Kevin Harvick penalty aids Busch brothers’ NASCAR title hopes

Updated November 8, 2018 - 1:46 pm

It was a couple of years ago after the NASCAR playoff race at Talladega, Alabama, when Kevin Harvick reached inside the driver netting to punch Kurt Busch in the nose after an incident on the track.

What are teammates for, right?

So perhaps Harvick was only trying to extend a belated olive branch to his Stewart-Haas Racing compadre from Las Vegas when he got nailed for driving with an illegal rear spoiler after winning Sunday’s playoff race at Texas.

Before Harvick was docked 40 playoff points and his automatic berth into NASCAR’s Championship Four erased, Busch was on the outside looking into the final race showdown at Homestead, Florida, next week. He was in fifth place, 25 points below the cutoff line, essentially forcing him into a must-win scenario at Phoenix this week.

He’s still in fifth place. But now he trails Harvick, relegated to fourth place, by just three points.

Harvick won the spring race at Phoenix, is the all-time lap leader there and — spoiler alert — will still be tough to beat at the one-mile oval in the Arizona desert. But three points is a lot easier to make up than 25.

Busch’s younger brother Kyle also benefits from the Harvick penalty. Kyle Busch remains 28 points above the cutoff line but he’s now in second place instead of third. Harvick trails him by 25 points instead of being locked into the Championship 4.

You’d need a mind more beautiful’s than Russell Crowe’s in the movies to deduce all the possible scenarios heading into the one-race battle for the championship under a complicated NASCAR points system that seems to change every time the wind blows.

But NASCAR people are saying with a certain amount of conviction that Harvick’s penalty is a good thing for both Busch brothers as well as reigning champ Martin Truex Jr., and popular Chase Elliott, who was 39th points shy of racing for the championship, but now is only 17 shy.

They said nothing about it being another black eye for stock car racing and the legitimacy of its championship.

With piles of points available even before the race ends, a lot could change at Phoenix. And maybe even after Phoenix.

Especially if the wind blows.

Green, white, checkered

— Las Vegas’ Noah Gragson sits 18 points above the cutoff line for the fourth and final NASCAR Truck Series Championship 4 berth heading into Friday night’s elimination race at Phoenix. Gragson was 11 points above the cutoff when the Round of 6 began before increasing his cushion by finishing seventh at Martinsville and 10th at Texas Motor Speedway (after qualifying second) and collecting 24 stage points.

The NHRA’s 2019 fall drag race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, originally scheduled Oct. 24 to 27, has been pushed back one week to Oct. 31 to Nov. 3. It will continue to serve as a lead-in for the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, which also was moved back one week.

— Justin Lamb of Henderson won his fifth NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday by finishing second in the Super Stock finals. Lamb won Super Stock and Stock championships last year and also won the Stock title in 2013 and the Super Stock crown in 2015. Las Vegas’ Kahea Woods earned a race win in the Sportsman Motorcycle class.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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