NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Kevin Harvick Comes in Clutch, Wins at Kansas Speedway

Heading into Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, Kevin Harvick sat eight points below the Chase cutoff after having a problem with his ECU unit last weekend in Charlotte, finishing 38th. At Kansas, the driver of the No. 4 car rebounded to lead 74 laps en route to his fourth victory of 2016.

It was a late-race restart that awarded Harvick the victory. He passed Carl Edwards on the opening lap of the last stint of the race and never gave back the lead over the final 30 circuits.

“These races are hard to win and these guys [crew members] are so good at the details,” Harvick said. “If you put their backs up against the wall, they get better. To do this for the third straight year it really says a lot about them.”

The victory is Harvick’s second career win at Kansas, the last coming in 2013 for Richard Childress Racing. It also jumps the No. 4 team to the Round of 8 for the third consecutive year, the only driver to achieve that feat heading into Talladega.

“We struggled the first half of the year with ratios and timing,” Harvick said. “We came up with some things to help what we were doing and some processes to get better on the restarts and it’s paid of for us twice in the Chase.”

Edwards led 61 laps on the afternoon at his home track. After Harvick passed the No. 19 car on the last restart, Kyle Busch had come up to battle his teammate on new tires, but the hometown driver prevailed.

“I feel like we had the race under control if it kept going green,” Edwards said. “On that restart, Jimmie [Johnson] got behind Kevin and pushed him just enough out there going into Turn 1 that I couldn’t hang and slow Kevin down because he broke the draft. The race with Kyle was a real battle and it let Kevin get out ahead.”

This marks Edwards’ first top-5 finish since Kentucky in early July, 12 races ago.

Two-time defending winner at Kansas Joey Logano came home in third and sits on the Chase bubble heading into Talladega. Johnson finished fourth after starting 21st, with Busch rounding out the top 5, though he was not pleased with how his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate raced him in the closing stages.

Austin Dillon rebounded from a crash at Charlotte to finish sixth and now sits in a tie for the eighth position in the Chase with Logano. Alex Bowman was the first non-Chase driver in seventh, a career-high for the third-year driver. AJ Allmendinger spent much of the afternoon in the top 10, coming home in eighth. Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top 10.

Kenseth led a race-high 116 laps on Sunday, but got into the wall on Lap 127, handing the lead over to Harvick, the first time anyone had passed the No. 20 car all day. During that run, the No. 20 car dropped outside the top 10, running approximately 15th for a significant chunk of the second half of the race.

Martin Truex, Jr. led the remaining Chase drivers, finishing 11th. Kurt Busch came from the back of the field to 13th. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin fought a bunch of problems and called his day “a disaster” finished 15th. Chase Elliott led four laps, but finished 31st after having two left rear tires go flat. Brad Keselowski finished 38th, the worst of the 12 Chase drivers.

On Lap 190, Keselowski spun off the grille of Hamlin coming out of Turn 4, tearing up the front end of the No. 2 car when it reached the infield grass. Though taking blame for the crash, the Team Penske driver sits seven points out of the Chase.

“I don’t know,” Keselowski said from the garage. “Obviously, I spun out, got in the grass and it tore the nose off. I probably could have raced a little bit less hard because I had a big points gap coming here and with this format that’s probably the smarter thing to do, but I don’t want to race like that. I want to race my guys out and go for wins. I don’t want to point’s race. I want to go out and give it my best.”

As the series shifts to the final restrictor plate race of 2016, Logano is the defending winner. As far as the Chase is concerned, Elliott is the only driver that is in a must-win situation, sitting 25 points behind the cutoff.

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