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


He wasn't about to give that up on a green-white-checkered finish with a chance to clinch a spot in the championship on the line.

With Harvick and Martinsville victor Joey Logano in the No. 22 Ford of Team Penske locked in, the series goes to Phoenix next week with only two spots up for grabs for the championship run at Homestead.

Currently, the third and fourth spots in the playoff race belong to Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., with Truex holding a 25-point lead over Kurt Busch for fourth place.

As was the case last weekend when the No. 78 failed pre-race inspection, the decision means that Truex will place himself at risk of falling below the provisional cutline to advance into the Cup Series championship race in two weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Harvick was the only one of so-called Big Three to avoid trouble on Sunday. After Harvick regained the lead, he held it until a late caution forced a two-lap overtime session. Blaney was the only challenger he really had, and that only came on restarts. By time they got to the backstretch, Harvick had pushed his No. 4 Ford in front and raced to his eighth win of this season. Kurt Busch and Erik Jones round out the top 3. "Obviously Blaney had a good restart and we're not taking the bottom anymore". The last one, he took the top, like I knew he was going to go.

"For whatever reason we've run well on the old-style racetrack [at TMS] and the new racetrack". We finally knocked that barrier down (with a win in last year's Playoff race at TMS). Today was one of those days it went with the speed and everybody executed really well.

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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.

Blaney had taken the lead after the second restart in that final stretch, but Harvick had gone back in front and was still in the lead when Joey Gase's spin brought out the eighth caution.

Harvick knew that Blaney would have to be flawless on the restart to beat him and once Blaney's left tires clipped the apron Harvick was off to his second career win at TMS. Ryan Blaney was the runner-up. If that is the way he wants to race me when he is already locked into Homestead and we are out here fighting for our lives, that is fine.

"If he would have went in there on my right rear I would have been OK but we went in side-by-side and if I sailed off as fast as he did I would have sailed off and wrecked us both. It just didn't happen".

The series will move to Phoenix next weekend where the two remaining berths in the championship field will be decided. Logano finished third a week after securing his playoff spot. Logano ran third at Texas after leading 54 laps, second only to Harvick.