Kevin Harvick’s almost amazing season went to a turning and unexpected end Sunday when he has ricocheted from the end of the season games in a dazzling furious about Martinsville Speedway.
Chase Elliott won the high-stakes competition to procure his first billet in the title four. It knocked Harvick, a nine-race winner, and the regular-season champion, from the title round after a staggering collapse and a season spent as the top pick to win the Cup crown.
Harvick was average at Martinsville and fell a lap off the pace after a flat tire. He spent the majority of the race underneath the cutline, frantically pursuing points at NASCAR’s oldest and smallest speedway. He was racing for the fourth and last slot in the field, attempting to get Denny Hamlin or Brad Keselowski, in a three-race push for the one last spot.
Harvick was one point beneath the cutline when Elliott crossed the end goal with one car in front of him to get the necessary marker. In any case, that one car was Kyle Busch — Hamlin’s partner at Joe Gibbs Racing — and Busch wasn’t going to make it simple.
Harvick attempted to take Busch out of his way in a desperate effort. The two cars spun and Harvick missed creation the last four by a single point.
“I tried to run into the door of the 18 as a last-ditch effort, trying to gain a point,” Harvick said. “We fought for everything, just came up short.”
Elliott, Keselowski and Hamlin will race Joey Logano, who had just secured his berth, in next week’s finale at Phoenix. It’s a matchup of a couple of Fords from Team Penske against Hamlin’s Toyota and Elliott, the first Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet driver to make the finale since Jimmie Johnson won his seventh and final title in 2016.
Hamlin, a seven-time champ this season who went race-for-race with Harvick throughout the year, regretted not getting a shot at his adversary in Phoenix.
“I feel bad for Kevin, they probably deserve better than that,” Hamlin said. “Everything you do for eight innings doesn’t matter if you don’t have a good ninth inning.”
Harvick was eliminated alongside Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, and Martin Truex Jr., who struggled for success until a late loose wheel finished his shot.