Kevin Harvick helped himself with a third-place finish in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway.
What helped the NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader more was the extreme misfortune that befell his closest pursuers in the standings.
Kyle Busch, second to Harvick entering Sunday's race, was clobbered in a wreck at the end of the esses on Lap 10 and finished 39th. Denny Hamlin, a five-time winner in the previous 10 races and third coming to Infineon, sustained front-end damage shortly thereafter and drove blind for a lap when the hood of his Toyota came unpinned and covered the windshield. Hamlin finished 34th.
Kurt Busch, fourth in points after last week's race at Michigan, was the victim of a pileup on a restart with five laps left and limped home in 32nd. Even Matt Kenseth found misfortunate late in the race. He finished 30th and dropped two spots in the standings to seventh.
That left Harvick with a 140-point lead over Jimmie Johnson, who moved into second with Sunday's win at Infineon. It also left Harvick with considerable breathing room.
“We're fortunate to be where we're at in the points right now,” said Harvick, who leads Kyle Busch—now third—by 141 points with 10 races left before field is set for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. “We're able to race hard every lap and really not have to worry about what's going on with the points.”