Harvick wins NNS race as title chase tightens

FORT WORTH, Texas – It was a good night for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Texas Motor Speedway.

One of the biggest names in NASCAR found his way to Victory Lane in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge as Kevin Harvick won the race.

And the championship fight couldn’t be any better, as Elliott Sadler’s lead evaporated and the series will head to Phoenix with Sadler tied with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the top spot with Stenhouse owning the tiebreaker.

Harvick took some of the steam out of the championship contenders by dominating the 200-lap event at the 1.5-mile quadoval.

Driving the No. 33 OneMain Financial Chevrolet, Harvick led 127 laps and beat rookie Ryan Blaney to the finish by 1.628 seconds. It was his fifth Nationwide Series victory at TMS but his first in five years.

It was a nice way for Harvick, who was making his 13th and final start in the series this season, to cap a Nationwide year in which led nine races in the series but won just once.

“We had a great night,” said Harvick, who has 39 career victories in the NNS. “We really didn’t make any adjustments to the car all night. It was pretty much a flawless night. The biggest thing I wanted to do was stay ahead of the 54 on the restarts. It all worked out good.”

The only two cars that threatened Harvick in the race were Blaney, who made a late charge, and Kyle Busch. But Busch, who finished third, could only keep up with Harvick early on restarts.

Neither Sadler nor Stenhouse had great nights Saturday but it was Stenhouse who was able to recover the best.

His No. 6 NOS Ford was loose the entire night, forcing his team to make some radical adjustments. He started 11th on the penultimate restart but managed to rally for a fourth-place finish. The 2011 series champion owns the tiebreaker edge over Sadler with six victories this year to Sadler’s four.

Stenhouse, who won at TMS in April, said he had a car before the race started to make it seven wins, but was pleased with what he was able to salvage.

“It was not a great night for us,” Stenhouse said. “We thought we had a better race car in practice. We played catch-up all night long. The cautions came out, and we were able to work on it as much as we could. We got it a little better and were able to maintain that. It was a good points night. We battled back and we’ll go onto Phoenix.”

The night started better for Sadler, who led a lap and ran inside the top five for the first half of the race. But Sadler’s No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet struggled in the second half of the race, relegating Sadler to an 11th-place finish and wiping out his six-point lead with two races remaining.

“I still feel real good,” said Richard Childress, who owns both Harvick and Sadler’s cars. “He got tight at the end, and that’s what got him. The cars that took tires got up through there.”