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NASCAR Nationwide Atlanta postscript

by Dave Grayson
Sunday, September 01, 2013

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Kevin Harvick No. 33 battles Kyle Busch late in the going
Getty Images for NASCAR
Kevin "Happy" Harvick unloaded a two year Atlanta Motor Speedway jinx and won the August 31st Great Clips-Grit Chips 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. He did it in rather convincing fashion by leading 132 of the 195 laps and scored his first Nationwide Series win of the season and 40th career win. Despite his dominant performance, Harvick found himself having to fend off a hard charging Kyle Busch in what would turn out to be the most exciting moment of the race.

THUMBS-UP. In the 2011 edition of this particular race, Harvick was in control of the lead only to lose it during the final 25 laps. Last year, a dominant Harvick was in line for the win only to have a late race caution cause him to lose the event on the white flag lap. The 2013 Nationwide Series race win had to feel like sweet redemption for the driver and I'm sure he enjoyed that giant can of Budweiser someone handed him in victory lane.

WHAT'S-UP. With 30 laps remaining in the race Harvick had a huge lead. However, there was a major concern by the team regarding a very strong vibration emanating from the car's right rear wheel.

THUMBS-UP. There was this one really terrific line from Harvick's crew chief Ernie Cope. ESPN2 television asked Cope how much longer was he going to let Harvick stay on the track before he would have to pit to address the wheel vibration. Cope smiled and replied: "until the wheel comes off, we have nothing to lose." By the way, when told about his crew chief's comment in victory lane, Harvick thought it was very funny.

WHAT'S-UP. The final caution flag of the race presented itself on lap 182 when the cars driven by Jeff Green and Ken Butler collided on the front stretch. It would turn out to be a pivotal moment of the race.

THUMBS-UP. This final caution flag was exactly what Harvick needed to address the aforementioned situation with his right rear tire vibration.

DOUBLE THUMBS-UP. With ten laps remaining in the race, and the field still under the yellow caution flag, NASCAR opened pit road to allow the teams to get some badly needed fresh tires and a splash of fuel. Prior to entering pit road, Harvick came over his radio and told his crew that he really needed an "all star pit stop" from them. The crew delivered with a 12.7 second, four tire, stop which is incredibly quick by Nationwide Series standards. The all star effort allowed their driver to exit pit road still the race leader.

THUMBS-UP. The race returned to green again with six laps remaining. Kyle Busch made quick work of moving from fourth to second and ran side by side with Harvick before the eventual race winner was able to clear his adversary and take command of the lead for good. The margin of victory was a mere 0.579 seconds. It was a very exciting finish that was 189 laps in the making.

THUMBS-UP. You had to love this particular Harvick observation from the post race press conference. When asked to comment on the final, white flag, duel with Kyle Busch, the race winner said: "I was prepared to get hit. It's the last lap and that's what you're supposed to do. Kyle Busch isn't my favorite person, but I enjoy racing him."

WHAT'S-UP. A mere matter of feet from the checkers, the cars driven by Brian Vickers and Travis Pastrana touched. Pastrana's Ford went sliding across the infield grass and, fortunately, managed to slide across the start/finish line to at least salvage a 17th place finish. But it was a far cry from the badly needed top 15th the driver would have claimed. Pastrana's transition to NASCAR racing, from dare devil motorcycle stunts and international rally cars, has not been an easy one. He's been frequently plagued by bad racing luck much, of which, was not of his making. It wasn't that long ago when he said, during a post wreck interview, "this NASCAR stuff is kicking my ass."

WHAT'S-UP. On lap 85, Joey Logano's Ford experienced tire trouble and brushed the wall. That forced an unscheduled pit stop. Adding to the problem was the face that NASCAR felt the situation didn't warrant a yellow caution flag.

THUMBS-UP. Logano and company worked their way back through the field the old school way with hard charging and a smart pit strategy. When the final restart followed the final caution flag of the race, Logano was lined up second with a great chance of stealing the win. That's what we call making chicken salad out of chicken do do.

WHAT'S-UP. On that final restart, Logano spun his tires, which allowed other cars to pass him, and the possible win turned into a sixth place finish. That's what we call making chicken do do out of chicken salad.

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