FORT WORTH, Texas – Kevin Harvick’s victory Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway means at least two Ford teams will be in the Championship 4 at Homestead Miami Speedway.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver dominated the AAA Texas 500, survived a late-race restart that took the race into overtime and came away with a career-best eighth win of the season.
Harvick, 42, joined Team Penske driver Joey Logano, who won a week ago at Martinsville, in earning a berth in the championship-determining race. Harvick won the title in ’14; Logano has yet to bring home the big hardware.
Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. didn’t squander their chances at Texas but they didn’t do themselves any favors either.
Busch, second in points, finished 17th and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was the last car on the lead lap. There was a speeding penalty and a loose wheel in there to keep things interesting for the 2015 champ.
Truex is third in points and he finished ninth and he also had a loose wheel issue and a pit road penalty.
Kurt Busch (SHR), Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports), Aric Almirola (SHR) and Clint Bowyer (SHR) are fifth through eighth in points, respectively, and any one of them can upset what would be the expected outcome with a victory next weekend at ISM (Phoenix) Raceway.
None of the four ran at Texas as if that was likely, though all but Bowyer finished inside the top 10. Maybe that said as much about Harvick’s ability to run away and hide from the field as their teams’ respective shortcomings.
• GET IN LINE: A bit of a tense battle at the end between Almirola and Logano left the SHR driver miffed and Logano saying “It’s just racing.”
“The 22 just went down in Turn 3 and put it right on my door and about wrecked us both,” Almirola said of a late-race restart. “If that’s the way he wants to race me when he is already locked into Homestead and we are out here fighting for our lives, that’s fine. When Homestead comes around if I am not in (the title battle), he will know it.”
Truex had insinuated nearly as much after Logano pushed him aside to win at Martinsville. But his response was more of an “I’ll take care of it by winning” explanation and less of an “I’ll get even.”
• HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? NASCAR officials said it was a “communication breakdown” that led to Jimmie Johnson being sent to the back of the field prior to the start of the race. Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet had failed pre-race tech inspection twice. Under normal circumstances, that would result in a loss of 15 minutes of track time during practice the following week.
Failing three times would warrant the loss of a starting position for that race and the ejection of one of the team members (typically a car chief).
“There was an assumption from race control … that he had failed three times,” Steve O’Donnell, executive vice president for the sanctioning body, said afterward. “That was communicated over the radio” between officials in the garage overseeing inspection and officials in the tower officiating the race. “
NASCAR tracks the movement of every car during the inspection process. Yet somehow two failures became three and no one on the 48 team, including crew chief Chad Knaus, was notified until it was too late.
Johnson had qualified 23rd; he started at the back of the field, along with several others sent there for various infractions, and called it a “frustrating” day.
Mistakes are going to be made. This was one that shouldn’t have been.
“There was not a call made up to the tower that there was a third failure,” O’Donnell said. “It was written down as a third failure. So that’s where it broke down.”