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

Martin Truex Jr

As a result, the only way by which Almirola's point total can possibly pass that of Truex Jr. - and even if this happens, it isn't guaranteed to do so - is if Almirola wins the race, at which point his point total will no longer matter for him anyway since he will have automatically clinched a berth in the Championship 4 because of the fact that wins automatically qualify drivers for the next round of the playoffs no matter which round is next. His team made an engine change in the No. 78 Toyota after practice.

However, Almirola now trails the Championship 4 cut line by 57 points, meaning that he must win the final race of the round of 8, the Can-Am 500, at ISM Raceway in order to advance to the Championship 4. "Today we earned our way in, and we're going to race again next week (at Phoenix) and try to win another race and then see what we can do at Homestead".

Streaking away from pole victor Ryan Blaney during an overtime restart on Lap 336, Harvick won Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway with the utmost of authority, sweeping the stages and leading a race-high 177 laps on the way to his series-best eighth victory of the season and a guaranteed spot in the November 18 Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Kyle Busch was 17th and Bowyer 26th after starting on the front row but making contact with Denny Hamlin on the first lap. "We nearly caught him the first restart up top and then I did on the second one". If that is the way he wants to race me when he is already locked into Homestead and we are out here fighting for our lives, that is fine.

When the green-flag cycle of stops had completed on Lap 160, Harvick returned to the lead, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Blaney, Truex and Keselowski.

A caution with 38 laps to go created an interesting kink in the pit strategy of many who debated whether or not to pit for tires and fuel, that being the looming question mark throughout Sunday's race. "To start exactly where we were I think is a decent day".

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Logano's differing pit strategy kept his rivals guessing late into the race.

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

Logano said they were still racing at the end in a tight turn. He had qualified 23rd for his 600th start with Chad Knaus as his crew chief. Logano finished third a week after securing his playoff spot.

The only stress for Harvick was lane choice for the overtime.

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