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HAMPTON,Ga. - Kevin Harvick survived a restart with seven laps to go, holding off Kyle Busch and Ford’s Joey Logano among others, to win Saturday night’s Great Clips/Grit Chips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. For Harvick it was his 40th career series victory and first of the season.
And while the statistics will show that Busch and Harvick led all but a few of the 195 laps, the Fords of Logano, Sam Hornish and Trevor Bayne ran comfortably inside the top 10 all night and with the right set of circumstances could have ended up in victory lane.
Logano, who qualified 16th, was tracking Busch for the lead on lap 86 when he blew a right-front tire and scraped the outside wall. Fortunately, it came at the beginning of a green-flag pit cycle, so he was able to come down pit road and get back on track without losing track position. When everything cycled through, Logano remained second and stalked the lead from that point forward.
When Jeff Green brought out the final caution of the night with 14 laps remaining, all of the leaders came down pit road for four tires. Logano and Harvick had identical stops and with Harvick winning the race off pit road, it allowed him to pick which lane he wanted to take the restart.
Harvick selected the inside and got a good jump on Logano, who spun the tires and fell back to a final position of sixth.
“I spun my tires and I was way too tight to do anything with him,” said a dejected Logano. “I thought I was in the catbird’s seat. I thought I could beat him there on the start and I just lit ‘em up.”
Logano’s misfortune, however, turned into Sam Hornish’s gain as the NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader went from seventh to third in the final 14 laps. That enabled him to increase his advantage over second-place Austin Dillon to 10 points as the Richard Childress Racing driver ended up eighth.
“It was a good set of calls and really having a good lane choice there at the end, being in the right place,” said Hornish. “So many times you get stuck out here by being in the wrong lane, but tonight it really worked out for us and we were exactly where we wanted to be. Our Ford Mustang was really good on the long run and I was glad we were able to make solid adjustments on it to be able to make it good for that last short run.”
Trevor Bayne was in position to make a move at the end, but he got bottled up behind Logano on the final restart and finished seventh. Chris Buescher ended up 13th, Michael Annett 14th and Travis Pastrana 17th among the other Ford drivers.