HAMPTON, Ga. and CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Report by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images North America photo —
Atlanta Motor Speedway is Kevin Harvick’s world, and everyone else is just living in it.
Harvick proved that statement true once again in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 on Saturday afternoon, laying a smackdown on the field and leading 101 of 163 laps en route to his third consecutive NXS victory at Atlanta — and fourth in his last seven series starts — at the fast 1.54-mile oval.
Harvick had to weather a late-race charge from polesitter and Team Penske pilot Joey Logano, who led 59 laps and actually took the lead from the JR Motorsports driver with 37 laps to go, but lost the lead during the final round of pit stops and could never get back to the point.
“That pit stop is what won (us) this race,” Harvick said in Victory Lane. “You know, Joey probably had a little bit better car the second half of the run. It really played out for us there at the end though, as we were able to have that short run and take off.”
While Harvick said he was not nervous about the speed of the No. 22 Ford in the closing laps, he was aware that Logano was just a little bit better on the longer runs and worked to compensate for that on the final restart.
“I knew I needed to take off — I thought his car was a little bit better as we got to about lap 20 (of the run) and he would start reeling us in. All in all, these guys on the Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet did a great job today. Awesome pit stops all day long — we were able to make up some ground on that last pit stop and now we get to enjoy it here in Victory Lane.”
All three of Harvick’s consecutive wins have come with Bad Boy Buggies onboard as the primary sponsor — but with two different teams and three different car numbers.
Logano hung on to finish second, but was left to wonder what could have been after a loose wheel and subsequent vibration caused him to fall off over the final 10 laps of the race.
“(Today was) the closest anyone’s been to beating Kevin here in a long time,” Logano quipped during his post race interview. “We came down pit road — we got beat off pit road — and then we got a decent restart for the outside lane … (but) the 9 (Chase Elliott) was able to push him out ahead. At that point I was trying to move around, try different lanes and I was starting to catch him but then I just had this huge vibration — the left rear was loose.”
“From there I just had to hang on and hope the left rear didn’t pass me,” Logano laughed. “Overall, we had a fast race car and we showed a lot of speed today. Just came up a little bit short.”
Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher and Elliott rounded out the top five. Dillon and Buescher sit tied atop the points standings after two races with 83 markers apiece.
Only three caution flags for 12 laps meant several cycles of green flag pit stops shuffled the running order, but it all started with a spin in turn four by Viva Motorsports’ Jeffery Earnhardt that slowed the field for the first time on lap 8.
The Fords of Logano and Buescher were the class of the field early, with Logano leading the first 50 laps and Buescher clawing his way forward from the 18th starting position up to 8th in the early going. However, Harvick’s pit crew would prove to be the difference-makers even early — using quick service to get the Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet to the lead for the first time on lap 53.
From there it was the Kevin Harvick Show, as the 2007 Daytona 500 champion put multiple cars one lap down and left less than a dozen cars on the lead lap by the time the caution flew at lap 87 for debris and bunched the field up for a second time. But Harvick would get away from the field again and force everyone else to play catch-up on the restart, pacing 37 additional circuits before ceding the lead to Logano’s bonzai charge at lap 127.
A second green flag cycle of pit stops would begin six laps later, with Matt Kenseth and Kyle Larson among several cars who tried to use a short-pitting strategy to make up ground on the leaders. Those cars would be hung out to dry however, when a caution for fluid on the race track forced them into a wave-around situation to remain on the lead lap with 30 laps remaining.
Another rapid pit stop put Harvick back out in front to stay — but on the restart, his teammate and defending series champion Chase Elliott tried to follow him to second on the race’s final restart. Elliott would end up getting loose and fall back to eighth before making his charge back to the top five in the final laps — all while his teammate drove off into the Atlanta sunset.
Paul Menard, Brian Scott, Kenseth, Regan Smith and Larson rounded out the top ten — the final car on the lead lap.
Erik Jones, subbing for the injured Kyle Busch, piloted the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota to a 13th place result, two laps down.
The NASCAR XFINITY Series returns to action next Saturday for the Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (4 p.m. Eastern on FOX Sports 1).
RESULTS: NASCAR XFINITY Series; Atlanta Motor Speedway; Hisense 250; Feb. 28, 2015
- Kevin Harvick
- Joey Logano
- Ty Dillon
- Chris Buescher
- Chase Elliott
- Paul Menard
- Brian Scott
- Matt Kenseth
- Regan Smith
- Kyle Larson
- Darrell Wallace Jr.
- Brendan Gaughan
- Erik Jones
- Daniel Suarez
- Sam Hornish Jr.
- Ryan Reed
- Landon Cassill
- Elliott Sadler
- JJ Yeley
- Dakoda Armstrong
- Jeremy Clements
- Blake Koch
- Ryan Sieg
- Ross Chastain
- Mike Bliss
- David Starr
- John Wes Townley
- Eric McClure
- Chris Cockrum
- Joey Gase
- Cody Ware
- Jeffrey Earnhardt
- Jimmy Weller
- Harrison Rhodes
- Cale Conley
- Derrike Cope
- Mike Harmon
- Josh Reaume
- Carl Long
- Morgan Shepherd