Kevin Harvick dominated the field Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, overcoming a slow final pit stop to win the Degree V12 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
Kyle Busch finished second and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third after stretching his fuel window to the end in an effort to steal the win away from Harvick. The effort fell flat with two to go when Harvick and Busch sailed past Earnhardt's car, limping around with a nearly empty tank and old tires.
"We had a pretty good chance of making it (on fuel), and it was really our only chance," Earnhardt Jr. said. "The 18 (Busch) and the 33 (Harvick) just had everybody covered."
Busch thought he might have given away his only chance to take the lead in the final laps, when with two to go he drove too hard into the corner and had to let off, giving Harvick an extra two-car-length advantage that he could never recover.
"We could beat the 33 for 15-18 laps, but after that, they had us," Busch said. "We were good, but Harvick was gone."
Harvick led 131 laps, including 147 to 182, but a late-race pit stop nearly unraveled his perfect night. His crew struggled with the right rear tire, dramatically slowing the stop. Because of his large cushion going into the pits, though, Harvick came out ahead of Busch.
But he still had to contend with Earnhardt Jr. and Keselowski, who hadn't made another stop.
"I was a little worried there at the end," Harvick said. "I really thought everyone had to pit. We cut it a little closer than I wanted to."
Harvick trimmed a 16-second deficit to less than two seconds with three laps to go, and he and Busch were both able to get past Earnhardt Jr. on the next lap.
"The race ended as it should have, with the fastest cars winning," said Earnhardt Jr., the evening's polesitter. "I would have liked to steal the win, but I wouldn't have taken a lot of pride in that. This is still the best fun I've had in the series. It gave us a little shot in the arm."
It was a great shot in the arm for Harvick too, finally picking up a win at AMS after three straight runner-up finishes in both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races at the fast track.
"We left here with our tail between our legs every time we've been here the last two years," Harvick said. "We don't like to lose. It motivates us."
Racing action continues Sunday with the Pep Boys Auto 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, the historic first night race at AMS. Seats are still available by calling the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at 877-9-AMS-TIX (877-926-7849), 770-946-4211 or by visiting www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.