DOVER, Del. — Kevin Harvick dominated a race he had to win to advance to the second round of NASCAR’s playoffs, while six-time champion Jimmie Johnson was eliminated from the field.

Harvick led 354 laps Sunday at Dover International Speedway and earned the third automatic berth in the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field. Harvick was mired in 15th in the standings and had to win to keep his title defense alive.

“Never quit. That’s why right here, guys,” Harvick said over the radio as he took the checkered flag.

Johnson entered fifth in the standings and, with 10 career wins at Dover, seemed a lock to advance. His No. 48 Chevrolet was forced off the track for 36 laps with a torn rear axle seal and he plummeted in the standings.

Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer also were eliminated as the Chase field was sliced from 16 to 12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. tied with McMurray in points and earned the final spot on a tiebreaker.

Four more drivers will be eliminated in the next three-race segment that starts next week at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth had already earned berths in the next round with wins in the first two Chase races. Carl Edwards also advanced along with Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch.

Truex survived after he was sent to the rear for the field after his team made an unapproved adjustment to the right rear after inspection. Gordon’s drive for a fifth championship is still alive in his final season.