Kevin Harvick is one step closer to a second-career NASCAR Cup Series championship.
The 44-year-old dominated at Dover on Sunday to take home his series-leading seventh win of the season, clinching the regular season title in the process. As a reward for finishing first in the regular season, Harvick will have 15 playoff points added to his total after the regular season finale at Daytona next week.
Harvick added seven playoff points by both winning the race and sweeping the stages, meaning he'll have at least 57 points to carry over to each round of the postseason. Saturday's race winner Denny Hamlin, who finished 19th on Sunday after issues with a loose wheel, will have the second most playoff points with at least 37.
"As you look at Denny and his team they've been able to week in and week out be competitive," Harvick said after the win. "We all want to beat each other on the race track. When you have that type of rivalry that is really making you perform at the top of your game, it brings out the best in everybody."
Harvick and Hamlin are locked into the playoffs by virtue of their wins. Other drivers in on wins include Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Cole Custer. Three winless drivers, Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch, have all clinched on merit.
There are four more spots up for grabs entering the regular-season finale. Clint Bowyer should make it barring a last-place finish, while Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron and seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson still do not know their fate.
Johnson was actually leading the race with less than 20 to go after crew chief Cliff Daniels opted for a two-tire strategy during the race's final caution. The No. 48 would go on to finish third, but the team finds themselves four points out of a playoff spot and Johnson now has to battle his former crew chief Chad Knaus for a shot at a record-eighth championship.
"Neither of us want to be in this position," Johnson said after the race. "Here we are with one race left and it feels like everything is on the line."
Johnson is set to retire after the season, and is in a points predicament partially due to missing the Brickyard 400 as he recovered from a COVID-19 diagnosis. One driver not in a points predicament is Truex, who with a second place finish at Dover now has seven consecutive finishes inside the top three.
"I think the results speak for themselves," Truex said when asked if he feels overlooked without as many wins as Hamlin and Harvick. "If they forget about us that's fine because we're right there. We're ready to pounce."
Truex's teammate Kyle Busch hasn't been 100 percent there as he continues to seek his first win of the season. Busch finished 11th at Dover after early contact with fellow playoff driver Chase Elliott early in the race. While Busch was able to recover, Elliott found himself in the garage less than 10 laps into the race.
As for the race winner Harvick, he tied Busch for ninth on the all-time wins list with 56. Harvick's win was also the 700th NASCAR Cup Series win for Ford.