NASCAR America: Kevin Harvick separates from the Big 3 after Texas win

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Before winning the Cup race at Texas, Kevin Harvick went five races without scoring a top five. Many wondered what was happening. With his Texas win, Harvick is now locked into the championship four and opinions have changed to make him the favorite to win the the Cup title.

“How are they going to slow Kevin Harvick and his team down?” Jeff Burton asked on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “I just think they are the fastest.

“I think Kevin Harvick is now the favorite. I think he’s the clear cut favorite. I would go so far as to say that Joey Logano is second, ahead of (Martin) Truex (Jr.) and ahead of Kyle Busch because of how well they ran this weekend.”

Harvick’s win was especially meaningful because it was on a 1.5-mile track. It’s the last race on a 1.5-mile track until the championship event Nov. 18 in Miami on NBC.

A series of mistakes at Texas kept Truex and Busch from challenging for top-five finishes.

After changing an engine and starting at the rear of the field for the second consecutive week, Truex made his way to fifth at the end of Stage 1. He was third at the end of Stage 2.

Then he fell outside the top five and was running seventh when he pitted for a severe vibration on Lap 247. Truex was penalized for driving through too many pit boxes – dropping him off the lead lap.

Truex received the free pass on a Lap 298 caution and eventually made his way to ninth.

“We need a little more speed to run with the Fords – they’re clearly really, really fast right now,” Truex said after the race. “If this is last year, they would all be complaining that we’re too fast so I don’t know if I should do a (Brad) Keselowski and start whining about it or not. They’re really fast and if we’re off just a little bit we can’t run with them. We were off a little bit today. On the short run, they were really fast, but on the long run I thought we were as good as anybody, but just never got to show it. Track position was so, so hard to get.”

On Lap 70, Busch incurred a speeding penalty and was never able to get back on sequence with the leaders. He was awarded the free pass on the Lap 332 caution, but did not have time to overcome starting at the tail-end of the longest line. Busch finished 17th.

But it was more than mistakes and bad luck. Truex and Busch simply didn’t show enough speed according to Nate Ryan.

“When you look at the rest of the Big 3, Truex and Kyle Busch weren’t very good Sunday for much of the race,” Ryan said.