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Kevin Harvick opens NASCAR playoffs with win

Harvick had to hold off a hard-charging Austin Dillon, a driver few predict will advance very far into the playoffs, to seal the victory in his Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Dillon, in a Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, was second. Joey Logano in a Ford for Team Penske was third.

Erik Jones, the defending Southern 500 winner who is being replaced at Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season, finished fourth in a Toyota. Jones was the only non-playoff driver in the top 10.

Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Alex Bowman were fifth and sixth, followed by reigning series champion Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, and SHR teammates Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer.

Elliott wound up 20th while Truex was a lap down in 22nd.

Elliott was disappointed with the result after leading 114 laps and being in position for the win.

Truex “was close, but he wasn’t all the way clear,” Elliott said. “Obviously, I hate it.”

Elliott said he needed a little more pace there to extend the lead instead of “playing defense” to prevent Truex’s approach. “But regardless, I thought we were in a good spot,” he said.

Almiorola is now squarely on the bubble ranked 12th among the 16 drivers after the first playoff race. Four drivers will be eliminated at the end of the first three-race round. Bowyer is 13th in playoff standings with Cole Custer, Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney also on the outside with two races left in the opening round.

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