Kevin Harvick claims spot in the Final Four with Texas win

by Lisa Janine Cloud

Kevin Harvick claimed his spot in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Final Four with a decisive - and official -  victory in the AAA Texas 500 Sunday evening ahead of Stewart Haas Racing teammates Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez.

With this season’s new inspection procedures in place, there’s no possibility of a surprise finding by the R & D Center to taint the celebration, the highlight of which was the official firing of the Smith and Wesson six-shooters in Victory Lane.

Harvick led 110 of  334 laps in scoring his fourth win of the 2019 season, his third at Texas Motor Speedway. The victory tied him with team owner Tony Stewart at 49 on the all-time-wins list.

Stewart said that he’s proud of the fact that not only is Harvick undoubtedly going to surpass his record, but he tied it in such a significant race.

When asked how he felt about advancing to the final round again, Harvick said simply, “I’m surprised.” Then he qualified it by saying, “I’m surprised, but I’m not.” He explained that the achievement speaks to the character of the team.

Almirola led 62 laps and drove as if the championship were on the line for him, too. “I am really proud of all the guys on my team,” he said. “We have had such a bad run of luck the last two months and it is so nice to come here and just execute all night and have a fast car, lead laps and win a stage and run up front. We had a great night on pit road. I did my part on restarts and on and off pit road and just an all-around solid night. We can build on that.”

With his Daniel’s Amigos cheering him on, Suarez was in the hunt all race long, leading 25 laps.
“I feel like honestly in the last few weeks we have had cars to perform the way we performed today,” Suarez said. “But we have been with issues either on pit road or bad calls or stuff like that, but we've been pretty fast lately.  We've been running up front, top 5, leading laps; Kansas was the same thing, Martinsville was the same thing.  It was nice to finally have a good strong car with a clean day.”

Fourth-place Joey Logano fought back from a bad time with the area of the track treated with PJ1.  “I went for a hell of a ride early in the race getting a little too aggressive with it. It wasn’t a bad thing, don't take this the wrong way. It wasn’t a bad thing on the race track. It helped the track to be wider and be able to put on a better race for the fans but if you got a little much it was, look out,” Logano said.

Rounding out the top five was the Chevrolet of Alex Bowman, who led 11 laps. “We started really tight and we made good adjustments throughout the day.” Bowman said of his run. “Obviously, once the sun went down, the car got a lot better and we were pretty solid. I wish we could have had a little more track position and our strategy go our way a little more there at the end. But we definitely had a really good car today.”

At one point in the race it appeared that Jimmie Johnson might score his eighth Texas win, with the No. 48 leading 40 laps but he brushed the wall sustained enough damage that he could not maintain minimum speed.

The race also was not kind to playoff drivers Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

The No. 9 hit the wall on Lap 9 when Elliott tried to make something happen way too early in the race, but the team repaired the car enough to get back on track and pick up a few points. He finished in 32nd place and sits 100 points behind leader Martin Truex Jr. Phoenix is literally a must-win race if Elliott is to advance to the Final Four.

Elliott said, “I made a mistake, got loose and crashed. I really hate that happened. Obviously, it’s not good and not what you’re looking for. It’s just my mistake and there’s really no excuse for it. It’s just all eyes on Phoenix.”

Hamlin’s No. 11 plowed through the infield grass after he got loose in the treated area of the track. He finished 28th and is 42 points back and is just over the cut-off line to advance. Hamlin needs a win at Phoenix, too. He declared, “In these circumstances, I like the challenge. We’re going to go out there and give it our best shot and put our best foot forward and see if we can’t get a win next week.”
Kevin Harvick claims spot in the Final Four with Texas win Kevin Harvick claims spot in the Final Four with Texas win Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Sunday, November 03, 2019 Rating: 5