By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
HAMPTON, Ga. -- No wonder they call Kevin Harvick "The Closer."
From the moment Harvick's No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet took the lead from polesitter Chase Elliott on Lap 37, Saturday night's Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was an open-and-shut case.
In posting his third NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season and the 43rd of his career, Harvick led the last 159 laps and finished .567 seconds ahead of runner-up Joey Logano.
"This thing was bad fast from the drop of the green flag," Harvick said after finishing off a spectacular victory burnout and exiting the car. "This is just one of those race tracks where I like the challenge of everything you get to do here.
"(Crew chief) Ernie (Cope) and I have found a great setup over the years back into the trucks (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series), and it's still working today."
The only factors preventing Harvick from lapping the field -- or so it seemed -- were a pair of debris cautions, the first of which erased a four-second lead after Harvick had paced the field from Laps 37 through 72.
The second caution flag, which flew on Lap 120, wiped out a Harvick advantage that was close to seven seconds. By then, only 10 of the 40 cars that started the race remained on the lead lap.
A light rain extended that second caution to 13 laps, but after a restart on Lap 134, it was more of the same. Harvick quickly pulled out to a lead of more than four seconds before a cycle of green-flag pit stops trimmed his advantage to two seconds over Logano, the only driver able to keep pace with Harvick over the closing laps.
Kyle Larson ran third, followed by Kyle Busch and Elliott, who extended his series lead to 15 points over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, the sixth-place finisher.
Logano's car came to life in the closing laps but not soon enough for him to catch Harvick.
"I took off that last run and started to catch Kevin a little bit and then started to get too tight," Logano said. "He started driving away a little bit, and then the last six or seven laps, all of a sudden the light switch turned on and I started catching him.
"I just ran out of time. I wish there were five or seven more laps, and I could have got to him and tried to do something with him. We were catching him two or three tenths (of a second) a lap there at the end and having some fun with it, but it was too little, too late."
In Friday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series time trials, Harvick won the pole for Sunday's Oral-B USA 500 at the 1.54-mile speedway. Though there are vast differences in the behavior of NNS versus Cup cars, Harvick's ability to run the bottom at Atlanta might be an indication of good things to come on Sunday.
"I'm really happy with our car," Harvick said. "It's been good in every practice and obviously qualified well. You just have to have it all go your way. These races are hard to win, so we'll just enjoy this one tonight and go from there."
NASCAR Nationwide Series Race - Great Clips 300 to benefit Feed The Children
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Saturday, August 30, 2014
1. (8) Kevin Harvick(i), Chevrolet, 195, $50000.
2. (4) Joey Logano(i), Ford, 195, $37225.
3. (2) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 195, $27250.
4. (3) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 195, $21875.
5. (1) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 195, $30225.