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.
One last effort … and then heartbreak for @KevinHarvick.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) November 1, 2020
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.”
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.