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NASCAR at Texas 2017 Results: Kevin Harvick's Win Clinches Championship 4 Spot

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 5, 2017

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 05:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 5, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Kevin Harvick earned the checkered flag at the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.

With the victory, Harvick assures himself a place in the Championship 4.

Martin Truex Jr., whose 4,168 points are most in the Monster Energy Series, finished in second place after being unable to catch up to Harvick late in the race.

Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five, with the full leaderboard available on NASCAR.com.

     

AAA Texas 500 Top 10

1. Kevin Harvick

2. Martin Truex Jr.

3. Denny Hamlin

4. Matt Kenseth

5. Brad Keselowski

6. Ryan Blaney

7. Joey Logano

8. Chase Elliott

9. Kurt Busch

10. Erik Jones

     

Harvick joins Truex and Kyle Busch as the three drivers who have secured themselves a berth in the final playoff round.

    

Monster Energy Cup Series Standings

1. Kyle Busch (4,118 points)

2. Kevin Harvick (4,112 points)

3. Martin Truex Jr. (4,168 points)

4. Brad Keselowski (4,111 points)

5. Denny Hamlin (4,092 points)

6. Ryan Blaney (4,089 points)

7. Chase Elliott (4,062 points)

8. Jimmie Johnson (4,060 points)

     

Harvick overtook Denny Hamlin for second place with 27 laps remaining. What had been a somewhat comfortable lead for Truex evaporated as the race went on and Harvick gained ground on the leader.

Harvick made his move with 10 laps remaining, passing Truex on the outside. NASCAR on NBC shared a replay of his pass around the No. 78 car:

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

Move of the race? @KevinHarvick gets by Martin Truex Jr. late at @TXMotorSpeedway! #NASCARPlayoffs #4theCup https://t.co/XBwpW1zkg6

Yahoo Sports' Nick Bromberg wondered if Harvick benefited from NASCAR officials' looking past what could've been grounds for a caution as he chased down Truex:

Nick Bromberg @NickBromberg

Easy to wonder if a caution would be called if Harvick wasn’t catching Truex https://t.co/0zk3rDMYYf

A caution would've been the worst-case scenario for Harvick. He wasted little time in creating some breathing room between him and Truex. A restart would've wiped that advantage off the board completely. And with eight cautions throughout the day, the yellow flag got plenty of use Sunday.

Instead, the final stretch was caution-free, allowing Harvick to cross the finish line with minimal drama. He held a 1.580-second edge over Truex when the checkered flag waved.

Truex will likely be disappointed with the final result since he led a race-high 107 laps. NASCAR writer Jeff Gluck noted a second-place finish still bodes well for Truex's hopes of advancing to the round of four in the championship race:

Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck

Also, if Truex does not win and finishes P2, I think he would clinch a Homestead spot anyway (on points).

An underlying storyline throughout Sunday was whether Chase Elliott would retaliate against Hamlin after the two drivers exchanged words on the track after the First Data 500. With three laps left in the race, Hamlin spun out Elliott, who was in first place at the time.

Ahead of the AAA Texas 500, Elliott didn't answer questions about if he'd be seeking retribution.

"No, I'm not going answer y'alls questions on whether I'm going to get him back," he said, per USA Today's A.J. Perez. "You're not going to hear it from me."

The NBCSN broadcast made sure fans were aware of the bad blood between Elliott and Hamlin, and CBS Sports' Matthew Mayer thought the attention was more than warranted:

Matthew Mayer @MatthewMayerCBS

TBH I don't think broadcast is going overboard with this Elliott/Hamlin stuff. There is absolutely a chance 24 puts 11 into the wall.

Elliott eschewed the opportunity to exact revenge and finished in eighth place. His hopes of advancing to the championship round remain slim. The 49-point gap between him and Keselowski for fourth place likely means anything short of a win next week will see Elliott finish outside of the top four.

The calculus is likely the same for reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson, who ended up three laps back in 27th place. According to NBC Sports' Dustin Long, damage limitation became the goal for crew chief Chad Knaus:

Dustin Long @dustinlong

#NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson is 31st (2 laps down.) Chad says they're not racing anyone and that goal is not to crash right now

While Johnson didn't suffer a costly accident Sunday, he didn't do a whole lot else to help his championship chances. Fifty-one points separate him and Keselowski.

Only one more race remains before the cutoff for the championship round in Homestead, Florida, on Nov. 19. Drivers will head to Avondale, Arizona, for the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway next Sunday.

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