HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) Kevin Harvick ruined a dominating performance by going too fast on pit road Sunday, allowing Brad Keselowski to steal a NASCAR Monster Energy Cup victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Harvick seemed poised to win at the 1.54-mile trioval for the first time since his initial Cup victory in 2001, just three races after he got his chance following the death of Dale Earnhardt.
Harvick led the first two stages under NASCAR's new format and was out front for a staggering 293 out of 325 laps overall. But, after a yellow flag came out when Austin Dillon lost power, the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford eclipsed the 45 mph speed limit going into the pits for his final stop.
The ensuing drive-thru penalty pushed Kyle Larson to the lead but he couldn't hold off Keselowski, who surged ahead on the backstretch with six laps to go and held on for a 0.564-second victory.
This one was all about Harvick, who was looking to give Stewart-Haas its second straight victory to start the season after Kurt Busch's won the Daytona 500.
Harvick clearly had the fastest car all weekend, starting from the pole and easily taking the first two 85-lap stages.
Then, when the victory was in his grasp, he led it slip away by going too fast.
The speeding penalty on pit road - an issue that plagued a bunch of drivers, including two-time defending race winner Jimmie Johnson - knocked Harvick to the end of the lead pack with 11 laps remaining.
That wasn't enough time to make up for his mistake, forcing him to settle for a ninth-place showing that should've been so much better.
''I didn't think I was pushing it,'' Harvick told his crew over the radio. ''I'm so sorry guys.''
He should be used to this sort of bitter disappointment in Atlanta.
Harvick led more laps than anyone each of the last three years, a total of 442 in all, but was never ahead when it mattered.
On Sunday, it happened again.
Harvick made only one other mistake all day, spinning his tires coming out of the pits during a caution period after Gray Gaulding blew an engine 62 laps from the end.
That one didn't hurt.
Keselowski grabbed the lead, only to get word that his crew had not properly attached some of the tire lug nuts during his own pit stop. He had to come back in for a second stop, knocking him from the lead to 14th place on the restart.
Keselowski never gave up, working his way back toward the front.
He was poised to take advantage when Harvick blundered again.
''Kevin was very, very strong. He was the guy to beat,'' Keselowski said after his 22nd career Cup victory. ''But we persevered.''
JIMMIE'S WOES: Johnson, the seven-time Cup champion, was trying to become the first driver to win the Atlanta race three years in a row.
His hopes were ruined by not one, but two speeding penalties on pit road.
Johnson wound up a lap down in 18th place.
A DEBUT AND A RETURN: Cody Ware made his first career start in the Cup series.
It was a tough day for the 21-year-old driver.
The No. 51 Chevrolet entered by non-chartered team Rick Ware Racing ran just 74 laps because of a steering problem and wound up last in the 39-car field.
At the other end of the age spectrum was 58-year-old Derrike Cope, the 1990 Daytona 500 winner making his first Cup appearance since 2009.
Like Ware, Cope didn't have the funding to run a competitive car but at least made it all the way to the end.
He finished 27 laps down in 36th.
PAINT JOB: Reed Sorenson's car was painted black when it arrived in Atlanta.
When it pulled onto the track Sunday, it was bright yellow.
Premium Motorsports repainted the No. 15 car overnight after picking up The Maid's, a nationally franchised maid service, as a last-minute sponsor.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry