Harvick leads points

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Kevin Harvick threw caution to the wind and took the first step toward a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship by dominating the first race in NASCAR's Chase for the Championship.

Harvick now leads both the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and the NASCAR Busch Series point standings.

For a driver who is in NASCAR's coveted top 10 in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Championship for the first time, Harvick drove wide open to victory by leading more than half the laps.

It was Harvick's second victory in as many Cup races. He won last weekend's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series races at Richmond International Raceway.

He finished ahead of two-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart after a restart four laps from the finish of the 300 lap race. A multi-car crash involving Martin Truex Jr. and Travis Kvapil marred the exciting finish as cars scrambled behind the leaders to the finish line.

Trailing Harvick and Stewart were four-time champion Jeff Gordon and rookie Denny Hamlin. Brian Vickers was fifth. Six of the first 10 positions went to drivers in the chase.

Elliott Sadler was sixth, Jeff Burton seventh, J.J. Yeley eighth, Dave Blaney ninth and Matt Kenseth 10th. Burton and Kenseth are Chase drivers.

Other Chase drivers and their finish positions: Mark Martin (11th); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (13th); Kasey Kahne (16th); Kyle Busch (38th); and Jimmie Johnson (39th).

Johnson had led the points virtually all year until several weeks ago when Kenseth took the lead. He is now last in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship.

Points are reformatted for the top 10 drivers and Harvick leads with 5,230 points.

Two contenders in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup had problems before the race reached the halfway point.

Kyle Busch was involved in a second lap skirmish with Jeff Green and lost a lap while repairs were made in the pits. Jeff Burton barely escaped the wreck which happened directly in front of him.

Jimmie Johnson's luck turned sour after only 60 laps when his Chevrolet dropped a cylinder. He was trying to salvage what he could with a sick motor when he was forced hard into the outside retaining wall when several cars stacked up entering turn one on lap 80.

Johnson hammered the SAFER barrier hard enough to send him to the garage, where his team scurried around trying to get him back on the track.

Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Burton battled for the lead while other Chase contenders kept themselves in the top 10, including Martin, Earnhardt, rookie Denny Hamlin and former champion Tony Stewart, who did not make the Chase.

Kasey Kahne ran in the top 10 before an unscheduled pit stop dropped him well back in the field. Matt Kenseth didn't appear to be a factor as he struggled to keep his car in the front 15.

Kansas Speedway's Banquet 400 on Oct. 1 is the third race in NASCAR's Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Championship. Qualifying tickets for O'Reilly Auto Parts Qualifying Day on Friday, Sept. 29 are available for $10 and $15. Call Kansas Speedway toll free at 866.460.RACE or 913.328.RACE to buy yours today.

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