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NASCAR Nationwide Atlanta: Harvick leaves them standing

With pole position to look forward to in Sunday's Sprint Cup race, Kevin Harvick had the perfect preparation with victory in the Atlanta Nationwide race.
CLICK: Full race results and full Nationwide Series championship standings

The previous day Kevin Harvick had scored a strong pole position in qualifying for Sunday evening's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, and on Saturday evening he confirmed just how much he had the measure of Atlanta Motor Speedway in a Nationwide Series car as well, as he led for all but 36 of the 195-lap race and left just eight other cars on the lead lap by the time he claimed the chequered flag in the Great Clips 300.

"This thing was bad fast from the drop of the green flag," said Harvick after clinching his 43rd victory in 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series races and his third of the season. "This is just one of those race tracks where I like the challenge of everything you get to do here."

Chase Elliott had led the field to the green flag after a final round qualifying effort of 30.759s (180.240mph) on the 1.54-mile oval gave him his first pole in 24 Nationwide races. It also made him the youngest pole winner at Atlanta at the age of 18 years, 9 months, 2 days - beating the record previously held by Jeff Gordon who was 20 when he won pole here in 1992.

Elliott held the lead for the first 36 laps until displaced by his JR Motorsports team mate Kevin Harvick shortly before the first round of green flag pit stops of the evening which saw Joey Logano move ahead of Elliott, Kyle Larson and Brian Scott.

The first caution of the night for debris on the backstraight on lap 73 allowed the field to make its next visit to pit lane, although it wiped out the four-second lead that Harvick had built up by that stage. The next round of pit stops also turned out to fall under a yellow - this time the debris materialising in turn 2 on lap 121, and then extended because of a brief light rain shower - and on this occasion Harvick had to endure a seven second advantage disappearing into thin air.

There were no further cautions for the rest of the race, meaning that the last round of pit stops that took place under green with just under 20 of the 195 laps remaining. It was no problem for Harvick who had held the lead uninterrupted from the moment he had slipped past Elliott, but Elliott himself slid through his pit box and ended up falling to sixth place, the young rookie kicking himself over his error.

"I made an unacceptable mistake there at the end and cost us a couple spots," he admitted. "My guys deserved better than that. So, my bad."

Harvick now had a clear run to the chequered flag, and there was little that second-place man Joey Logano could do about it. By the time they crossed the finish line, Harvick's lead had been whittled back to a little over half a second but even so there was never any real doubt about the identity of the winner.

"I took off that last run and started to catch Kevin a little bit and then started to get too tight," said Logano. "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," he summarised. "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 a lap there at the end and having some fun with it, but it was too little, too late."

Kyle Larson held on to third place at the finish ahead of Kyle Busch, while Chase Elliott recovered one of his dropped positions to cross the line in fifth place. That means he keeps the lead in the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship standings by 15 points over Regan Smith who finished just behind him in sixth place at Atlanta on Saturday.

See full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings.



Related Pictures

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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to a sixth place finish Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Gordon finishes third in the Chase for the Cup Championship. This was Gordon`s last race as a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. He has made 796 consecutive Cup Series starts, earned 93 wins, and 81 poles - all behind the wheel of Chevrolets. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick finishes as the runner-up in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with a burnout after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the series championship and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Daniel Suarez, driver of the #18 ARRIS Toyota, lead the field on the first lap of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #33 Rheem Chevrolet, leads Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Crest Chevrolet, during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Fastenal Ford, and Regan Smith, driver of the #7 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Crest Chevrolet, races to the finish line to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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