cup race at Texas, the second-to-last race before the season finale.

It is the second year in a row that Harvick, the 2014 Cup champion, won the fall race at Texas to get into the final four.

With less than 60 laps remaining in the second stage, Harvick maintained a small lead over Logano with Kurt Busch running in third.

Also collecting stage points were Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Kurt Busch, Daniel Suarez and Chase Elliott.

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

The victory was Harvick's second at TMS with the first coming a year ago. Harvick was already starting to rebuild his lead - it had been almost 4 seconds before the caution - when another yellow flag came out.

Harvick was on the inside again for the next restart, before Blaney was able to get by him on the outside and into the lead. As the leader, Harvick took the outside line for the third restart in the last 35 laps.

NASCAR says it erred in sending Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 auto to back of the field for the start of the race in Texas. "We nearly caught him the first restart up top and then I did on the second one". "To start exactly where we were I think is a decent day. When Homestead comes around if I am not in, he will know it". "He motored around me".

On Lap 97, Jimmie Johnson got loose and spun in Turn 3 as his teammate, William Byron, plowed into the back of him to bring out a caution. "Happy about that for sure", he said. "Obviously Blaney had a good restart and we're not taking the bottom anymore".

Joey Logano already has clinched one of the four championship-contending spots at Homestead in two weeks.

Truex has vowed that Logano won't win the Cup title after what happened at Martinsville.

"He just continues to make things harder on himself". "The 22 (Logano) just went down in turn three and put it right on my door and about wrecked us both". If that is the way he wants to race me when he is already locked into Homestead and we are out here fighting for our lives, that is fine.

Neither Truex nor Kyle Busch had a great race on Sunday, though they salvaged reasonable results to stay well above the playoff cut line.

Jimmie Johnson was sent to the rear of the field after the No. 48 Chevrolet twice failed prerace inspection.

He passed inspection on the third try, and should have been able to start in his original qualifying spot. "So, whatever the tower says is the way it is", Johnson said. "I don't know how they do it". "He is still going to go to Homestead and race for a championship, it is just not smart".

In a race that produced a last-lap pass for the win, a record 13 cautions and an unmitigated disaster for favorite son Christopher Bell, Cole Custer moved past Tyler Reddick on the backstretch to win.

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