Harvick Wins in the Lone Star State, Locks into Miami

Everything’s bigger in Texas. This includes the tempers that boiled over from last week’s race in Martinsville, leaving a sense of retaliation lingering in the air. For example, while Joey Logano tried to put his fight with Denny Hamlin behind them, Hamlin brought it front and centre with immature and feisty interviews over the course of the entire weekend. Meanwhile, Aric Almirola’s threat of making Kyle Busch’s next 3 races “hell” was still making headlines up until the green flag. However, when said flag flew, it appeared that drivers were more talk than they were walk. Whether retaliation will actually be delivered remains to be seen in the next 2 races.

LAP 1: Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick was under pressure from P2-starter Erik Jones from the drop of the green flag. Jones was scored as the leader of the first lap, but Harvick quickly settled into a rhythm and pulled away with the top spot.

CAUTION – LAP 10: Chase Elliott, a playoff driver who was already 44 points outside of a transfer spot, tried a new groove in Turn 2 that ran 2 tires on the untouched track and 2 tires in the PJ1 traction compound on the high side. His #9 Chevrolet Camero snapped sideways and hit the wall, causing a huge amount of right-side and right rear damage. After pitting, Elliott was 3 laps down, a stat that would continually increase as the race went on, eventually finishing 21 laps down to the leaders.

CAUTION – LAP 16: The yellow flag waved again for debris on the track after one of the brake markers fell off the fence and smashed on the backstretch.

CAUTION – LAP 44: The #32 of Corey LaJoie spun and smacked the wall in Turn 4 in a very similar fashion to Chase Elliott just 30 laps prior. Leader Kevin Harvick and a bunch of other drivers came to pit road, while Clint Bowyer and a handful of others stayed out, making Bowyer the leader for the restart.

CAUTION – LAP 54: Just like Lajoie and Elliott, Brad Keselowski made the same mistake in the PJ1 high groove.  However, instead of running 2 tires in and 2 out, he placed his #2 Ford completely in but didn’t have enough grip to make the corner. Keselowski spun in Turn 4 and made heavy contact with the wall. Directly behind him, Ricky Stenhouse Jr got caught up in the compound as well and began to slide sideways into the wall in sync with Keselowski. Stenhouse plowed into the rear of the #2, which sent Keselowski into the infield grass. Both cars were destroyed, giving both drivers a DNF.

CAUTION – LAP 71: Once again, Corey LaJoie spun in Turn 3, this time wrecking the left side of his car, as opposed to the right side he wrecked earlier. Lajoie finally retired from the race with considerable damage.

CAUTION – LAP 80: Denny Hamlin and his #11 Toyota Camry took a big hit when the car snapped loose and sent him into the infield. Hamlin skidded through a patch of grass and then was violently shot into the next area of grass after the splitter on the #11 bounced over a strip of pavement. Hamlin was able to make repairs and continue in the race, 2 laps down.

STAGE 1 END – LAP 85: After a 2-lap shootout following the previous caution, Kevin Harvick outran his teammate Clint Bowyer for the stage win, taking 10 playoff points. Bowyer, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 10. The majority of cars pitted during the stage break, while Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman, and a handful of others stayed out on old tires.

LAP  114: Jimmie Johnson continued to lead with Aric Almirola working his way to 2nd and Daniel Suarez in third. For a race that started with 6 cautions just in the first stage, it was surprising that Stage 2 ran so cleanly.

LAP 139: Aric Almirola passed Johnson for the lead on the outside. Shortly after, Johnson came to pit road for a full pitstop of 4 tires and fuel.

STAGE 2 END – LAP 170: Almirola crossed the line 5.5 seconds ahead of Erik Jones to win the stage. Johnson, Larson, and Harvick completed the top 5. During pit stops, Daniel Suarez took the lead and stayed in P1 following the restart.

CAUTION – LAP 185: Jimmie Johnson got loose in Turn 2 and spun in front of the field. Johnson narrowly scraped the wall and brought out the 9th caution of the day. During pit stops, Kevin Harvick was penalized when his team placed a tire in the pit box, but didn’t change the tires on the car. Harvick began his fight through the field after serving the penalty.

CAUTION – LAP 190: On the restart, the #38 of David Ragan and the #52 of Garrett Smithly made hard contact and both went into the wall. Both cars were wrecked and the drivers’ days ended early.

LAP 201: The Stewart-Haas teammates of Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez began battling and swaping the lead back and forth.

CAUTION – LAP 242: Bubba Wallace in the #43 had a left rear tire go down and spun on the apron of Turn 2. This triggered the final caution flag of the day and put Kevin Harvick back in the lead after pit stops.

LAP 314: When green flag pit stops completed, Kevin Harvick cycled back to the top spot with a comfortable distance between him and Almirola.

CHECKERED FLAG – LAP 334: Kevin Harvick crossed the line 1.8 seconds ahead of Almirola to lock himself into the final 4 that will race for a championship in two weeks at Miami-Homestead.

RESULTS:

  1. Kevin Harvick
  2. Aric Almirola
  3. Daniel Suarez
  4. Joey Logano
  5. Alex Bowman
  6. Martin Truex Jr
  7. Kyle Busch
  8. Ryan Blaney
  9. Kurt Busch
  10. Erik Jones
  11. Clint Bowyer
  12. Kyle Larson
  13. Austin Dillon
  14. Matt DiBenedetto
  15. Ryan Newman
  16. Daniel Hemric
  17. William Byron
  18. Ty Dillon
  19. Chris Buescher
  20. Paul Menard
  21. John H Nemechek
  22. Parker Kligerman
  23. Ryan Preece
  24. Bubba Wallace
  25. Michael McDowell
  26. JJ Yeley
  27. Landon Cassill
  28. Denny Hamlin
  29. Joe Nemechek
  30. Josh Bilicki
  31. Ross Chastain
  32. Chase Elliott
  33. Quin Houff
  34. Jimmie Johnson
  35. David Ragan
  36. Garrett Smithley
  37. Timmy Hill
  38. Corey LaJoie
  39. Brad Keselowski
  40. Ricky Stenhouse Jr

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