Elliott pulls in front late for Dover win

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"And so glad we could get a win", said Elliott.

Elliott was greeted in victory lane with a hug from team owner Rick Hendrick and retired star Jeff Gordon also was there to congratulate the winning driver. Two laps later, the Dover spring victor was forced to return after his left rear tire went flat when a lug nut broke a valve stem. At present, the series does not prohibit its drivers or team members from betting on races. And after Harvick's misfortune, teammate Aric Almirola was in prime position to win until late pit strategy turned the tables.

With the victory - his second of the season and the second of his career - Elliott punched his ticket into the Round of 8 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, extricating himself from the bottom four in the postseason standings.

Though NASCAR employees are prohibited from betting on races, the NASCAR rulebook doesn't explicitly outlaw betting by drivers or team members.

The only positive from the final stage of racing for Harvick occurred on a restart with six laps to go when a multi-car wreck kicked off in front of his Ford.

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Steve Torrence won the AAA Texas NHRA Nationals at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, for his third straight victory to open the playoffs and first career win in his home event.

Elliott had to fight through the field all day after a tire penalty sent him to the back of the pack early in the race.

Almirola, who ended up 13th, was asked if he believed he had a shot at earning his first win since the July 2014 race at Daytona. He felt that way a year ago, when Kyle Busch on fresh tires ran him down coming to the white flag.

Rain washed out qualifying and the field was set by points, putting the 12 playoff drivers at the top of the field.

After exiting Turn 2 on the restart lap, Almirola tapped the outside wall on the backstretch and triggered a five-car accident - all of them still in the playoffs - that ended his winning chances.

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Johnson's bid for a record eighth NASCAR Cup title ended last week when he was eliminated from the playoffs.

Kevin Harvick left the race track disappointed on Sunday, as a bit of bad luck doomed his dominant day.

He eventually returned to the race 10 laps down.

"I think that was our best opportunity to win the race, and it was our best opportunity to score the most points we could score", crew chief Alan Gustafson said.

Stewart-Haas Racing holds four of the 12 playoff spots with Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola. Jimmie Johnson walked over to offer some encouragement and let Elliott vent. Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing), Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing) round out the playoff drivers.

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Fans and bettors lined up at the kiosk hours before the race started to wager on more than just the victor of Sunday's race. Kyle Busch and Harvick start 1-2 in Sunday's race.

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