Kevin Harvick was on cruise control all season long, the most dominant driver in NASCAR, coasting into the championship round with a comfortable cushion that left plenty of room for error.

That’s how it was supposed to play out, at least, after Harvick won a Cup series-high nine races and the regular-season title.

Then, his nearly perfect season came to a spinning and sudden halt on Sunday when a mediocre run bounced Harvick from the playoffs in a stunning upset at Martinsville Speedway.

Chase Elliott won the high-stakes race to earn his first career berth in the championship four. It stopped Harvick one race short of the title round in a stunning collapse to a season spent as the favorite to win the Cup crown.

“We won nine races and had a great year. Just came up short,” Harvick said.

Eight points short, to be exact, after his spinning, 17th-place finish at Martinsville.

Harvick was eliminated along with Alex BowmanKurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who battled for the win until a late loose wheel ended his shot.

Harvick noted NASCAR’s 10-race championship format is far different from the season-long points battle that Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt won seven times each. The system now spans three series of three races each, with eliminations in each round, before four drivers line up for a championship shootout.