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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)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, April 24, 2015 for Saturday evening`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. Harvick is the points leader in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Wix Chevrolet SS, finishes in fifth place and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finishes in seventh place Sunday, April 19, 2015 in the rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, leads the field to a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 19, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Autotrader Ford, sit on the apron after an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 19, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, poses in victory lane with his crew chief Greg Erwin after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 18, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 18, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #20 GameStop Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, lead the field through the green flag to start the NASCAR XFINITY Series Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 18, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #20 GameStop Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR XFINITY Series Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 18, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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