Kevin Harvick won’t have a shot at his second Cup Series title in 2020.
Chase Elliott won Sunday’s race at Martinsville to clinch a spot in the championship race at Phoenix on Nov. 8. Elliott will race Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin for the 2020 title as Harvick, the series’ winningest driver, missed out.
Harvick tried a Hail Mary move on the final lap and spun Kyle Busch to make a pass in the final corner. But he ended up crashing himself, as well. Harvick was trying to pass Busch for ninth and ended up finishing 17th after he crashed himself.
“Tried to run into the door of [Busch] there as a last-ditch effort there,” Harvick said.
It’s the first time Harvick has failed to advance to the final race since 2016. He won’t finish any higher than fifth in 2020 despite winning a series-high nine races.
Elliott entered Sunday’s race essentially needing a win to advance as he was 25 points behind Keselowski for the final spot in the title race. But he made it look easy after passing Martin Truex Jr. with 44 laps to go.
Elliott won by over 6.5 seconds as Truex was forced to pit because of a vibration. Truex, Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch were eliminated from playoff contention along with Harvick.
Quick thinking by Elliott’s pit crew
The win was preserved by jackman T.J. Semke. He went over the wall too soon as Elliott hit pit road with less than 90 laps to go.
Elliott was penalized by NASCAR for having too many crew members over the wall before his pit stop. But Semke realized his mistake and went back and Mario-bounced off the pit wall before Elliott’s car came to a stop in his stall.
1. There are too many pit road rules
2. It’s hilarious that a dude bouncing off the wall like this can make NASCAR rescind Chase Elliott’s penalty. pic.twitter.com/Q8MDmAJdRf
— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) November 1, 2020
Semke’s move meant that, per NASCAR rules, he reestablished himself as outside of Elliott’s pit stall. NASCAR rescinded the penalty and let Elliott keep his position on the track.
Had the penalty stood, Elliott would have had to restart at the back of the field. That penalty would have undoubtedly prevented him from winning the race and advancing to the championship.
Elliott’s first shot at a title
Elliott had been eliminated from the playoffs in the third round in each of the past three seasons. He’ll now have a chance to race for his first championship thanks to the victory.
His win also means that Hendrick Motorsports has its first car in the final four since Jimmie Johnson raced for the 2016 title. Johnson won his seventh and final championship that season.
Hendrick has been locked out of the title chase in each of the past three seasons as teams like Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing have had faster cars over the course of the season. But now that Elliott is in the final four, the title chase will include one JGR car (Hamlin), one Hendrick car (Elliott) and two Team Penske cars (Keselowski and Logano).
Who’s the favorite?
It’s an open title fight now that Harvick is out of the running. Hamlin has the most wins among the four drivers racing for the championship and won at Phoenix last fall. Logano won at Phoenix in the spring and Keselowski has been one of the fastest drivers in the Cup Series on short tracks. Elliott, meanwhile, has won on two road courses, an intermediate track and a short track this season.
Had Harvick made the final four he would have been the favorite. But since he’s not racing for the title you can make a convincing case for any of the four remaining drivers.
1. Chase Elliott
2. Ryan Blaney
3. Joey Logano
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Kurt Busch
6. Alex Bowman
7. Aric Almirola
8. Clint Bowyer
9. Kyle Busch
10. Matt DiBenedetto
11. Denny Hamlin
12. Erik Jones
13. Cole Custer
14. Matt Kenseth
15. Christopher Bell
16. Ty Dillon
17. Kevin Harvick
18. Ryan Newman
19. Ryan Preece
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
21. Bubba Wallace
22. Martin Truex JR.
23. Austin Dillon
24. Tyler Reddick
25. Corey Lajoie
26. John Hunter Nemechek
27. Daniel Suarez
28. Michael McDowell
29. Timmy Hill
30. Jimmie Johnson
31. JJ Yeley
32. Josh Bilicki
33. Quin Houff
34. Joey Gase
35. William Byron
36. James Davison
37. Brennan Poole
38. Chris Buescher
39. Garrett Smithley
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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