Kevin Harvick outruns Carl Edwards to win Hollywood Casino 400

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Kevin Harvick took advantage of Carl Edwards dueling with a teammate to lead the final 30 laps and win the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Harvick clinches a spot in the third round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup with the win.

The No. 4 was followed by Edwards, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.

Harvick, who led 74 laps, has won the second race in both rounds of the Chase so far. He won at New Hampshire in the first round.

“These races are hard to win and these guys are so good at the details,” Harvick told NBC Sports. “You put their backs against the wall and they get better.”

Harvick first took the lead on Lap 126 from Matt Kenseth, who led 116 laps before the halfway point before fading to finish ninth. Harvick then led 43 laps. In the middle of the race, a slow pit stop sent Harvick deep into the top 10, but Harvick returned to the point on the final restart. Edwards got into a tense battle with Busch, allowing Harvick to jump out to a 2.5-second lead.

Since the elimination format of the Chase debuted in 2014, Harvick has never been eliminated from a round.

“It’s hard to keep yourself motivated and perform at a high level, so to be able to come out and do it for three years says a lot about the character of this team and the things that they do,” Harvick said. “I’ve done a poor job (on restarts) the first half of the year. We struggled with some ratios and timing. We came up with some good ratios and things that really fit what we are doing.”

Harvick’s fourth win of the year gives him 35 Sprint Cup victories.

MORE: Race results

MORE: Point standings

HOW KEVIN HARVICK WON: Harvick overtook Carl Edwards on the final restart with 30 to go and led the rest of the way unchallenged.

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Carl Edwards led 61 laps and earned his first top five since Kentucky in July … Joey Logano finished third a week after placing 36th at Charlotte … Jimmie Johnson followed up his Charlotte win with a fourth-place finish … Alex Bowman bounced back from early contact with Jamie McMurray and an unscheduled pit stop to finish seventh for his career-best finish and his second top 10 … A.J. Allmendinger finished eighth for his sixth top 10 of the season and his first since Bristol in August … Kasey Kahne‘s 10th-place finish gives him six top 10s in the last seven races.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Aric Almirola and David Ragan caused a caution on Lap 37 when they got together. Almirola finished 40th, Ragan in 36th … Jamie McMurray hit the wall on Lap 44 after making contact with Alex Bowman. McMurray finished 37th … Kyle Larson hit the outside wall on Lap 177 to bring out the caution. Larson finished 30th … Brad Keselowski was turned by Denny Hamlin as they exited Turn 4 on Lap 190. Keselowski went sliding through the frontstretch grass, receiving significant damage. Keselowski finished 38th, earning his first DNF since the 2015 Daytona 500 … Denny Hamlin finished 15th after having to pit three times under one caution for splitter damage and being called for three pit road penalties late.

Notable: The last four Kansas races have been won by a different driver … Chevrolet has won 11 of the 22 Sprint Cup races held at Kansas.

Quote of the Day: “With this format I had a big points gap coming in. With this format it is probably the smart thing to do but I don’t want to race like that. I want to race my guts out and go for wins. I don’t want to points race. I don’t care what the damn format is, I am going to give it my best.” – Brad Keselowski after finishing 38th

NEXT: Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in must-win scenario at Kansas

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Going into Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway, Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are likely to be among the four drivers eliminated from playoff contention.

Stenhouse is 22 points back from the final transfer spot and McMurray is 29 points back.

Both drivers talked with NASCAR America before the race (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) about being in a must-win scenario to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Watch the above video for the interviews.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Kevin Harvick. His first oval win since Kansas Speedway a year ago validates the team’s 1.5-mile speed in the playoffs.

Dustin Long

Kyle Busch. Mark it down, he wins and advances to the next round to continue his quest for a second title.

Daniel McFadin

Martin Truex Jr. keeps his foot on the throat of the competition and gets his sixth win of the year at a 1.5-mile track.

Jerry Bonkowski

Kyle Larson is starting 13th but expect him to get to the top five within the first 20-30 laps. He needs a strong run to give him momentum heading into the Round of 8 and he gets it Sunday.

Furniture Row Racing crew member dies of heart attack

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – James “Jim” Watson, a fabricator for Furniture Row Racing, died Saturday night after suffering a heart attack, the team stated Sunday morning. Watson was 55.

A native of Greenfield, Wisconsin, Watson had been a member of Furniture Row Racing since February. He worked for Roush Fenway Racing from 2006-15 and spent last season with HScott Motorsports. He was a long-time racer, competing in dirt late models and asphalt super late models throughout Southeast Wisconsin.

Watson was with the team this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

He is survived by wife Laurie and daughter Brittany.

“On behalf of Furniture Row Racing we extend our deepest sympathies to Jim’s family,” said Joe Garone, president of Furniture Row Racing. “He was an outstanding and talented member of our racing family, whose life was dedicated to racing since his early days as a race-car driver in Wisconsin. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jim’s wife Laurie, daughter Brittany and to his entire family and friends. Our No. 77 and 78 teams will be racing with heavy hearts today.”

Ryan Blaney ready to prove doubters wrong

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Ryan Blaney has a bit of a chip on his shoulder this weekend.

The 23-year-old driver for the Wood Brothers seeks to hold off three former champions today at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) for a spot in the next round of the Cup playoffs.

Even though former champions Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth trail Blaney in the points, some say Blaney won’t hold them off and advance to the Round of 8.

“I’ve heard that all week that we don’t really deserve to be here, so that kind of ticked me off a little bit,’’ Blaney said Friday after qualifying.

“They just say we’ve been kind of overachieving or they didn’t expect us to be here. Those little things kind of make you a little bit irritated because our guys do just as good a job as anybody. They deserve to be here. They work their tails off like anybody else. Hopefully, we can prove that Sunday.’’

MORE: Wood Brothers lifeline started with a phone call

Blaney’s job, though, will be more difficult. He will start last in the 40-car field because his car failed inspection after qualifying. Kenseth (third), Busch (seventh) and Johnson (13th) all start in the top 15 and should be able to work their way into the top 10 to score stage points by Lap 80 when the first stage ends. Blaney will be challenged to do so and could see his advantage on each shrink. 

There’s hope for Blaney because he posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s final Cup practice. But he ranked ninth in average over 10 consecutive laps — behind Busch and Kenseth.

“There’s definitely things we can improve on,’’ Blaney said after placing third in Saturday’s Xfinity race. “(In the Cup race) everyone is going to be kind of married to the wall pretty early in a run. It might be hard to pass. Hopefully, we can work the bottom. I think the Cup cars might wear the top out, might over-rubber it where we have to move down a little bit.’’

With starting in the rear of the field, changing weather conditions (the wind is not expected to be as prevalent today as Saturday) and facing an elimination race, it would be easy for the pressure build on a driver and team.

“I really don’t feel that it’s a different weekend,’’ he said, alluding to the battle for the final playoff spots. “More people are paying attention to it because it’s a big deal. There’s four cars pretty much going for two spots. We try to approach it as any other weekend. It will be more challenging coming from the back.’’

Along with starting at the rear for the penalty, Blaney’s team had to pick last for pit stalls for failing inspection after qualifying.

His team would have had the third pick and he would have had an opening either before or after his stall, making it easier to either enter or exit. Now, he’ll be sandwiched between Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Provided both stay on the lead lap, Blaney could face challenges squeezing into his stall throughout the race.

“It doesn’t help our situation for sure,’’ Blaney said. “Those are two good cars. We’ll kind of be pitched between them all day. Dale actually sent me a text. Teams work well with each other about that. That will be tough for us. That will be another challenge.’’

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