Harvick Captures 40th Nationwide Win
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 31, 2013 | 9:57 P.M. EST
Harvick celebrates his 40th career Nationwide Series win. (Photo: Getty Images)
HAMPTON, Ga. - Kevin Harvick atoned for the one that got away last year at Atlanta Motor Speedway, withstanding a last-lap challenge to win Saturday night’s Great Clips/Grit Chips 300 NASCAR Nationwide race.
Harvick lost last year’s race when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. passed him on the final lap. Saturday, Harvick fended Kyle Busch’s charge to win his 40th career Nationwide race and first of the season.
“It kind of makes up for last year,’’ Harvick said.
While he celebrated, Busch contemplated.
This marked the fifth time Busch has placed second in a Nationwide race at Atlanta. He’s never won a Nationwide race at this track in 10 attempts.
He came close. Busch charged to the the back of Harvick’s car in Turn 1 of the final lap before drifting up the track and nearly hitting the Turn 2 wall.
“I followed him down in there to see if I could get him loose and I got loose,’’ Busch said. “I could have drove through and knocked him out of the way, but I try not to do those things although my reputation isn’t perceived that way. I essentially screwed up.
“If I went to the middle again, I probably could have made ground on him and tried something in (Turn) 3. You live and you learn.’’
Harvick said he expected Busch to “bomb it’’ into the corner on that last lap.
“I drove mine in there and just stood on the brakes hoping that if and when he hit me, he would hit me square,’’ Harvick said. “It’s the last lap. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Kyle Busch isn’t my favorite person, but I enjoy racing him. He just races hard. When you beat him you’ve done a good job that day.’’
While Busch pondered that last lap, others relished their run. Sam Hornish Jr. finished third to extend his points lead. Kasey Kahne overcame an early spin to finish fourth. Kyle Larson, who will move to the Sprint Cup Series next year for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, finished fifth. Joey Logano overcame a tire issue that sent him into the wall to place sixth.
NASCAR announced that the cars of Larson and teammate Nelson Piquet (12th) both failed post-race inspection. Both cars were found to be too low in the front. Penalties likely will be announced Tuesday.
Harvick’s win was a challenge even though he led a race-high 132 of 195 laps. He radioed his team with about 35 laps left that he thought his left rear wheel was loose. The vibration worsened. Harvick radioed his team “we’re in trouble’’ with 25 laps to go.
Jeff Green crashed on the fronstretech and brought out the caution with 14 laps left. That sent the leaders to pit road. Harvick nipped Logano off pit road to keep the lead. Harvick’s team told him that the wheels looked fine and that the problem likely was a tire that was out of balance.
Harvick and Busch, who restarted third, dueled after the green flag waved again, running side-by-side before Harvick pulled ahead but he couldn’t pull away. Busch stalked Harvick until the final lap when he made his move that didn’t work.
The points race widened Saturday. Hornish stretched his lead to 10 points on Austin Dillon, who placed eighth. No one other driver is within 25 points heading to next weekend’s race at Richmond International Raceway. Elliott Sadler remains third in the standings, but is 26 points back after struggling with his car’s handling and finishing 18th. Regan Smith is next, 29 points out of the lead, after placing ninth.