Published November 04, 2012
| Sports Network
Fort Worth, TX – Kevin Harvick held off a hard-charging Ryan Blaney in the closing laps to win Saturday night's O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Harvick, a Sprint Cup Series regular, led the most laps with 127 and crossed the finish line 1.6 seconds ahead of Blaney for his second win of the season and the 39th of his Nationwide career, which moved him into sole possession of third on the series' all-time race winners list.
It was also Harvick's fifth Nationwide win at Texas, placing him in a tie with Kyle Busch for most victories at this 1.5-mile racetrack.
"We had a great night," Harvick said. "We really didn't make any adjustments to the car. It was pretty much a flawless night. The biggest thing I wanted to do was stay ahead of the 54 (Busch) on the restarts. He was really good for about 10 laps, and we were able to accomplish that and take control of those last couple of runs."
While Harvick took the checkered flag, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. overcame an ill- handling car early in the race to finish fourth and move into a points tie with Elliott Sadler. Stenhouse was in danger of falling one lap behind before a caution on lap 83 setup a round of pit stops.
"It wasn't a great night for us," said Stenhouse, who is the defending Nationwide champion. "The first run we were too tight and made an adjustment. I didn't think we made too big of an adjustment, but it went 180 degrees the other way. After that, we played catch up all night long and got it a little bit better."
Sadler had been running among the top-10 for most of the race, but after the final restart with 18 laps remaining, he dealt with an ill-handling car as well and quickly fell back in the field. Sadler ended up finishing 11th. He entered this 300-mile race with a six-point lead over Stenhouse.
With just two races to go -- Phoenix (Nov. 10) and Homestead (Nov. 17) -- Stenhouse is the leader in the point standings by virtue of his six wins for the season. Sadler has four victories this year.
Two weeks ago, Stenhouse won at Kansas after he miraculously bounced back from an accident with Joey Logano and then fell two laps behind midway through that race.
"We have gained some points the last two weeks, which is good, and you saw last year that if you tie, it goes to the most wins, and I think we have that covered right now, and we will keep plugging away," Stenhouse said.
Blaney, the 18-year-old son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, finished a career- best second in Nationwide. He passed Kyle Busch for the position with seven laps to go, while Busch, the pole sitter, ended up third.
"We almost got there at the end but just didn't really get clear of traffic soon enough," said Blaney, who drove the No. 22 Dodge for Penske Racing.
Denny Hamlin finished fifth, while rookie Austin Dillon placed sixth. Both drivers made contact with each other while battling for position after the last restart. The two then bumped into each other during the cool-down lap, with Hamlin knocking Dillon, who is the grandson of NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, into the wall alongside pit road.
Hamlin accused Dillon of pushing him down to the bottom of the track following the restart. Both drivers had a heated discussion after they climbed out of their cars on pit road.
"(Dillon's) got to give room, and that's why he always gets wrecked at Bristol and a couple of other racetracks," Hamlin said. "First of all, he got his ride because of his name. Second of all, you got to take advantage of the opportunity. If he's points racing, you can't crowd a guy that's on the bottom. I'm on the bottom, all the way to the apron. I'm doing everything that I can, and after the checkered flag, he wants to run into me. So I ran him into the fence. He needs to learn a lesson."
Dillon did not comment about the incident after the race. He moved to within 21 points of the lead.
Sam Hornish Jr., Justin Allgaier, Kevin Swindell and Logano completed the top-10.
Danica Patrick ran among the top-five during the mid-stages before she had to pit earlier than expected for a worn right-front tire. Patrick wound up finishing 14th. Her season-best finish of eighth came at Texas in April.