Kevin Harvick passed pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the next-to-last lap and pulled away to win Saturday night's Degree V12 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Kyle Busch, who also passed Earnhardt on lap 194 of 195, ran second and padded his Nationwide Series points lead from 192 to 221 over second-place Carl Edwards, who completed the race despite fracturing two bones in his right foot playing frisbee on Wednesday. Edwards finished seventh, one lap down.
After pitting for the last time on lap 125, Earnhardt saved enough fuel to make it to the end of the race but couldn't stay ahead of Busch and Harvick, who came to the pits for four tyres and gas on lap 181 and 182, respectively.
Brad Keselowski came home fourth, followed by Jeff Burton and Joey Logano.
"Kyle was a little better on the short runs there, but after about eight or 10 laps, this thing was just flat-out awesome," Harvick said of his #33 Chevrolet. "We cut it a little bit closer than I would have liked to there at the end.
"It was nice to race the 18 (Busch) head-to-head like that and have fun with him. I really thought everybody had to pit. Just a great night for the fans who came out to watch the race - Dale Jr. on strategy, Kyle good on short runs and us good after about 10 laps - so you had all kinds of that good Atlanta racing tonight."
Earnhardt credited his crew, which included former crew chief Tony Eury Jr. in a consulting role, with a good call in the pits.
"We saved enough gas, and we finished closer to them two guys than we were on the racetrack," Earnhardt said. "So I guess it was the right call. We just didn't have enough at the end to hold them off. I tried to get going when they were coming. Hopefully we put on a good show for the fans out there."
Harvick held a lead of more than six seconds when NASCAR called the third caution of the race on lap 124 because of debris in turn 2, ending a green-flag run of 79 laps. At that point, there were five cars on the lead lap.
Busch, however, won the race off pit road after the lead-lap cars pitted for tyres and fuel under yellow. After a restart on lap 129, he and Harvick battled side-by-side for five laps, before Busch edged ahead and stayed out front until lap 147.
Harvick's car, however, was stronger on long runs, and the driver of the #33 Chevrolet passed Busch for the lead with 48 laps left and began to pull away. His lead had reached more than seven seconds when he pulled into the pits on lap 182.
by Reid Spencer / Sporting News