Kevin Harvick won a Nationwide Series race for the first time in two years with a dominating performance in Friday night's Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond International Raceway.
Harvick led 141 of 250 laps but had to rally from behind in the late going. Kurt Busch held the lead until lap 227 when he bumped into the back of Dexter Stacey and spun Stacey around coming out of turn four. Just before NASCAR displayed the caution flag for the seventh and final time, Harvick pulled ahead of Busch to take the top spot.
After the last restart with 17 laps remaining, Harvick easily pulled away from the field, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. passed Busch to take second. Harvick beat Stenhouse to the finish line by 1.9 seconds for his first Nationwide win since the fall race at Richmond two years ago.
Harvick recorded his 38th career victory, which placed him in a tie with Carl Edwards for third on the series' all-time race winners list.
"It's great to be back in victory lane," said Harvick, who had been winless in his last 30 Nationwide starts. "This has been a great racetrack for us through the years. Winning never gets old. I know the first 37 (race wins) seemed a lot easier than the 38th."
Harvick also notched his record sixth Nationwide win at Richmond. He had been tied with Mark Martin with five victories at this 0.75-mile racetrack.
Last week at Atlanta, Harvick ran in front for 157 of 195 laps but lost the lead to Stenhouse on the final lap of a green-white-checkered finish. Stenhouse won the race, while Harvick wound up third.
Stenhouse's second-place finish coupled with a 12th-place run for Elliott Sadler allowed Stenhouse to trim Sadler's lead in the championship standings from 12 points to only one.
"Kevin and I had a great battle there for a while," Stenhouse said. "I gave it all I had. Congratulations to them (Harvick's No. 33 Richard Childress Racing team). It was a lot of fun, but man, we really wanted to win that one. I've never won two in a row. That would have been cool. But second is a great night."
On lap 186, Sadler crashed into the turn three wall after he and Stenhouse bumped into each other while battling for second place. Sadler fell one lap behind after the incident but made it back on the lead lap shortly after.
"It's frustrating," Sadler said. "I made a big mistake. I got in there a little too loose under Ricky. We had a fast race car. It's been a really good car for us this year. We were in good position to win the race. But I got a little too impatient. We're still not out of it, though. There's eight more races left, and we're still in the points lead."
Busch was hoping for a Nationwide season sweep at Richmond. In April, Busch gave his younger brother, Kyle, his first win in the series as a team owner.
"When I drove down into (turn) three, the lapped car (of Stacey) chose the inside, and I chose the inside, and I was like, 'This isn't going to be good'," Busch said after his third-place finish. "Ninety-nine percent of the guys go high, but he went low and I just couldn't stay off of him. I had to push hard to try to keep Harvick behind me, and I made a mistake and got behind there."
Denny Hamlin finished fourth, while Michael Annett placed fifth. Rookie Austin Dillon took the sixth spot, followed by his younger brother, Ty, who is a full-time competitor in the Camping World Truck Series this year.
Joe Nemechek, Ryan Blaney and Darrell Wallace Jr. completed the top-10.
Austin Dillon is now 30 points behind Sadler, while Sam Hornish Jr. fell 50 points out of the lead following his 30th-place finish. Hornish cut his left- rear tire and spun into the outside wall before he slid down the track and into the path of Timmy Hill. The right side of Hill's car was torn off from the incident. There were no injuries. NASCAR briefly halted the race for extensive track cleanup.
Danica Patrick was also involved in a crash. Just past the halfway point, Patrick made contact with the wall after she moved up the track and bumped into Brad Sweet. She finished 29th.