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Despite 9-Win Season, Kevin Harvick Among 4 Eliminated From Title Race at Martinsville

Seven drivers entered the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway with a chance to claim one of three spots up for grabs in the championship race, so no matter what happened, four were going to go home unhappy.

What nobody expected was for Kevin Harvick to be one of them.

Harvick, whose nine wins and stellar 7.1 average finish will go down as not just a dominant season but one of the finest a driver has put together in the modern era of NASCAR, was eliminated from the title race after a last-lap charge fell short. Harvick needed just one more position as the white flag flew, and he showed he was willing to do anything to get it – even spin Kyle Busch coming to the checkers. The only problem with that was Harvick got in so deep underneath Busch he went around as well, in the end falling eight points outside of the championship picture.

Harvick, the regular season winner, took a swipe at the format after the race.

“These championships aren’t like when Petty and Earnhardt used to win them,” Harvick said. “You have to put together three weeks at a time.

“I’ve been punched in the gut a lot harder. We won nine races, had a great year, and, like I said, the championship is kind of a bonus. It would be great to win it, obviously, but I’d rather go through the year and win races and do the things that we did and just came up short.”

Also leaving the 2020 hunt with a consolation prize were Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch.

All three took turns leading laps on Sunday, with Truex leading four times for 129 laps before a loose wheel ended his bid in 22nd place, and Kurt Busch in front once early on for 23 circuits. He finished fifth, one spot ahead of Bowman who led just one lap on the day.

“I thought it was perfect, I don’t know what I could have done different to make it better,” Truex said of his No. 19 on Sunday before the wheel issue.

“It was going to be a hell of a race,” he added.

The title race will take place Sunday, Nov. 8 at Phoenix Raceway. Martinsville winner Chase Elliott joins Kansas winner Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin as the drivers eligible to win this year’s Bill France Cup.

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About Amy Henderson

Amy Henderson
Amy is a 15-year veteran writer and a five-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. Amy pens The Big 6 (Mondays) Frontstretch 5 (Wednesdays) and Holding A Pretty Wheel (monthly - Fridays). A New Hampshire native living in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits extend everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports.


  1. Avatar

    9 wins and isn’t in contention to win the title. Hamlin even said Harvick deserved to be in it at Phoenix!

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      Remember a few seasons ago when they said winning was going to mean something again. Guess that was just another lie….

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    I’m still trying to wrap my head around this. It feels like a travesty.

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      Carl D – me roo

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        You have issues. He won 9 races and finished 2nd 4 times this year. Who, as a driver, in their right mind would not go for the last spot as he did. Edwards? Johnson? Sr? Gordon? Wallace? Plus many many others have tried to bump their way to a win or more points. Read his interview. Regular season Champ deserves a final-4 spot…after beating everyone in points by a full race…what are a few?

  3. Avatar

    The travesty started when they went to this format. Both Penske drivers have a chance to be two time champions, sorry Kevin. He looked shell shocked.

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    Brian and NA$CAR have been trying since 2004 to find a system that guarantees the driver with the most wins gets the title. How has that worked out? There is only one way to do it…eliminate all other finishing positions and just count wins and ONLY wins for the title. But what happens if three drivers tie for most wins? ONLY WINS COUNT. But I’d be willing to bet that NA$CAR will do everything it can to insure that one of the fake four wins the final race and therefore “earns” the tile of chase winner. But there is no guarantee that will happen either.

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    Plus 46 going in, so now the new nickname is CHOKE. This choke will Always be talked about.

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    There is no doubt Harvick had the best season of anyone. Most wins, most top 5s, most top 10s, most laps led, etc. and, based solely on performance, he deserves the championship more than anyone else. I have to say I am glad he was eliminated for two reasons. The first, it makes NASCAR’s process look stupid and arbitrary. The second, because Harvick is a piss poor competitor. I had almost thought he’d grown up some and had gotten a little classier with age. Several years ago, when his back was against the wall and he was going to fall out of contention, he chose to wreck half the field on a late restart at Talladega rather than graciously accepting his fate. This year in a similar position he chose to purposely and flagrantly try to wreck Kyle Busch on the last lap to maybe get a point. What a terrible role model for everyone. No class. No sense of decency. I guess someone like that never changes and will always resort to dirty tactics. Not surprised but disappointing. NASCAR deserves a better champion so I am glad he choked. What a runt.

