Truex trying to keep focus on his title shot

Joey Logano

Joey Logano

Kevin Harvick has won at Texas to earn a shot at another NASCAR Cup championship. By time they got to the backstretch, Harvick had pushed his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Ford in front of Blaney and raced to his eighth win of this season and 45th overall.

Blaney held on to finish second. Blaney led seven laps before Harvick went under him and was again putting distance between them before Joey Gase's spin brought out the last of eight cautions.

With Joey Logano and Harvick locked in after winning the past two races, the series goes to Phoenix next week with only two spots up for grabs for the championship run at Homestead in two weeks. He was able to pull away from Logano and Harvick on the final stage restart, soon being accompanied by Ryan Blaney as Penske drivers ran 1-2-3 on Lap 181.

"You need to capitalize on every moment, on every fast vehicle, on every chance you have to win a championship because at some point there's going to be some tougher times in there".

Truex has a 25-point cushion on the current playoff cutoff going into the second race of the three-race third (semifinal) round of the Cup playoffs, ESPN notes.

Almirola's anger was at least interesting - even if his is a misguided belief that Logano should go easy on drivers still chasing the remaining two spots in the season finale.

The second stage ended on lap 170 of the scheduled 334-lap race.

Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage also said the repaved Texas asphalt needs more weathering to improve the racing, which had only one real nugget of interest on the track all day: Aric Almirola took exception to Joey Logano racing him hard in the final stage.

Jimmie Johnson was sent to the rear of the field after the No. 48 Chevrolet twice failed prerace inspection.

He passed inspection on the third try, and should have been able to start in his original qualifying spot.

Harvick was the only one of so-called Big Three to avoid trouble on Sunday.

Clint Bowyer, who started on the front row but had contact with Denny Hamlin on the first lap, was the only of the remaining title contenders outside of the top 10.

At one point he dropped to 26 in the running order and two laps down.

Neither Truex nor Kyle Busch had a great race on Sunday, though they salvaged reasonable results to stay well above the playoff cut line. He also had a pass-through penalty during the race for driving through too many pit boxes, and was a lap down before getting that back one the first of the late cautions. Almirola qualified fourth, before unapproved body modifications.

The Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19, driven by Daniel Suárez, and the JTG-Daugherty No. 37 driven by Chris Buescher have also changed engines and will start the AAA 500 from the back.

The competition caution was put into place after heavy rain overnight washed rubber off the track.

The win put Harvick back in the winner's circle for the first time since August, when he won at Michigan Motor Speedway. The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion showed his motivation that was sparked by last week's playoff finish where he and Logano clashed, forcing him to relinquish the lead and end up in third. Matt DiBenedetto (qualified 31st) will go to the rear for a transmission change. He had qualified 23rd for his 600th start with Chad Knaus as his crew chief.

Defending NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex starting from the back of the field in Texas.

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