NASCAR Cup Series: Aric Almirola must win at Phoenix to advance

NASCAR Truck Series

The playoff chase has gone from the half-mile paperclip-shaped track at Martinsville to the high-speed 1 1/2-mile Texas layout where polesitter Ryan Blaney qualified at more than 200 miles per hour, along with Bowyer. "Jimmie Johnson hasn't won a race this year, and isn't king of the mountain", Harvick said of the seven-time series champion.

Streaking away from pole victor Ryan Blaney during an overtime restart on Lap 336, Harvick won Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway with the utmost of authority, sweeping the stages and leading a race-high 177 laps on the way to his series-best eighth victory of the season and a guaranteed spot in the November 18 Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Harvick led 177 of the 337 laps. Truex is among seven playoff contenders, including all four Stewart-Haas Racing drivers starting in the top seven, who would claim a championship-contending spot with a win Sunday.

Blaney held on to finish second.

Kevin Harvick's pit crew services his vehicle during a NASCAR Cup auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. "I think as you've seen, the change to Ford, which everybody thought we were insane, I think the bottom line is we've got more resources and things we can keep within our own walls".

Logano is the only driver locked into the final four spots, clinching that after his bump-and-run on the final lap to beat Truex last week at Martinsville. You would lap the same guys and they would run - they don't understand how hard it is to drive 20 miles per hour faster than them on their left side getting in the corner.

The success is even more impressive when you consider the changes that have taken place at SHR during his tenure, including different teammates and the organization's move from the Chevrolet to Ford camp last season.

Kevin Harvick has also won the second stage at the NASCAR Cup race in Texas, the fourth time this season he's won both stages in a race. He sits 25 points ahead of Kurt Busch, the first driver below the cut-off. On the previous restart on Lap 311 of a scheduled 334, following caution for Matt DiBenedetto's hard crash into the inside wall on the backstretch, Harvick picked the inside lane, and Blaney cleared him off Turn 2.

When asked at Texas if everything was cool with Truex, or if his head would be on a swivel looking around, Logano said only time would tell. It's been either, we're in position to win, we've run up front all day, or something really stupid happens, or insane happens, like here in Texas. Aric Almirola (eighth Sunday) and Clint Bowyer (26, after contact with Denny Hamlin's Toyota on Lap 1) are both in must-win situations.

Harvick was on the inside again for the next restart, before Blaney was able to get by him on the outside and into the lead.

"It was one of those things, again, a human error that we've really got to look at and look at some additional procedures we can have in place prior to Phoenix", O'Donnell said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "He motored around me".

By this time, Martin Truex Jr. had moved into fifth after starting at the rear due to a pre-race engine change. He finished 17, the last driver on the lead lap. "If we don't make that call, I think (media) would be asking why we didn't". This became the decider of the playoff Round of 8 race.

The only stress for Harvick was lane choice for the overtime.

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