Loudon, NH – Brad Keselowski made a late-race pass on Kevin Harvick for the lead and then pulled away to win Saturday's F.W. Webb 200 Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Keselowski, the pole sitter, had put on a dominating performance until Harvick took the top position away from him just after a restart with 45 laps remaining. Harvick held a one-second advantage over his fellow Sprint Cup Series competitor until he was stuck behind the lapped car of Amber Cope, allowing Keselowski to slip by him and reclaim the lead for good with 22 laps to go.
He claimed his second Nationwide win of the season and the 19th of his career.
"What a great day for this team," said Keselowski, who won a race at New Hampshire for the first time after leading 131 laps. "Kevin raced me hard, and it was great racing. There's very few other guys I like to race than Kevin. He's a lot of fun to race with. I caught a little bit of a break in traffic, and that's the way it goes."
Keselowski's team owner, Roger Penske, was at New Hampshire to see his racing organization pick up its 25th win in NASCAR's second-tier series. The victory comes one week after A.J. Allmendinger was placed on temporarily suspension for a failed drug test. Sam Hornish Jr., who finished fourth in this race, will drive Penske Racing's No. 22 car in Sunday's scheduled 300-lap Sprint Cup event at this 1.058-mile oval.
"You see that we really pulled together this past week with all of the adversity we've had," Penske said.
Harvick finished 0.7 seconds behind Keselowski. During the cool-down lap, Harvick waited for Cope to enter pit road before he gently bumped the front end of her car to express his displeasure. Cope, who did not start the race until 30 laps into it, finished 26th. She is the 28-year-old niece of 1990 Daytona 500 winner and occasional Nationwide competitor Derrike Cope.
"Every time you come to (Cope), she doesn't know if she is going high or low, and it looked like she went up, so I committed to the bottom, and then she came down," Harvick said. "It's not one of those deals. It's somebody who shouldn't be on the racetrack that has no clue what they are doing in the race car. She wants to be Danica Patrick, but she can't hold her helmet."
Rookie Austin Dillon finished third and claimed the $100,000 Nationwide "Dash 4 Cash" award. Dillon, who was one of the four Nationwide regulars eligible for the bonus, had to fight off Hornish and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the position in the closing laps. Stenhouse was also qualified for the bonus.
"That's a lot of money," a very happy Dillon said. "Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) raced me really clean, and I want to thank him for that. When you're racing out there for $100,000, you do a lot for that. It was a heck of a race there at the end. I didn't see him all day until that last caution. I knew he would be there. We were racing hard, and it turned out well for us."
With air temperatures reaching above 90 degrees, Stenhouse suffered from heat exhaustion and collapsed after climbing out of his car on pit road following his fifth-place run. The Roush Fenway Racing driver and defending Nationwide champion was taken to the racetrack's infield medical care center, where he received fluids and was later released. He had been suffering from flu-like symptoms earlier in the week.
"I feel okay now," Stenhouse said after his release from infield care center. "They gave me some fluids. I think just being a little sick all week, not eating much and not drinking enough fluids caught up with me after the race."
Elliott Sadler remained atop the standings after his seventh-place run, but his Richard Childress Racing teammate, Dillon, moved to within three points of him. Stenhouse is now 13 points behind. Hornish trails the leader by 16 markers.
Kasey Kahne finished sixth after leading 43 laps, while Justin Allgaier, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Truex completed the top-10.
Kyle Busch, who had won the Nationwide race at New Hampshire in each of the last three years, experienced a carburetor issue early in the event and spent more than 30 laps in the garage for repairs. He later retired from the event due to a fuel pressure problem, as he finished 28th in his own No. 54 car.
Danica Patrick had been running in the top-10 late in the race, but she made contact with rookie Jason Bowles and spun around. Patrick did not hit anything and continued on for a 14th-place finish.