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Kevin Harvick celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)

Kevin Harvick celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)


Kevin Harvick celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)


Kevin Harvick takes a photo with a young fan after winning a NASCAR Cup auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)


Harvick earns his shot at NASCAR Cup title with win at Texas

By STEPHEN HAWKINS

AP Sports Writer

Monday, November 5

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Kevin Harvick gave the checkered flag to a young fan he brought onto the track to take a selfie — one with the winning driver and car that will have a shot at another NASCAR Cup championship.

Harvick rocketed past polesitter Ryan Blaney in overtime Sunday, after the third restart in the final 35 laps, to win the Texas fall race for the second year in a row and take one of the four championship-contending spots for the season finale in two weeks.

“We don’t come here to count our fingers and toes to try to figure out how we’re going to make it. We want to earn it,” said Harvick, who led 177 of 337 laps. “Today we earned our way in and we’re going to go and race again next week and try to win another race and see what we can do at Homestead.”

After taking the inside on the first two restarts, and briefly losing the lead after the second one, Harvick opted to start from outside for the green-white-checkered finish. By time they got to the backstretch, Harvick had pushed his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Ford in front of Blaney and raced to his eighth win of this season and 45th overall.

“I thought if I could keep him from finishing the corner I could drive back by him,” Harvick said. “It all worked out.”

Of Harvick’s 32 starts in the Lone Star State, his only two wins are the last two fall races to get into the final four. The 2014 Cup champion has 20 top-10 finishes at the 1 1/2-mile track. He won both stages Sunday, marking the fourth time this year he did that and went on to win the race.

With Harvick and Martinsville winner Joey Logano in the No. 22 Ford of Team Penske locked in, the series goes to Phoenix next week with only two spots up for grabs for the championship run at Homestead.

Kyle Busch, a seven-time winner this year, and defending Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. are among the other six title contenders. They are comfortably above the cut line for points, but Chase Elliott or any of Harvick’s three SHR teammates — Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch — could advance with a win in Phoenix.

Logano was third at Texas. Elliott was sixth, followed by Kurt Busch and Almirola, who had also gone to the rear at the start of the race for unapproved body modifications. Truex, who was close to clinching a title spot before that bump-and-run by Logano on the final lap to win at Martinsville last week, finished ninth.

Kyle Busch was 17th and Bowyer 26th after starting on the front row but making contact with Denny Hamlin on the first lap.

After the first of the late restarts, Harvick was on the inside and was able to keep Blaney from clearing him on the backstretch. Harvick was already starting to rebuild his lead — it had been nearly 4 seconds before the caution — when another yellow flag came out.

Harvick was on the inside again for the next restart, but Blaney was able to get by him for the lead. Blaney led seven laps before Harvick went under him and was again putting distance between them before Joey Gase’s spin brought out the last of eight cautions.

“They were hard. They were challenging,” Blaney said about the restarts. “That was really the only shot we had to beat him, to be honest with you. We got by him one restart and I just couldn’t hold him off. … The last one, he took the top, like I knew he was going to go. He motored around me.”

Truex had to start at the rear of the field because of an engine change. He also dealt with a loose tire and had a pass-through penalty during the race for driving through too many pit boxes, and was a lap down before getting that back one the first of the late cautions.

“We got a little bit of luck on our side after that to be able to get back on the lead lap. Happy about that for sure,” he said. “To start exactly where we were I think is a decent day. The only difference is there’s one less spot available.”

LOOK OUT LOGANO

Truex has vowed that Logano won’t win the Cup title after what happened at Martinsville. Now Almirola is upset with Logano after one of the late restarts in Texas.

“He just continues to make things harder on himself,” Almirola said.

After working himself back to the front of the field, Almirola said Logano “about wrecked” them both after coming down into his door in Turn 3.

“If that’s the way he wants to race me when he’s already locked into to Homestead and we’re out here fighting for our lives, that’s fine,” Almirola said. “When Homestead comes around, if I’m not in, he’ll know it.”

Logano said they were still racing at the end in a tight turn.

ERROR TO THE BACK, AND A SPIN

Jimmie Johnson was sent to the rear of the field after the No. 48 Chevrolet twice failed prerace inspection.

NASCAR later said it erred in penalizing Johnson at the start of the race because his car passed inspection the third time. He had qualified 23rd for his 600th start with Chad Knaus as his crew chief.

