Kevin Harvick wins at Texas, advances to Championship 4; so does Truex

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Kevin Harvick took advantage of a Martin Truex Jr. mistake with 10 laps to go, took the lead and held on for the win in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

In earning his first Cup win at Texas, Harvick had been chasing Truex for more than 10 laps when Truex wiggled in Turn 2 on Lap 324. Harvick took the lead and held off Truex the remainder of the way.

“Damn, it’s good to be in victory lane here at Texas,” Harvick said in a fronstretch interview after the race on NBCSN. “I waited until the end and got (Truex) loose.”

By winning, Harvick becomes the second driver to have an automatic berth in the NASCAR Cup championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks. Kyle Busch is the other, having won last Sunday at Martinsville.

Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart is bullish on Harvick’s championship chances, telling NBCSN, “I’ve seen this movie. I know how this one ends. … When we get locked in like that, he rises to the occasion.”

Harvick, who has now won 37 career Cup races, is seeking his second NASCAR Cup title, having won the inaugural title under the new playoff format in 2014.

Even though he failed to win for a seventh time on a 1.5-mile track this season, Truex still leaves Texas a happy man, knowing he has also advanced to the Championship 4 race on points, leaving just one spot remaining to be filled next week in the penultimate race of the season at Phoenix.

“It’s been an awesome season,” Truex said. “I love this team. We’re really excited about Homestead and looking forward to get another win.”

Truex finished second, followed by Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski.

Sixth through 10th were Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones.

Harvick led 34 laps, while Truex led the most laps (103).

Stage 2 winner Kyle Larson suffered his third straight DNF, hitting the wall hard on Lap 282, leading to a fire in the rear of his Chevrolet.

Larson was able to get out of the car safely, but the race was put under a 10 minute, 29 second red flag stoppage for track cleanup.

“It’s frustrating because I knew I had the best car,” Larson told NBCSN. “Tried to find some stuff and you get in the wall. … I can’t wait for the last lap at Homestead.”

STAGE WINNERS: Kevin Harvick (Stage 1), Kyle Larson (Stage 2)

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Even though his wiggle 10 laps from the finish cost him the win, Martin Truex Jr. still had a great day, knowing he clinched a spot on points for the championship-deciding race in two weeks at Miami. … One day after announcing he will likely be on hiatus next season, Matt Kenseth finished fourth.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Clint Bowyer’s rough season continued. He finished 38th, seeing his day end after just 202 laps due to apparent gear problems. … Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson struggled miserably, finishing 27th, three laps behind the leaders.

NOTABLE: Truex’s average in the playoffs is 2.28 (minus his Talladega finish). … Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch were involved in a first-lap crash that put both drivers one lap down of the leaders. But they both battled back through the first two stages, and finished fifth (Keselowski) and 19th (Busch), respectively.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s been quite a year. It’s been a lot of work for the guys to get to where we are today. I’m really proud of everybody at Stewart Haas for what we’ve done and hopefully we can do it again in Homestead.” – Race winner Kevin Harvick.

WHAT’S NEXT: Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway; Sunday, Nov. 12, 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.