FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Kevin Harvick won the fall Cup race at Texas for the third year in a row Sunday, again taking one of the championship-contending spots for NASCAR’s season finale.
Harvick won from the pole, leading 120 of 334 laps in the No. 4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing. He took the lead for the seventh and final time on lap 255, and finished 1 1/2 seconds ahead of teammate Aric Almirola. Daniel Suarez, another Stewart-Haas driver who is still unsigned for next season, finished third.
With Martin Truex Jr. already locked in for the final four on Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the final two spots for the title run will be determined next week at Phoenix.
Playoff contender Joey Logano finished fourth at the 1 1/2-mile Texas track, while Truex was sixth, ahead of Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney, with Kyle Larson 12th. The other playoff contenders, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott, had accidents that put them deep in the field.
Harvick entered Texas in fifth, below the cutline to race for the title.
His fourth win this year was the 49th of his career, matching car owner Tony Stewart for 14th on NASCAR’s career list. Harvick’s only championship in his 19 Cup seasons came after a win in the finale at Miami five years ago.
Hamlin was second in points starting the day, but got loose coming out the fourth turn on the 81st lap and slid off the track and through the infield. The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was damaged after slamming hard across the grass and over asphalt.
His 28th-place finish, six laps behind Harvick, dropped Hamlin to fifth and 20 points behind Logano in fourth.
Busch is third in the standings, only two points ahead of Logano. Larson and Blaney are both 23 points below the cutline and Elliott is now 100 back.
CONTENDING WITH TROUBLE
Elliott was in the eighth and final playoff spot coming into the race, and stayed there after getting into trouble early. He will have to win at Phoenix to get in the final four.
On the ninth lap Sunday, Elliott got loose and slammed hard into the wall. After an extended time on pit road for repairs, he got back on the track and finished the race. He finished 22 laps behind in 32nd place.
Elliott was the runner-up at Kansas last month but finished 36th at Martinsville last week after a mechanical failure. There was also his last-place finish among 38 cars at Dover, where his engine gave out after only eight laps.
FLASHBACK AT FRONT
Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has gone a career-long 93 races without winning, but he led nearly half of the second stage at Texas.
Johnson led 40 laps in the second 85-lap segment at Texas, where he has won a record seven times. His last win there came in the 2017 spring race, about two months before his last Cup win at Dover.
His only pole this season was at Texas in the spring race seven months ago, when he led 60 laps. He had led only 27 total laps in the 26 races since then before Sunday.
Just a few laps after the race resumed following the second stage, while still in the top three, Johnson got loose and couldn’t keep the No. 48 Chevrolet off the wall. The Hendrick team got him back on the track for a brief time, but the car had too damage to continue. He finished 34th.
SIX TO NONE
There were six cautions in the first stage, but the second 85-lap segment was run without a yellow flag. There were 11 cautions overall.