“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.”

Johnson’s teammate with Hendrick Motorsports, William Byron in the No. 24, was sent to the back of the field after three failed inspections.

Just short of 100 laps into the race, Johnson got loose and wiggled in front of Byron that led to contact and a spin for the No. 24.

UP NEXT: The last race in the third round of the playoffs, Sunday at Phoenix. Harvick won there for the ninth time earlier this season.

More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Kurt Busch vying for 2nd Cup title amid uncertain future

By STEPHEN HAWKINS

AP Sports Writer

Saturday, November 3

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Kurt Busch knows he took his first and only NASCAR Cup Series championship for granted.

The one that came 14 years ago with another team.

“If it happens again, I’ll appreciate it that much more,” Busch said Friday.

Now 40 years old and with an uncertain future after this season with Stewart-Haas Racing, Busch arrived at Texas just outside the top four with two races left before the finale at Homestead, where four drivers will race for the championship. Three of those spots are still up for grabs.

“We have all the confidence in the world, we have all the right to be in the position we’re in,” said Busch, fifth in the standings and 25 points out of fourth. “Black and white is we have to win. That way we control our destiny. We can still point our way in, and that’s been our strength, the consistency of our team this year.”

While Busch is still trying to clinch a spot, Joey Logano is the only driver already locked in for Homestead after his bump-and-run to get past defending Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. at Martinsville last weekend.

Truex was clearly upset after the race, when he vowed to prevent Logano from winning the title : “He may have won the battle, but he ain’t winning the damn war.” He sent a text to Logano later Sunday night.

“I didn’t expect to hear from him, so I wanted to tell him how I felt,” Truex said Friday in Texas. “I wanted to get his point of view and what he was thinking. What he thought about it. Now I know.”

Logano said he wasn’t surprised to hear from Truex.

“I am glad he did. It kind of broke the ice,” he said Friday. “I was planning on waiting a couple days to let things settle. It got a lot of things out of the way. We both know where we stand. We know where it is at. It is what it is and we move on.”

Seven other drivers are still competing for the final three spots. All four Stewart-Haas drivers — Busch, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola — are alive in the playoff chase, along with Truex, Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott.

While Kurt Busch has no contract yet for 2019 — he said there is “no movement on that” at this point — he is focused on trying to get another championship with the No. 41 Ford.

“It hasn’t been a distraction because I think the team and myself, we’ve all pushed that aside, and said let’s focus on the now and getting the best that we can with the mindset, the crew guys, just the overall atmosphere,” he said.

At Texas, Busch has 18 career top-10 finishes. He finished seventh here in April after winning a second consecutive pole at the 1 ½-mile track. His was going for a third consecutive pole Friday, but instead qualified seventh — the lowest of the four Stewart-Haas drivers.

Busch was driving for Jack Roush when he won his Cup title in 2004, having made his debut with that team in 2000. He went to Roger Penske in 2006, and drove for James Finch and Barney Visser before joining Gene Haas in 2014.

“When I chose to leave Roush Racing, I was young and I felt like the driver had more control over the situational events, and the way that a championship was brought together,” Busch said. “I realized quickly it’s more of a team that brings everything together, and then beyond the team is the connections and the overall health of your program with NASCAR and the way that things work.”

In his best season since winning the title, Busch finished fourth with Penske in 2009. His best since then was seventh for SHR two years ago. This season, Busch has 20 top-10 finishes, including one win among his six top-fives.

Busch still remembers what crew chief Jimmy Fennig used to tell him when he was a young driver for Roush.

“If you think for one instance you can’t win, make sure you go out and finish fifth,” Busch recalled. “That’s the mindset that I take from that championship run, and it’s helped me over the years. But the way you win now in this system is you have to win races to advance, and you have to win Homestead.”

And he knows he has to get there first.

More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Kevin Harvick celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121711911-a1a60def713c4e5797d2183571e71b7a.jpgKevin Harvick celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)

Kevin Harvick celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121711911-61126dd91ed74ac382de461e1f46248d.jpgKevin Harvick celebrates in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)

Kevin Harvick takes a photo with a young fan after winning a NASCAR Cup auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121711911-0da8b10b03bb4cc68bd19d6ffcbb0f62.jpgKevin Harvick takes a photo with a young fan after winning a NASCAR Cup auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
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