Winning “straightforward” race Sunday keeps Bakersfield native and reigning Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick in this season’s Chase for the Championship. Meanwhile, Vallejo native Jeff Gordon also progresses into the next phase of NASCAR’s version of elimination playoffs.
Harvick dominated the AAA 400 in Deleware’s Dover International Speedway the way he has several previous races. But Sunday afternoon, he cruised to the win without incident — no late cautions and no blown gamble that his No. 4 Chevrolet had enough fuel.
“We’re just happy to be able to make it to the next round and be able to keep racing for a championship,” he said.
If Harvick was matter-of-fact, Gordon was relieved. “I’d hardly call it drama-free — I was freaking out!” Gordon, a four-time champion, is racing his final full-time year, but is winless so far this season. “It hasn’t been pretty,” he said, but was glad his 12th place finish was good enough to keep him in the Chase.
This weekend, only 12 drivers progress to the Contender Round and are eligible to win the championship: Harvick, Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dropped after the Dover race is El Cajon native Jimmie Johnson, the first to have won four races this season and a six-time champion who was knocked out of contention when a rear end seal went bad. Also out are Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray.
The Chase and the 2015 NASCAR season continues Saturday with the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. Broadcast is at 4 p.m. that day on NBC.