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NASCAR Cup: Kevin Harvick claims eighth win of 2018 at Texas

KANSAS CITY, KS – MAY 11: (L-R) Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Light Ford, and crew chief Rodney Childers talk in the garage during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 11, 2018 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Kevin Harvick claimed his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series-leading eighth win of 2018 on Sunday with a victory in the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway after leading 177 laps. It was his second-consecutive win of the event and secured his berth in the championship finals at Homestead-Miami Speedway later this month.

“I think it is really just week to week,” Harvick said. “We don’t try to do anything different. We come to try to put ourselves in position to win with the equipment we have; right now you need to take advantage of it. It might not be this way forever, so you want to take advantage of the situation and today we did.”

Ryan Blaney finished second, and Joey Logano was third. Erik Jones was fourth. Kyle Larson overcame an early-race issue with a stuck lug nut to round out the top-five.

“We made some good ground that first run, and then, we had that issue there under the pit stop, and then, it was just hard to get track position after that,” Larson said. ”Our car was really loose on the short runs and it would build really tight, but we got that better. Still had to fight the looseness early in the run, but didn’t get quite as tight as the run went on, so that helped me, and then, we had some good restarts. I felt like we would gain a spot or two every time, and then, we had a good one there when we got from eighth to fourth, and then, we had a yellow and fourth to third. I was just kind of hoping it was going to stay green there. Then, that last restart, just got loose underneath people and fell back to fifth. Top-five, good run, but just didn’t have anything to compete with the front few.”

Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Logano each led led laps early in the final 164-lap stage of the race before Harvick retook his lead on lap 254. Logano continued on near the front, but Keselowski was forced into an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel on lap 252.

“We had a top-five car,” Logano said. “We got out front where we could lead laps for a little bit, and just when the front tires would give up, that is when the 4 was just stellar. He was stupid fast. He was able to do a lot. Congrats to them. That is two Fords in and two to go.”

Blaney took the lead from Harvick on a lap-310 restart and was second, on the front row, next to Harvick for an overtime restart following an eighth caution to challenge for the win.

“We got by the 4 [Harvick] on that one restart ,but I just couldn’t hold him off. He was really good. I kind of missed one and two by an inch, and he took advantage of it. We needed to be mistake free and then some, and I just couldn’t be that. Then, we had another shot at it. The last one, he took the top, like I knew he was going to, and he motored around me. It was a strong showing by our Carlisle team. I thought we were a second-place car all night, really. I thought the 4 was head and shoulders above everyone else, but I thought we were second-best, for sure. That was a fun race, for sure. I really wanted to win one for Dewayne and his family. He passed away earlier this week and was a fabricator at our shop. We are thinking about him. I wanted to win for him. Maybe we will get one for that family here in the next couple.”

Harvick dominated the first half of the 334-lap race, including wins of both of the 85-lap stages that made up the first 170-laps and leading 110 laps across the two stages. After taking the lead with a two-tire pit stop during a competition caution that came out on lap 30, he led most of the way to the conclusion of stage two.

Blaney started on the pole and led until pit stops during the competition caution.

A lengthy cycle of green-flag pit stops after lap 125 put several other drivers up front before ducking to pit road. Harvick finally took the lead back on lap 159 when he passed Jimmie Johnson, who had yet to pit.

Several playoff drivers struggled early. Martin Truex Jr. and Airc Almirola were among a handful of drivers who started in the back, Truex for an engine change and Almirola for an unapproved body modification after inspection. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and William Byron also were relegated to the back for the initial green flag because of multiple failed pre-race inspections. NASCAR determined during the race that a mistake was made by relegating Johnson to the back to start the race for two failed inspections [NASCAR rules allow two, but not three], but by that time, it was too little, too late, to correct the mistake.

“There is no format for the teams to communicate to the tower, so whatever the tower says is the way it is,” Johnson said. ”This is just one of a few calls that have been wrong due to that situation. I don’t know how they do it. Here, we have a minute and a half under caution, but at Bristol you’ve got 30 seconds. I don’t think it’s a perfect environment for them to get it right all the time. Stuff happens.”

Johnson was fourth after a two-tire stop during a lap 224 caution for Daniel Suarez, but the strategy was for naught, as he was penalized for a crew member going over the pit wall too soon.

Playoff driver Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin made contact on the first lap, resulting in unscheduled pit stops early for both drivers. Another playoff driver, Kyle Busch was nabbed speeding on pit road during the competition caution.

By the end of the opening stage at lap 85, all but one playoff driver, Bowyer, had recovered enough to get inside the top-10 of the running order. Meanwhile, Bowyer’s problems continued with a pit road penalty for a crew member going over the pit wall too soon during the stage-two cycle of green-flag stops. As a result of his struggles, Bowyer was multiple laps down for much of the race after starting on the front row.

After green-flag stops, both Kyle Busch and Truex reported vibrations. Truex was able to stay out until stage end, but Busch made an unscheduled stop, going a lap down. Truex had to make an unscheduled stop later, on lap 247, for another vibration, giving up the seventh position. He made matters worse by driving through too many pit stops when he made his stop.

After dominating the first two stages, Harvick began the third and final 164-lap stage in the fourth position after taking four tires. Logano, Keselowski and Kurt Busch took two to restart in front of Harvick for the final stage.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Almirola, Truex and Austin Dillon. Two playoff drivers finished outside the top-10 — Kyle Busch in 17th and Bowyer in 26th.

Below, is the complete finishing order of the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway:

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Posted by on November 5, 2018. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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