DOVER, Del. (AP) — Kevin Harvick regained the NASCAR Cup Series victory lead with his seventh, dominating Sunday at Dover International Speedway.
A day after Denny Hamlin opened with doubleheader weekend with his sixth win to match Harvick, the Stewart-Haas racing driver one-upped his closest rival to claim NASCAR’s regular-season title. Harvick has 56 career Cup victories to tied Kyle Busch for ninth on the career list.
Harvick swept the stages in the No. 4 Ford and won for the third time in seven races. He gave Ford its 700th Cup victory.
“Man, what a year,” Harvick said. “I love the grit about our race team. Sometimes we don’t have the fastest car but we have guys that are willing to suck it up.”
Harvick long ago secured his spot in NASCAR’s playoffs. With just Daytona left next week before the 16-driver field is set, Aric Almirola, Busch and brother Kurt Busch all wrapped up berth on points.
Martin Truex Jr. was second and Jimmie Johnson, Dover’s career winner with 11, was third. Johnson’s No. 48 team gambled on a late two-tire pit stop that gave the seven-time champion a late surge.
Johnson is on the bubble, four points outside of the cutoff with his fate to be decided under the lights at Daytona. There are 13 drivers with a spot in the playoffs. Clint Bowyer, Matt DiBendetto and William Byron hold the final three spots on points. Johnson is the biggest outlier to have a chance at crashing the field -- unless there’s a surprise winner.
The only hiccup was a brief red flag needed when a hole in the concrete had to be patched. Harvick took it from there and continued to showcase what should be a fantastic battle with Hamlin for the championship.
“With Denny winning yesterday, we needed to win today,” Harvick said. “I know as we go week-to-week, we’re going to give it all that we have.”