"An awesome Championship battle all the way to Homestead”

Harvick Cuts into the Johnson Lead

Kevin Harvick, who with a 2nd-place finish at Talladega cut his deficit on Jimmie Johnson from 62 points to just 38 (Jerry Markland, Getty Images Sport)

In Chase Race 7 of 10 en route to Ford Championship Weekend in Miami (Nov. 19-21), the Top 3 drivers in the Sprint Cup Series all scored a Top 10 finish at Talladega. So with just two races remaining before the Championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR has its closest Chase race ever through seven “playoff” races.

Four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson finished 7th to maintain a slim 14-point lead over second-place points driver Denny Hamlin, who finished 8th. Third in the points is Kevin Harvick, who with a 2nd-place finish cut his deficit on Johnson from 62 points to just 38.

“It's going to be an awesome Championship battle all the way to Homestead, and I'm really looking forward to it,” said reigning Sprint Cup Champion Johnson.

With the Top 3 drivers in the Championship standings separated by just 38 points, it’s gearing up to be a dramatic Championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Just two races remain before the Championship-finale Ford 400 on Nov. 21. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at $55 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com. Parking is FREE, and fans are welcome to bring in their own food and drink in a 14x14x14 cooler, with unlimited re-entry to the Speedway to allow for restocking from tailgates.

Clint Bowyer survived a wild last lap dash in winning at Talladega, as a crash on the final lap brought out the caution lights when he and teammate Harvick were racing for the victory side by side at the tri-oval’s Turn 2. The race ended not at the start/finish line but at a caution that froze the field, though they continued at slower speeds to take the yellow-flag/checkered-flag finish. No one knew who the winner was until after NASCAR officials reviewed the frame-by-frame video that revealed Bowyer to have just a slight edge over Harvick to land the victory.

"We've gone through seven [Chase] races, and you can throw a blanket over the three of us," Harvick said of the three points leaders. "It's really going to just come down to dotting the I’s, crossing the T’s, keeping that performance level where it needs to be."

Just two races remain before the Championship-finale Ford 400 in South Florida on Nov. 21. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at $55 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com. Parking is FREE, and fans are welcome to bring in their own food and drink in a 14x14x14 cooler, with unlimited re-entry to the Speedway to allow for restocking from tailgates.

Harvick finished second while pole-winner Juan Pablo Montoya (see sidebar) was third in his Earnhardt Ganassi No. 42 car. It was an amazing comeback for Harvick, one of six cars involved in an incident with 40-plus laps left to run. His front fender was damaged, and the team was able to repair it enough to improve his aerodynamics.

"I knew we had some damage on the front," Harvick explained post-race. “I just saw the cars wrecking in front of me, and we were able to just jerk left and try to stay out of the wreck. As the day went on, I could see the Bear Bond and tape start to fly off the front, so I knew we had a big dent up there. It is a little bit worse than I thought it was, actually, with the hood detached from the nose. Good day for us. [The crew] did a good job fixing it."

Four-time champion Jeff Gordon finished eighth after leading once for one lap. In the process, he moved up one position in the standings to fourth place.

"This is the tightest we have had among three different guys that I can ever remember,” Gordon said of the Johnson-Hamlin-Harvick battle. “So I feel like you are going to have guys like us trying to win, and then you are going to have those three guys really battling it out. All three of them run good at the remaining tracks."

Indeed, Hamlin is the reigning winner of the Ford 400, Harvick has won in Miami in both trucks and Nationwide, but Johnson never has found Victory Lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Just two races remain before the Championship-finale Ford 400 in South Florida on Nov. 21. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at $55 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com. Parking is FREE, and fans are welcome to bring in their own food and drink in a 14x14x14 cooler, with unlimited re-entry to the Speedway to allow for restocking from tailgates.

NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., led 24 laps before tangling with Jeff Burton on Lap 133 to finish 39th and afterwards said: “I had a real good car and awesome engine, and just kinda was having fun out there running around seeing what you can do….[I] got a little too excited and ended early."

Zephyrhills native David Reutimann and Joey Logano—among the many NASCAR stars who will be appearing in fan-hospitality areas during Ford Championship Weekend in Miami—finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

“Just happy to get out of here,” said Reutimann. “This is probably our best speedway car, and we've been using it quite a bit”

Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Texas on Sunday, Nov. 7 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN-TV)—Chase Race 8 of 10 en route to Ford Championship Weekend. Just two races remain before the Championship-finale Ford 400 in South Florida on Nov. 21. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Championship racing at Championship value: Tickets start at $55 and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com. Parking is FREE, and fans are welcome to bring in their own food and drink in a 14x14x14 cooler, with unlimited re-entry to the Speedway to allow for restocking from tailgates.

On the Move: South Florida’s Montoya

Montoya on Pole at Talladega

“The best chance I had to win the race was push Bowyer up front and then make a move.”

--Juan Pablo Montoya, who finished third in Chase Race 7 of 10 en route to Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 19-21) on his “home track”

Halloween weekend at Talladega Superspeedway almost proved to be a sweet victory for Juan Pablo Montoya and his No. 42 Target team. The South Florida resident claimed his third pole position of the season, led 18 laps and was running in the Top 3 before a caution on the final lap locked the No. 42 Target Chevrolet into third place. The finish marks the sixth Top 5 of the season for the team.

Just two races remain before the Championship-finale Ford 400 in South Florida on Nov. 21. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Montoya race for a Ford 400 victory on his home turf—as well as an exclusive meet-and-greet opportunity with Montoya himself—by calling (866) 409-RACE or by clicking here.

The Target team unloaded their primary car on Friday morning and opted to run just three timed laps during the practice sessions. The crew checked to make sure nothing was hitting the race track and that the tires were good for qualifying. Satisfied with the results, Montoya sat out the final practice session and then went on to claim the pole position on the following day.

Montoya played on strategy early, leading a lap before quietly falling back in the field to avoid any on-track incidents. And just before the race’s halfway point, Montoya and teammate Jamie McMurray hooked up to make their way to the front. The two would run together until McMurray suffered right-side damage when a car came down on him. Montoya continue to battle up front and on the final restart hooked up with leader Clint Bowyer and pushed him.

The much anticipated “Big One” came on the final lap when AJ Allmendinger hit the inside wall and turned on his roof. The caution flag flew to freeze the field, and NASCAR reviewed the scoring loop and eventually credited the Target team with the third-place position.

“You know you’ve got to hook two cars up, and I was the pusher,” Montoya said post-race. “The best chance I had to win the race was to push Bowyer up front and then make a move. If that caution flag hadn’t of come out at the end, we may have had a shot at the win.”

Just two races remain before the Championship-finale Ford 400 in South Florida on Nov. 21. Lock in your tickets NOW to see Montoya race for a Ford 400 victory on his home turf—as well as an exclusive meet-and-greet opportunity with Montoya himself—by calling (866) 409-RACE or by clicking here.

Next up for Montoya and the Sprint Cup drivers is Texas on Sunday, Nov. 7 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN-TV)—Chase Race 8 of 10 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21). For tickets starting at $55, call (866) 409-RACE or click here. Parking for Ford Championship Weekend is FREE, and fans are welcome to bring in their own food and drink in a 14x14x14 cooler—with unlimited re-entry to the Speedway to allow for restocking from tailgates.

Follow Montoya on Twitter:

@JPMontoya

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