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Nationwide: Stenhouse sneaks last-lap win

Harvick once again got away in front and looked to have the win safely in his hands as he cleared Stenhouse through turn 4, but then on the final lap the #33 got loose in turn 2 and had to check up, handing Stenhouse the momentum as he was boosted past Harvick courtesy of a push from Brad Keselowski. Harvick could only watch on as both cars took the chequered flag ahead of him, and he had to settle for fending off Elliott Sadler to retain third place for himself.

Harvick was not happy: he has also failed to win the previous seven races in which he has led the most laps. To rub salt in that wound, on the cool down lap he saw on the big screens mounted around Atlanta Motor Speedway a clip of Brad Keselowski throwing out a spent water bottle from his car just seconds before that fateful penultimate debris caution that had changed the complexion of the final stages of the race, and he was furious.

"It's pretty obvious," fumed Harvick after storming over the Keselowski in the pits to accuse him of intentionally causing a yellow in order to get a favourable pit stop under the caution. "They put it on TV and showed when the caution came out on the same lap," he said. "He told me after the race that he'd never thrown a water bottle out, and you know what that means. He told me it was intentional. It is what is.

"The car that caused the caution pushed the car that won the race by us and we weren't able to get by him, but what can you do?" he said at a frosty post-race press conference. Harvick finished by turning to Keslowski and adding: "Sleep good tonight."

Keselowski dismissed the criticism, saying that despite how it had been edited on the TV replays the water bottle had been thrown out 15-20 laps before the caution, and that jettisoning empties in this fashion was routine practice.

"Everybody throws water bottles out of the car," said Keselowski. "That's how racing works. If you go around the infield at these tracks, I'm sure after the race you'll find 20 water bottles."

NASCAR's vice president of competition Robin Pemberton later confirmed that the cause of the debris caution has been a piece of aluminium and not a water bottle, but Harvick was still fuming: "The run was really good, but obviously it wasn't what NASCAR wanted so we kept throwing cautions for things," he thundered.

At least Stenhouse was a happy, excitable presence at the post-race press conference as he celebrated his last-gasp victory, cheerfully admitting that he knew he'd "stolen" it and that it didn't matter a jot if he had. In fairness, Stenhouse was emphatically the next-best car on the track after Harvick, running almost the entire race in second place.

"It was a great night and fun racing with Kevin there," he said. "It was good, hard, clean racing, and I'm glad that we could put on a show for fans".

Stenhouse's win means that he moves up to within just 12pts of Elliott Sadler in the Nationwide Series points standings, with Sam Hornish Jr. and Austin Dillon also keeping themselves in contention with top ten finishes here at Atlanta this week, with nine races remaining in the 2012 championship.




Related Pictures

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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, celebrates by kissing the bricks after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars into the pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, races the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, lead the field to the green flag for the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, and his team celebrate by kissing the bricks after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, stands on the grid with Haley Carey prior to the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Resers Toyota, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, celebrates with brother and Sprint Cup driver Austin Dillon after Ty won the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
The Richard Childress Racing #3 Chevrolet Nationwide Series car driven by Ty Dillon. (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR)
Ty Dillon with his team owner and grandfaster Richard Childress at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 7 2014. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field out of the pits during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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