By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
An early flat right-front tire at ISM Raceway could not keep Kevin Harvick from advancing to the Championship Four. A win from another member of the ‘Big Three’ also helped the Stewart-Haas Racing driver keep his 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship bid alive following the Can-Am 500.
Harvick’s No.4 Busch Light Ford Fusion was a magnet for drama throughout the 312-lap race.
On the final restart, Harvick lined up alongside race leader, and winner, Kyle Busch. The only Playoff driver on the outside looking in that still had a chance to make it to Homestead, was Harvick’s teammate, Aric Almirola.
Both drivers had excellent restarts. However, Almirola broke loose not once, but twice has he tried to chance down Busch. If Almirola won, Harvick would have been knocked out. Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski eventually made their way by. Harvick ultimately finished fifth, but with enough points to make it to Homestead.
The drama for Harvick started with two laps to go in the first stage. After leading the first 73 laps, he slowed with a flat right-front tire. Harvick lost a lap on pit road and was penalized for pitting while pit road was closed.
“I felt it start to go down going into turn one there and just slowed down to the point where I thought I could at least make it back to the pits and not hit the wall,” Harvick said. “It came at an OK time because it didn’t tear the car up. It never really drove as well after that, but we kept ourselves in position all day and there at the end it was just like with everybody wrecking and all over the place, we just needed to stay out of trouble and try to find a safe spot there.”
Halfway into the final stage, a caution in the middle of green flag pit stops almost cost Harvick a chance at the Playoffs as well. Following the restart, he misjudged the closing rate between himself and David Ragan, sending the No. 38 Ford spinning in turn one. Neither driver received any major damage.
The fifth-place finish is the 22nd top-five for Harvick this season. It was also enough for the 2014 Premier Series Champion to have a chance to earn his second Series title.