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article imageNASCAR: Charlotte win puts 'The Closer' in the Eliminator Round

By John Duarte     Oct 12, 2014 in Sports
Concord - Kevin Harvick is breathing a huge sigh of relief after winning the Bank of America 500, on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and taking a huge step toward a shot at NASCAR's Sprint Cup title.
The win comes just at the right time for Harvick, known as The Closer for his ability to shutdown races. In a season where wins are most important in keeping title hopes alive, Harvick is through to the Eliminator Round in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup. The win at Charlotte Motor Speedway also meant that Harvick can breathe easier next week at Talladega Superspeedway and the inevitable havoc that come with racing there, not needing a win to advance in the new playoff-like format implemented by NASCAR this season.
“I won't be anorexic and throwing up all week,” joked Harvick. “This was the night that we needed to win. I don't want to go to Talladega next week.”
Harvick, who had not won a race since April, took charge in the Bank of America 500 and stayed out in front of the field for almost half the race, leading 162 of 334 laps. And, still, he had to outrace his opponents for two laps after a late caution sent the race beyond its scheduled distance and to a green-white-checkered finish.
Jeff Gordon finished second in the race and non-Chase driver Jamie McMurray was third.
Now with a berth in the third round secure, Harvick admitted that he was not looking forward to the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, where “so much is out of your control” and “it's going to be a total disaster” with so many drivers jockeying for spots in the next-to-last round of the Chase.
“I didn't even know how we were going to prepare for next week,” Harvick said. “Talladega is always crazy. (And) It's going to be so crazy with everybody in the offensive frame of mind like everybody was tonight.”
In the end, all that matters to Harvick is that he will be part of the final eight drivers challenging for the 2014 championship.
“I think tonight proved to us that we can do every situation that was presented to us and overcome it,” said Harvick. “We want to win every week, but, in the end, there's only one goal and that's to put the trophy in the back of your truck at Homestead and drive it home.”
The pressure is now on Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. After the race next week, the bottom four of 12 drivers still in the hunt for the title will be dropped from the standings and out of contention in the run for the championship.
And tempers are already flaring up. After the Bank of America 500, a confrontation erupted in the garage area with Keselowski, Kenseth and Denny Hamlin playing a part. After some on-track bumping, Keselowski, Hamlin and Kenseth traded insults on pit road, with NASCAR officials having to separate them and members of both teams. Hamlin threw a towel at Keselowski in the exchange, while Kenseth tackled Keselowski from behind. Crew members quickly separated the two drivers, but Keselowski's crew chief Paul Wolfe appeared to have Kenseth in a headlock. No one could agree of the actual sequence of events, but Hamlin called Keselowski's actions “desperate” and that he was trying to salvage his championship run.
“He's just out of control,” Hamlin said of Keselowski. “It's either four or five of us are wrong or he's wrong. He's desperate, obviously.”
Keselowski made no excuses.
“I figured, if we're going to play car wars under yellow and after the race, I'll join too,” he said. “Those guys can dish it out, but they can't take it.”
The final race in the Contender Round on the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup schedule, the Geico 500, goes at Talladega Superspeedway, in Alabama, on Oct. 19, 2014.
More about Nascar, chase for the Sprint cup, charlotte motor speedway, kevin harvick, Auto racing
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