Kevin Harvick turns dominating performance into Atlanta win
Harvick did dominate the NASCAR Nationwide race in Atlanta but he did feel the pressure of Kyle Busch toward the end of tonight’s race.
The No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick held off the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch in the final laps of the Great Clips/Grit Chips 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday night to give Harvick his second-career Nationwide Series win at Atlanta. Busch finished second and Hornish was the highest-finishing series regular, taking third.
"We were definitely too tight," Harvick said of his car in the closing laps. "I just had to change my approach."
Harvick dominated the race, leading 132 laps after starting the 195-lap event from the 20th position. As Harvick worked his way toward the front in the early laps, Busch was a mainstay up front. Busch led 57 laps before Harvick passed him for the lead on lap 65. Busch would never lead again for the remainder of the race.
"That was the third year in a row we had the dominant car," Harvick said. After dominating last year's race, Harvick was passed by race-winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the final lap.
From there on, the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford of Joey Logano ran second to Harvick for much of the remainder of the race. Logano did give up second to head down pit road under green after having a tire go down and scraping the wall on lap 86. But the race remained green and the rest of the field cycled through green-flag stops. After the cycle completed, Logano was back in second, with Harvick in the lead.
Harvick reported a vibration to his team over the radio with just over 40 laps to go, but the team elected to stay out, hoping the vibration wasn't caused by a loose wheel. The yellow flag waved for the fourth and final time with 14 laps to go, and Harvick, along with the rest of the drivers on the lead lap, headed down pit road for one last set of tires.
"We did a great job on pit road," Harvick said.
Harvick got off pit road first and Logano was second. But on the restart that followed, Logano lost a few positions and Busch moved into second. As Busch raced Harvick for the lead, Logano dropped back to sixth by the finish.
"It's frustrating," Logano said. "We had that tire go down and recovered well from that. On that last stop, we didn't adjust for the fuel we had in it. I was just too tight."
Harvick and Busch raced side-by-side for a time following the last restart with seven laps to go, but a little more than a lap later, Harvick was able to clear Busch and drive on to the win.
"Just a little short," Busch said. "I was just too tight after getting into the fence."
With the second-place finish, the No. 54 team cut five points out of the owner points lead held by the No. 22 team. At the start of the race, the No. 22 team led the No. 54 by 16 points in the owner standings.
Hornish, meanwhile, grew his small cushion atop the driver points standings from six to 10 points over second-place Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Dillon finished the race in the eighth spot.
"For the first half of the race, we were just way too tight," Hornish said. "We made the right adjustments throughout the night."
The No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Kasey Kahne finished fourth after spinning to bring out the second caution of the race on lap 44. The No. 32 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet of Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five.
Other top-10 finishers included the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Trevor Bane in seventh, the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Regan Smith in ninth, and the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Brian Scott in 10th.
Top spots tend to swap in tight series points battle
Kligerman and no. 77 team come home 16th at Atlanta