Har­vick holds off Blaney to se­cure fi­nal-four spot

Autosport (UK) - - WORLD OF SPORT | SUPER CARS -

Vic­tory in Texas en­sured Ste­warthaas Rac­ing’s Kevin Har­vick of his spot among the fi­nal four play­off driv­ers who will fight it out for the NASCAR Cup ti­tle at the Home­stead fi­nale later this month.

Af­ter he had swept the first two stages and car­ried a four-sec­ond lead into the fi­nal 40 laps of the 337-lap race, Har­vick’s com­fort­able run to the fin­ish was in­ter­rupted by three late-race cau­tions to prompt a chal­lenge from Ryan Blaney.

The two ex­changed the lead af­ter the sec­ond restart but, head­ing into the fi­nal green flag, Har­vick em­phat­i­cally stormed around the out­side of the #12 Penske Ford to seize the win by 0.447s.

Af­ter bump­ing Martin Truex Jr at the fi­nal cor­ner to win at Martinsville, and in turn book a ‘cham­pi­onship four’ place in the process, third-placed Joey Logano was at the cen­tre of con­tro­versy for the sec­ond week in a row.

Play­off con­tender Aric Almirola ac­cused the Penske driver of crowd­ing him at Turn 3 as the two bat­tled over the fi­nal podium spot. The tur­bu­lence sent Almirola into a slide and cost him sev­eral po­si­tions. Af­ter fin­ish­ing in eighth, he re­mains out­side of the points cut­off and now en­ters the fi­nal ‘round of eight’ race 57 points adrift of the top four with only 60 avail­able.

“[Logano] con­tin­ues to make it hard on him­self,” said Almirola. “If that’s the way he wants to race me when he’s al­ready locked in to Home­stead, when [that race] comes around – if

I’m not in – he’ll know it. I’ll make it re­ally dif­fi­cult on him.”

Fin­ish­ing the race in sev­enth, Kurt Busch en­ters the fi­nal ‘round of eight’ race 25 points adrift of se­cur­ing a ‘cham­pi­onship four’ place, while Chase El­liott – who crossed the line sixth

– is 39 points be­hind qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Clint Bowyer col­lided with Denny Ham­lin on the first lap and strug­gled to 26th. Now 73 points be­hind, he can only reach the ‘cham­pi­onship four’ by win­ning at Phoenix.

Truex and Kyle Busch re­main on course to qual­ify on points. Both en­dured a tricky race mired by pit­lane penal­ties, but fin­ish­ing in ninth and 17th re­spec­tively means they re­tain a points cush­ion en­ter­ing next week­end, 25 and 28 points clear of the cut­off.

Har­vick cel­e­brates fi­nal-four place amid Vic­tory Lane raz­za­mataz

A mere 0.4s de­cided race vic­tory, Har­vick (l) beat­ing Blaney (r)

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