Hampton, GA – Kevin Harvick won in the Nationwide Series for the first time this season after he outran Kyle Busch in the closing laps of Saturday night's 300-mile race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Harvick, a two-time Nationwide champion, grabbed the lead from Busch, the pole sitter, on lap 59 and then ran in front for a race-high 132 laps. He scored his 40th career victory in the series, including his second at Atlanta. His first win here came in 2009.
With less than 35 laps to go, Harvick encountered a loose right wheel. A caution for an accident involving Jeff Green set up a round of pit stops. Harvick edged Joey Logano out of the pits to keep the lead.
After the race resumed with seven laps left, Logano spun his wheels, allowing Busch to take second. Busch then challenged Harvick for the lead during the final laps, but Harvick beat him to the finish line by 0.6 seconds.
"We did a great job on pit road," Harvick said. "I just had to change my approach there a little bit at the end. I knew Kyle would go for it, but it was fun racing with him."
Harvick had an opportunity to win the Nationwide race at Atlanta the past two seasons. Last year, he led 157 laps and held a 15-second advantage at one point, but the last caution set up a three-lap sprint to the finish. Harvick lost momentum on the last lap, allowing Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to pass him and then take the victory. Harvick ended up finishing third.
In 2011, Harvick held the lead until Carl Edwards moved ahead of him following a restart with 19 laps left. Edwards won the race, while Harvick placed fourth.
"This is three years in a row that we've had a dominant car," Harvick said. "You keep thinking that something will go wrong, but we just kept digging. These guys (No. 33 Richard Childress Racing team) did a great job all weekend. They brought back the same stuff we had last year, and it worked again."
Busch was attempting to win a Nationwide event at this 1.54-mile racetrack for the first time. He ran side-by-side with Harvick following the last restart but could not pull ahead of him. Last weekend at Bristol, Busch scored his ninth win of the season.
"It was just a little short," Busch said. "I was too tight once I got into the fence, and the last couple of times there, I was having a hard time holding it where I needed to. I fought hard but came up short."
Sam Hornish Jr. finished third and increased his lead from six points to 10 over Austin Dillon, who placed eighth.
Kasey Kahne took the fourth spot, followed by rookie Kyle Larson and Logano, who cut his right-front tire and scraped the wall just before the halfway point.
"We rebounded from that flat tire pretty well," Logano said. "Just trying to recover from having a fender knocked in. I was trying to get my balance back right. I came in during that last pit stop, but we didn't adjust enough for a load of fuel that we were going to put in it. I spun my tires on that last restart, which was my fault. The car was just so tight, and I couldn't keep up anymore."
Trevor Bayne finished seventh, while Regan Smith and Brian Scott completed the top-10.
Elliott Sadler's 18th-place run put him 26 points behind Hornish. Smith trails the leader by 29 points.