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      Some of Harvick’s post-race shenanigans have shown that he’s an instigator. Still, the cup title doesn’t go to the nicest, friendliest driver. It (ideally) goes to the driver with the best on-track results over the season. Except this year, it won’t. It cheapens the the championship, or at least it feels that way to me now. I’m a Keselowski fan, but I would have loved to see Brad have to beat Harvick for the title. The consolation for me is that the four guys left should wage a terrific battle for the championship next Sunday.

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        I am OK with post-race shenanigans and instigating. I am not alright with poor sportsmanship during competition. There is a right way to win and a wrong way. There used to be an old saying that kids were taught… “It not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” I know in the 21st century it’s an antiquated concept but I still expect some level of sportsmanship.

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          I’m with you Bill. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Harvick may have won 9 races this year but he’s still a bonehead. All the stupid stuff he’s done over the years, from parking his car in another’s pit stall to driving his burning car into a crowded Bristol infield and walking away and the Talladega restart. Didn’t surprise me a bit what he did today. I laughed when he did more damage to himself. I also thought he had matured. Wrong.

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          I agree…. I would NOT have wanted to see Harvick get in by wrecking Kyle Busch.

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            look at the way Hamlin got in, with team orders to Eric Jones not to pass Hamlin, What are we turning into F-1

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    Harvick will never have class, never. People always get on immature Kyle but Kevin has been a petulant baby since he arrived. He is sneaky and hides it well. I’m thrilled he isn’t in the championship hunt. The final seconds show he deserves where he ended up. The ultimate CHOKER. JJ was the Closer DW.

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    This is not the first time most wins under this format didn’t get what they “deserve”. So now everybody is pissed? What because of the nice guy Kevin? Oh please. Harvick has the maturity of a 3 year old and I mean no insult to 3 year olds. He is just not a nice guy. Does anybody watch his PRI’s? He is a prick. Maybe the “outrage” NASCAR media is now seething over, they can storm CASTLE DAYTONA with their pitchforks and torches. They seem to not care when others were illuminated via the exact same format. Oh darn……..

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      “eliminated” not “illuminated”, fixed it for ya….

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      Thanks Ricki!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I didn’t finish first grade. I had to work at cutting coupons for the local thug in our neighborhood, my family was poor. They thought the thug paid well, and I was good with scissors! My spelling is well, just bad because my edumacation did not mattriculate beyond the firsty grade!!!!!!

  9. Avatar

    I bet Kevin’s in trouble with Delana after that one.

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    So will NASCAR look at the “team orders” from JGR and replace Denny with Kevin? Stay tuned!

    “NASCAR will review Kevin Harvick wrecking Kyle Busch on the last lap in an effort to gain that position to advance to the Championship 4. Series officials also will review radio conversations to see if Erik Jones was told not to pass Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin late in the race to help Hamlin maintain his spot in the Championship 4.

    Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, stated on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the sanctioning body will examine both matters Monday.”

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      Good! They should review it.
      They may penalize Harvick because he’s out now but I doubt they will have the balls to do anything to Hamlin because he is a final 4 driver and they wouldn’t want to taint their precious finale. So if Hamlin got a penalty who would be the 4th driver (assuming Harvick got penalized too)?

      It would be Bowman right? Watch out Doninajax…. your head might explode if that happens. : )

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      There is proof of communication telling Erik Jones not to pass Hamlin. What NASCAR does about it, we shall see.

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      It would be (if true) a glorious moment if NASCAR actually did the right thing, whatever that is.

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    i hope Harvick wins at Phoenix next week so he can make a total joke out of these stupid NASCAR playoffs, Harvick 9 win not in the championship, Last year Matt Crafton won the truck title win Zero wins, That right there show how stupid NASCAR’s playoffs are

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      NA$CAR will make sure that only one of the four will win at Phoenix. Just as Larson and J-Jo. They’ll start out front and stay there the whole distance and any driver threatening them will be told to back off. It’ll start in the drivers meeting and the TV shills in the booth will concentrate on the four and nobody else. “Through The Field” will be four cars. Just like the events from the past. What I’d like to see happen is the four get involved in a big wreck and can’t finish the event so the winner is the highest placing driver of the four. The four finish 31,32, 33 and 34.

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