Har­vick wins to reach next round of Chase

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Dave Skretta

Kevin Har­vick won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speed­way on Sun­day, go­ing to the front on a late restart and out­run­ning Carl Edwards to lock up his spot in the next round of the Chase.

No mat­ter what kind of mis­for­tune be­falls Kevin Har­vick in the early rounds of the Chase for the Sprint Cup cham­pi­onship, his team al­ways seems to get things to­gether when it mat­ters.

The No. 4 crew did it again Sun­day.

One week af­ter a me­chan­i­cal is­sue doomed him to a lousy fin­ish at Char­lotte, and put his hopes of ad­vanc­ing to the round of eight in jeop­ardy, Har­vick roared to the front on the fi­nal restart to win at Kansas Speed­way and take all of the pres­sure off next week’s elim­i­na­tion race at Tal­ladega.

“Th­ese races are hard to win and th­ese guys are so good at the de­tails,” said Har­vick, the 2014 cham­pion, “and when you put their backs against the wall they’re even bet­ter. I’m so proud of them.”

Har­vick was among the fastest in the fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion, and hung around the front all day while other Chase con­tenders fal­tered. He was still at the front when Re­gan Smith brought out the fi­nal cau­tion, and was able to keep Carl Edwards at bay over the fi­nal 30 laps.

“I was pretty sure we were in con­trol of the race,” said Edwards, a Mis­souri na­tive who has yet to win at what he con­sid­ers his home track. “As much fun as I had run­ning up front, it stings. There’s neg­a­tive emo­tions tied up with not win­ning here with that fast of a car.”

It was the fourth win of the sea­son for Har­vick, and his sec­ond of the Chase — he re­bounded from a poor per­for­mance at Chicago to win at New Hamp­shire and ad­vance from the round of 16.

He joined Jim­mie John­son, the win­ner at Char­lotte , in se­cur­ing a spot in the next round of NASCAR’s play­offs, while also ramp­ing up the pres­sure on the other 10 con­tenders fight­ing for points.

“They usu­ally when it comes to this sit­u­a­tion find a lit­tle more speed in their cars,” said Joey Logano, who fin­ished third and now sits in the pre­car­i­ous eighth spot in points. “I don’t know how, but it seems like in must-win sit­u­a­tions they al­ways find a lit­tle more speed.”

John­son was fourth, fol­lowed by fel­low Chase driv­ers Kyle Busch and Austin Dil­lon. Matt Kenseth was ninth af­ter dom­i­nat­ing the first half of the race from the pole, giv­ing him a nice points cush­ion as the se­ries heads to the un­pre­dictable pres­sure-cooker at Tal­ladega.

Other driv­ers com­pet­ing for the cham­pi­onship dealt with trou­ble all af­ter­noon.

Martin Truex Jr. again found him­self at the front at Kansas, only to have is­sues with the re­fu­el­ing mech­a­nism that forced him to pit out of se­quence. He wound up 11th and now sits sev­enth in points.

Kurt Busch fin­ished two spots back in 13th af­ter hav­ing to go to his backup car. He spun into the grass on the front stretch with sec­onds to go in the fi­nal prac­tice ses­sion Satur­day, tear­ing up the front of his car and forc­ing him to start from the back of the field.

Denny Ham­lin had an is­sue with the front split­ter that cre­ates down­force on his car, send­ing him to the pits for re­pairs. He was also pe­nal­ized for a loose tire but ral­lied to fin­ish 15th.

The big­gest losers on the day were Brad Ke­selowski and Chase El­liott.

Ke­selowski be­gan wig­gling with 78 laps re­main­ing, and Ham­lin came up be­hind him and a tap sent the No. 2 car shoot­ing down the track. He slammed into the grassy turf, tore up the front of his car and wound up 38th, putting him seven points out of the eighth and fi­nal spot in the Chase.

“It’s an au­to­mo­tive war zone here. There’s parts, there’s pieces, they were work­ing un­der it, there was oil, there was fire at one point,” said Ke­selowski, who briefly got back on the track be­fore re­tir­ing for the day. “If my guys keep putting in this ef­fort, I’m not wor­ried about.”

El­liott was near the front when his left rear tire be­gan rub­bing on his fender, forc­ing a stop that left him a lap down. He man­aged to get back on the lead lap, only to have the same is­sue with an­other set of tires that forced him into an­other un­sched­uled stop.

He wound up fin­ish­ing 31st and is now 25 points out of the fi­nal spot in the round of eight, which es­sen­tially makes Tal­ladega a must-win sit­u­a­tion for the Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports rookie.

In other words, all the pres­sure that Har­vick avoided with his win.

ORLIN WAG­NER — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NASCAR driver Kevin Har­vick cel­e­brates in victory lane af­ter win­ning a Sprint Cup se­ries auto race at Kansas Speed­way in Kansas City, Kan., Sun­day.

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