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Nationwide: Stenhouse sneaks last-lap win

Kevin Harvick dominated the NRA American Warrior 300 Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday - only to have the win stolen from him on the last lap by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Does anything in racing hurt quite so much as dominating an entire race, leading 157 of the total 195-lap race distance, only to have the race stolen out from under you in the last 1.5-miles seemingly because of a carelessly discarded water bottle? Ask Kevin Harvick, who is waking up on Sunday after just that scenario happened to him on Saturday evening in the NRA American Warrior 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"Heck, yeah, we stole it," said the race winner in victory lane. "We've had a few stolen from us. You go out and get as many as you can, any way you can!"

That last-minute thief in the night was Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who had led for the opening laps after he had successfully taken the lead from polesitter Kyle Busch on the first lap and held it through two cautions (Joey Gase hitting the wall on lap 4, Fain Skinner's engine putting oil on the track on lap 11) only to succumb to Harvick's superior pace at the second restart on lap 16.

Once in front, Harvick appeared completely in control for much of the ensuing race, while Stenhouse had his hands full continuing to deal with Busch and with debris on his front grille that threatened to cook his engine in its own steam. Following a round of green flag pit stops around lap 50, Harvick's lead had stretched out to an almost absurd 15s over the rest of the field.

A yellow flag on lap 65 for Reed Sorenson and Robert Richardson Jr. crashing in turns 1 and 2 bunched up the field again, and there was a fourth caution on lap 83 when Denny Hamlin's right-rear tyre went down on him in the same spot, but Harvick was still in charge and still quickly racing away from Stenhouse again at the green flag. At the halfway point, his lead was back up to over six seconds.

A tyre blow-out for Kasey Kahne on lap 105 closed the field up once more, with the restart lasting only six laps before Eric McClure brought out the sixth caution with a trip into the wall. The 13 cars still on the lead lap by this stage all came onto pit lane, but X-Games superstar new boy Travis Pastrana enjoying an opportunity to star out and lead a lap in NASCAR before getting comprehensively blown away by Harvick getting up to rocket ship speed once more.

After that normal service resumed and the race ran green for the next 55 laps, during which time the final round of pit stops needed to be completed under green. Justin Allgaier and Brad Keselowski gambled on trying to stay out as long as they could, which put them in front of Harvick as the race entered its final stage; but even with a pit stop in hand, Keselowski still found himself staring at Harvick's rear bumper.

And that's when a caution for debris came out on lap 182, with just 13 laps remaining of the race. Once again the field was closed up, with Allgaier and Keselowski making their stops under the highly advantageous yellow but everyone else staying out for green. But cautions breed cautions, and this time was no different: as soon as the green came out, James Buescher and Danica Patrick made contract on the backstretch that ultimately saw Buescher wreck with Mike Bliss and Kyle Fowler to put the race straight back under caution for the eighth time tonight.

With the race so near the end, the race officials were forced to throw a brief red flag to clean up rather than have the scheduled end of the race roll by under the caution. By the time things were cleaned up and ready to go again, it meant that it was a de facto two lap shootout for the race win, with Harvick lining up alongside Stenhouse on the front row, and Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch immediately behind them.




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Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #6 Cargill Beef Ford, celebrates with his crew in victory lane after he won the NASCAR Nationwide Series NRA American Warrior 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on September 1, 2012 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #6 Cargill Beef Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Series NRA American Warrior 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on September 1, 2012 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to win Sunday, August 17, 2014 in the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet SS finished second. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, Trevor Bayne, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, Justin Allgaier, driver of the #51 Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet, and Michael Annett, driver of the #7 Allstate Peterbilt/Pilot Chevrolet, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford takes the chequered flag to win the Nationwide Children`s 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, drives the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford during the Nationwide Children`s 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Nationwide Children`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Nationwide Children`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, leads the field at the start of the Nationwide Childrens`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet SS, qualified sixth Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Harvick is 8th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
The #28 Texas 28 Spirits Stage Dodge, driven by JJ Yeley, is seen after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, and Joey Logano, driver of the #12 Snap-On Ford, lead the field to the green flag for the running of the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Nelson Piquet Jr., driver of the #77 WORX Ford, prepares his equipment in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on August 8, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 3, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 3, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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