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NASCAR Cup: Kevin Harvick claims third-straight win of Texas fall race

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 03: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer/Ducks Unlimited Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 03, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Kevin Harvick claimed his third-straight AAA Texas 500 win at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth on Sunday. It was his fourth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the season and secured his spot in the championship four in two weeks in the 2019 season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“Well, we’ve already been going down the road (to the championship race),” Harvick said. “They’ve already built the car, picked a direction. Like we talked about earlier, we’ve got so many things that ‑‑ so many things that you had to choose from from an aero standpoint, and Homestead is such a unique racetrack.  We’ve already been to the simulator; we’ve already built the car, and now we’ve just got to make sure that we do what we think is right and go with our gut and see what happens.”

Harvick led a Stewart-Haas sweep of the top-three, with teammates Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez finishing second and third.

“That was a very solid night, and I am very happy with the performance and speed that we brought from the shop,” Suarez said. “Everyone back at the shop did a great job. We knew we would be fast here. We had a solid performance here last time. We did a good job. We had good execution and a good clean day. I am very happy for Stewart-Haas Racing and the 41 Ford Mustang was pretty sporty. I am very happy for Kevin getting his ticket for Homestead.”

Harvick was one of two playoff drivers in the top-10 at the finish, as Joey Logano finished fourth. Alex Bowman rounded out the top-five.

Harvick led a race-high 119 laps of the 334 that made up the race but was mired in the back in the middle portion of the race after a penalty for equipment over the pit wall too soon during a caution early in the final 164-lap stage of the race.

“Well, we had a bad restart one time when we got buried back there, but I think as we came in, we put another set of tires on, we were really able to make up some time,” Harvick said. ”Our car was just so fast through (turns) three and four, as long as I could keep my momentum up, I could get up beside him. So it was definitely fast, and speed made up for our Ducks Unlimited Busch Beer Ford Mustang tonight what we lacked a little bit in handling.”

After Suarez and Almirola combined to lead and ran first and second early in the final stage, Harvick took second from Suarez and the lead from Almirola on lap 256. Harvick led most of the remaining laps, except for a few laps led by another playoff driver, Kyle Busch, before Busch made his final stop. Busch’s car stalled on pit road when he ran out of gas, but he still managed to finish seventh, behind Martin Truex Jr., who, like Harvick, has secured his spot in the championship four with his win a week ago at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

The opening 85-lap stage, won by Harvick, was attrition-filled, as the yellow flag waved six times by the first green and white checkered flag. The high number of cautions resulted in varying pit strategies and the casualties included playoff drivers Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

Elliott brought out the first caution of the race when he hit the wall on lap nine. After repairs, he continued, several laps down and significantly slower than the frontrunners. Hamlin’s problem came near the end of the stage. He spun into the infield grass, and his car suffered significant damage underneath after getting off the ground slightly. As a result of the damage, he went multiple laps down in the second stage.

Hamlin was 28th and Elliott 32nd at the checkered flag.

Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also were claimed in the first-stage carnage. Keselowski wrecked first on lap 54, and Stenhouse, then, wrecked in his efforts to avoid Keselowski’s wrecking car.

“We got our car better, there, and we were running top-five, but with the flip-flop of track position, we made an adjustment, and I got running (turns) one and two really good and passed some really good cars. Then, we got around to Brad, there in one and two, and he got loose underneath me and almost crashed us down there,” Stenhouse said. “We lost a lot of track position. Then, going into turn three, there, I was running the top and saw him getting loose. When I checked up, my car got loose as well. I was just trying to avoid him, and it got mine sideways. It is a bummer of a weekend. Our Fastenal Mustang was really fast, and I was having fun until then.”

Harvick and Erik Jones ran first and second in the opening laps of the race after starting the race on the front row with Harvick on the pole. Jones gave up second to pit during a lap-14 caution, and Harvick gave up the lead to pit during a lap-43 caution.

Jones inherited the lead with Harvick’s pit stop, but on lap 49, Havick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer took the lead. Bowyer led 36 laps before Harvick got back to the front and passed him for the lead on a one-lap, green-flag run to end the stage. Harvick led 43 laps in the opening stage. Jones led the other six laps.

Almirola, won stage two after cycling to the lead after a green-flag cycle of stops completed with a Kyle Busch pit stops in the final 10 laps of the stage that ended at lap 170.

After the seventh caution came after the end of the opening 85-lap stage, the second stage ran caution free. The varying strategies throughout stage one continued to include the seventh caution, and Hendrick Motorsports Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson stayed out at the end of the first stage to restart on the front row for stage two.

Johnson took the lead from his teammate, and on lap 109, Almirola took second from Johnson and battled him for the lead until they made their green-flag stops. Pit sequences weren’t so varied in the second stage without cautions, but strategies were with some teams taking fuel only, some taking two tires and others four.

Johnson led 40 laps in the second stage but spun and hit the wall early in the final 164-lap stage of the race. He retired later after failing to meet minimum speed.

In all five playoff drivers finished in the top-10, as Ryan Blaney finished eighth.

Kurt Busch and Jones, both already eliminated from the playoffs, rounded out the top-10 in ninth and 10th.

Joining Hamlin and Elliott as playoff drivers outside the top-10 at the checkered flag was Kyle Larson in 13th.

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

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Posted by on November 4, 2019. 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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