Harvick Charges to Second NASCAR Nationwide Series Kentucky Victory
SPARTA, Ky. - Kevin Harvick passed Kyle Busch on a restart with five laps remaining and won the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 presented by Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Friday at Kentucky Speedway.
Harvick tried to pass Busch on an earlier restart but couldn't quite pull it off. A caution with eight laps to go set up the final restart and a final opportunity for the driver of the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet to take the lead.
He did, passing Busch as they drove into Turn 1 and then driving off to his 42nd career NASCAR Nationwide Series victory and second this season.
"I kind of told myself that I wasn't going to let off the gas pedal that time," said Harvick, who won Kentucky Speedway's inaugural Nationwide race in 2001. "I felt like I could do it if I just committed to it and knew I probably wasn't going to get another chance. I should have committed to it the time before but I just didn't.
"We were lucky to have that last caution. I knew if I didn't beat him out of Turn 2 or into Turn 3 I'd have a tough time passing him."
Brad Keselowski finished second in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford. For much of the race, his car was the class of the field.
Keselowski led 138 of the first 150 laps. A pit road speeding penalty put him a lap down and changed the complexion of the race. Keselowski charged from 17th into contention for the win over the final 39 laps. He passed Busch for second place with three laps remaining but couldn't close the gap to Harvick. He finished 0.928 of a second behind the race winner.
"We had a great day going and I got us behind there with the pit road speeding. I made a little mistake," Keselowski said. "The team did a great job and gave me a really fast car. I thought Kevin there at the end was just as fast, if not a touch faster."
Busch led 38 laps and finished third in the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Paul Menard and Ryan Blaney also finished in the top-five.
"I didn't have the car to beat so I shouldn't be upset with third," Busch said. "There at the end, we had the opportunity to win the race. Through the middle part of the race I passed (Harvick) and just didn't have enough on the final restarts. Not enough speed for the first five or so laps after a restart and then I could start inching my way away a little bit. But just not enough there to hold Kevin off. He just flat-out drove by me on the restart. We’re all wide open. I’d say there’s a problem under the hood a little bit."
Harvick’s car carried sponsorship from Kroger and Proctor & Gamble and the victory was the fifth this season for JR Motorsports, the team co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Harvick said he hadn’t planned to run Friday’s race until about three weeks ago. Part of his reasoning for wanting to participate was to help him get a better feel for the rough racing surface before racing in the Sprint Cup Series’ Quaker State 400 on Saturday.
A test session for Nationwide teams on Wednesday and the physical toll the track takes on drivers has made for a longer than normal week, he said.
"We only race here once a year and this is a difficult place to race and get your car right and have the confidence and know what you need to do to make the car go fast," Harvick said. "It was one of those races I wanted to race. I don’t necessarily know that I wanted to be coming to the open test day on Wednesday and spend a whole week here at the racetrack, but it worked out. It did work out. This is something that I pushed for really hard and put together a few weeks ago and here we are."
Elliott Sadler finished 10th in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota but leaves Kentucky as the series points leader. Regan Smith, who drives the No. 7 for JR Motorsports, held that distinction entering the race. His race ended with a 28th place finish after being clipped by the No. 16 Ford driven by Ryan Reed.
Smith now trails Sadler by eight points with rookie Chase Elliott separating the two. Elliott finished 12th but had a hand in Trevor Bayne bringing out the final caution on Lap 193 after he hit the wall.
"We just kind of stayed out trouble and battled to a top 10," Sadler said. "We are the points leader, but we still have a long ways to go."
The race weekend concludes Saturday with the Sprint Cup Series’ Quaker State 400 at 7:30 p.m.
- Kentucky Speedway -