Harvick Holds Off Rowdy In Dramatic Atlanta Finish
For the first time in three years, Kevin Harvick not only had the dominant car at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but he put it all together for the win.
Leading at Atlanta is a familiar spot for Harvick, as he has had the strongest car in the last three Nationwide Series events at the 1.5-mile track. However, in the two Atlanta races leading into Saturday night's event, Harvick stumbled late in the going and was forced to watch another driver hoist the trophy.
That was not the case Saturday, as Harvick dodged an issue with a possible loose wheel and held off a hard-charging Kyle Busch to score his 40th career Nationwide Series victory and second at Atlanta.
"I knew Kyle was going to for it, but it was fun racing him," Harvick said in victory lane. "That's two – actually three – years in a row now that we had a dominant car, and you think something's going to go wrong, but we just kept digging, and these guys did a great job.
"We brought the same stuff back that we had last year and it worked again."
With 30 laps to go, Harvick enjoyed a sizable lead over second-place Joey Logano when he radioed the crew about a possible loose wheel on his No. 33 Chevrolet. As the problem got worse, the gap between first and second closed as Logano charged to the front.
A timely caution for Jeff Green brought the leaders to pit road with 10 laps to go, allowing Harvick and his Ernie Cope-led team to change tires and head back out with the race lead.
On the ensuing restart, Busch capitalized when Logano spun the tires, putting on a show as he battled with Harvick for the win. In the end, Harvick was able to hold off the late charge and celebrate in victory lane.
After a third-place finish, Sam Hornish Jr. was able to extend his points lead over Austin Dillon to 10 points. Elliott Sadler struggled with an 18th-place finish, and is now 26 points behind Hornish, while Regan Smith sits fourth in the standings, 29 points out.
The owner points battle tightened up following Busch's second-place run, as the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing car now trails the No. 22 Penske Racing car by 11 points.
The No. 22 team caught a big break Saturday night when Logano cut a tire and hit the wall just as green flag stops were getting underway. Able to minimize the damage, Logano cycled through the round of stops in the second spot and was a factor until he spun the tires on the final restart and fell to sixth.
"We had the opportunity to gain points tonight and we didn’t, but we also had a really big opportunity to lose a lot when we hit the wall there," Logano said. "I guess we rebounded decent but I just felt like we were better than what we were."
UPDATE: The Turner Scott Motorsports No. 30 of Nelson Piquet Jr. and No. 32 of Kyle Larson both failed post-race inspection for being too low in the front.