Harvick Dominates Nationwide Series race

Kevin Harvick celebrates
Rhonda McCole/AR1.com

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. tried to play the role of the spoiler, but no one was going to stand in Kevin Harvick’s way as he overcame a bad pit stop and a determined charge from Kyle Busch to win Saturday night’s Degree V12 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Harvick – driving his own Kevin Harvick, Inc. no. 33 Chevrolet – trucked down Earnhardt as he tried to stretch his fuel reserves to the end of the race, finally catching Earnhardt with three laps to go.

Busch followed past Earnhardt, looking to make a final run at Harvick, but ended up losing ground in the final lap as Harvick pulled away to a 1.13 second victory over Busch for his second Nationwide win of the season.

Earnhardt hung on for third, followed by Brad Keselowski and Jeff Burton.

For Harvick, it was a sweet homecoming to the track where he scored his first Sprint Cup victory in 2001, coming in just his third start after taking over the car of the late Dale Earnhardt following his fatal crash just three weeks earlier.

“I knew Kyle was quite a bit better for about ten laps, and then after that, the thing was just incredible to drive," said Harvick. “I was a little bit worried there at the end. I really thought everyone had to pit. We cut it a little closer than I wanted to.

“We’ve left here with our tail between our legs every time we’ve been here at last two years. We don’t like to lose. It motivates us."

The first Nationwide Series race run under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway turned into the Kevin and Kyle show, as the two Sprint Cup drivers combined to lead 176 laps.

Harvick took over the top spot from Earnhardt on lap five, leading the next 22 laps before Busch grabbed the lead on lap 28.

Each time Busch seemed to get ahead, Harvick would come right back and take the lead yet again. It would be a theme that would be repeated no less than nine times during the 195 lap race.

Not having a car to match Harvick, Earnhardt and crew chief Tony Eury, Jr. decided to gamble on fuel mileage and run the last 70 laps without stopping for fuel.

It was a strategy that almost worked, as Busch and Harvick both ducked to pit road for fuel and four tires with 14 laps to go, giving Earnhardt the lead.

Harvick, who earlier had to contend with a slow pit stop, was again hindered by a slow stop, yet still managed to get out ahead of a streaking Kyle Busch, but still nearly half a lap behind Earnhardt.

With ten laps to go, Harvick was charging back through the field with his fresh tires, gaining more than a second a lap on Earnhardt, who was pedaling to save fuel.

With seven laps to go, Earnhardt was told to “pick it up", but he was no match for Harvick, who easily ducked under Earnhardt to take the lead for the final time.

“We had a pretty good chance of making it (on fuel), and it was really our only chance," said Earnhardt, Jr. “The 18 (Busch) and 33 (Harvick) just had everybody covered."

Busch pulled past Earnhardt to take second as they came to the white flag, but Busch’s car pushed up the racetrack as he made the pass on Earnhardt, costing him valuable track position that he never could regain.

“That was all we had. We had a second-place car today," said a frustrated Busch. “We had (Harvick) beat for about 15 to 18 laps and then he’d get by us and beat us in the long run. Whenever we would come in to put tires on, about 18 laps later mine would just lose grip. That was all we had. I had nine laps of fresh tires to catch him, and I gained on him a lot. I just couldn’t quite get there."

Carl Edwards, nursing a broken right foot, toughed it out to a solid seventh-place finish but ended up losing 29 points to Busch in the Nationwide Series points standings, now trailing the leader by 221.



St No. Driver Sponsor Car Pts Status Laps
1 2 33 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John's Chevrolet 195 Running 195
2 8 18 Kyle Busch NOS Toyota 175 Running 195
3 1 5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Degree Chevrolet 170 Running 195
4 19 88 Brad Keselowski Delphi Chevrolet 165 Running 195
5 15 29 Jeff Burton Holiday Inn Chevrolet 155 Running 195
6 11 20 Joey Logano GameStop Toyota 150 Running 194
7 12 60 Carl Edwards Save A Lot Ford 146 Running 194
8 20 16 Greg Biffle CitiFinancial Ford 142 Running 194
9 3 6 David Ragan Discount Tire Ford 138 Running 194
10 4 1 Reed Sorenson Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet 139 Running 193
11 5 10 Kasey Kahne Fritos Toyota 130 Running 193
12 9 98 Paul Menard Richmond/Menards Ford 127 Running 193
13 16 32 Brian Vickers Dollar General Stores Toyota 124 Running 193
14 24 15 Michael Annett Pilot Travel Centers Toyota 121 Running 192
15 6 42 David Gilliland Smith Ironworks Dodge 118 Running 192
16 7 99 Trevor Bayne Unsponsored Toyota 115 Running 192
17 33 12 Justin Allgaier Verizon Dodge 112 Running 192
18 29 40 Scott Wimmer Unsponsored Chevrolet 109 Running 192
19 37 01 Mike Wallace Unsponsored Chevrolet 106 Running 192
20 40 38 Jason Leffler Great Clips Toyota 103 Running 191
21 18 70 Shelby Howard ForeTravel Chevrolet 100 Running 191
22 26 23 Robert Richardson Mahindra Tractors Chevrolet 97 Running 191
23 25 66 Steve Wallace US Fidelis Chevrolet 94 Running 191
24 31 34 Tony Raines Long John Silver's Chevrolet 91 Running 190
25 38 61 Matt Carter Specialty Racing Ford 88 Running 189
26 34 24 Eric McClure Hefty Ford 85 Running 189
27 39 28 Kenny Wallace US Border Patrol Chevrolet 82 Running 189
28 28 77 Peyton Sellers SFP Chevrolet 79 Running 189
29 22 07 Chase Austin Cavi Clothing Chevrolet 76 Running 186
30 41 25 Bobby Hamilton Jr. Eckrich Ford 73 Running 185
31 21 62 Brendan Gaughan 5 Hour Energy Chevrolet 70 Running 132
32 32 11 Kelly Bires Ridemakerz Toyota 67 Engine 127
33 32 26 Brian Keselowski Fischer Honda Dodge 64 Mechanical 71
34 36 87 Mike Bliss NEMCO Chevrolet 61 Mechanical 46
35 23 96 Michael McDowell ConelyAuto.com Dodge 58 Mechanical 41
36 43 50 Jeremy Clements Saxon Group Chevrolet 55 Mechanical 38
37 13 27 Jason Keller Scott Ford 52 Engine 31
38 30 05 Casey Atwood 31-W Insulation Ford 49 Engine 12
39 35 47 Chase Miller Unsponsored Toyota 46 Mechanical 9
40 14 49 Mark Green GetMoreVacations.com Chevrolet 43 Mechanical 9
41 17 78 Kevin Lepage Unsponsored Dodge 40 Mechanical 6
42 27 90 Johnny Chapman MSRP Motorsports Chevrolet 37 Mechanical 4
43 10 91 Dave Blaney MSRP Motorsports Chevrolet 34 Mechanical 3

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