Kevin Harvick clinched a free pass into the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup's Round of 8 with a statement win at the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday.
In the second of three Round of 12 races before the Chase field is trimmed, Harvick joined Jimmie Johnson, who won at Charlotte Motor Speedway last Sunday, in the next round.
NASCAR on NBC reacted to Sunday's race:
Here's a look at the full results from the race and the ensuing standings, per NASCAR.com:
|Hollywood Casino 400 Results|
|Place||Driver||Time Behind Leader (Seconds)||Laps Led|
|2016 Sprint Cup Series Standings|
|6||Martin Truex Jr.||3,058|
Jeff Gluck of USA Today pointed out winning in elimination formats is nothing new for Harvick:
After starting on the pole, Matt Kenseth led the initial 26 laps before a caution. Ray Slover of Sporting News noted it was the first time this season that Kenseth has checked in as the fastest starter.
He worked his way through a handful of early cautions and maintained his lead after 60 laps. Denny Hamlin did not enjoy the same success and had an early issue while pitting, as NASCAR highlighted:
However, he quickly bounced back and re-entered the top 15 by Lap 70 and even seized a temporary lead before Lap 100.
Kenseth retook the lead after a cycle of pit stops and created some separation. Bob Pockrass of ESPN.com noted Kenseth had opened a nearly six-second gap over second-place driver Carl Edwards by Lap 100.
The lead disappeared when Harvick passed him, and the top nine racers by Lap 135 were all still alive in the Chase. With many talented competitors vying for position, the intensity increased when Harvick and Chase Elliott were right next to each other with 100 laps remaining.
Pockrass set the scene and pointed out Martin Truex Jr. had an issue with his fuel earlier in the race:
NASCAR shared Elliott's surge forward:
The lead was short-lived thanks to some car trouble.
"Elliott says he thinks he has something broke, says, 'It's wobbling in here,'" Pockrass noted.
Brad Keselowski's car was wrecked as well.
NASCAR on NBC passed along the replay that showed Hamlin's car make contact with his:
Hamlin eventually fell back because of an uncontrolled tire and dropped out of contention for the victory, per Pockrass.
Attrition played its role, but Edwards survived and held the lead with 40 laps remaining in the back-and-forth race. He was battling with Harvick, but Johnson surged into the top three before the closing stretch and was looking to earn his second straight victory.
Harvick took the lead on a restart and was in front with 25 laps left, but Kyle Busch quickly gained ground and took over second place with new tires.
Jim Utter of Motorsport.com reacted to the push:
However, Edwards passed Busch with 15 laps left, and NASCAR highlighted the fact Harvick was likely pleased the real race seemed to be developing behind him:
Edwards held off Busch, but neither challenged the victor in the final 10 laps.
Next up is the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, which is the third and final Round of 12 race. Johnson and Harvick each have momentum, although they don't have to worry about racing for their spots in the Round of 8.
Talladega is an unpredictable race track, and the back-and-forth nature of Sunday's race underscored how quickly momentum can change and races can swing. Expect more of the same in Alabama.
Harvick talked about his team’s efforts, per Dave Skretta of the Associated Press: "These races are hard to win and these guys are so good at the details, and when you put their backs against the wall they're even better. I'm so proud of them."
Edwards discussed the emotions of the race, per Skretta: "I was pretty sure we were in control of the race. 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."
Keselowski summarized Sunday’s race, per Skretta: "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. If my guys keep putting in this effort, I'm not worried about."
It will be up to him and the rest of the drivers who haven’t clinched their spots in the Round of 8 to continue putting forth that effort to earn a victory in Talladega.