SPARTA, Ky. (AP) — Kevin Harvick finally got the shot at Kyle Busch that he had been waiting for.
Harvick overtook Busch on the final restart and held off Brad Keselowski to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Friday night at Kentucky Speedway.
After failing to pass Busch’s Toyota on an earlier restart, Harvick succeeded with another chance on Lap 196. His Chevy gained enough space from Keselowski, who rallied from 17th following a pass-through penalty with 50 laps left to finish second in a Ford.
“I felt like I could do it,” Harvick said about the pass. “We were lucky to have that last caution. … I don’t know if he got tight or loose, but my car went through there like on a rail and off it went down the backstretch. It was a good restart.”
Busch, the Truck Series winner Thursday night, led 38 laps in finishing third.
“Just not enough there to hold Kevin off,” Busch said. “He just flat drove right by me on the restart.”
Harvick’s victory was the fifth of the season for JR Motorsports, co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kelly Earnhardt-Miller with Hendrick Motorsports power. It was somewhat bittersweet, as Regan Smith’s late accident left him 28th and allowed Elliott Sadler to take a four-point lead over rookie Chase Elliott (12th), another JR Motorsports driver, in the season standings. Smith is eight points back in third.
On balance the night ended well as Harvick salvaged a rough week at the track.
“Kevin did an awesome job,” Earnhardt said. “He didn’t have the best car for most of the race, but they definitely improved the speed toward the end of the race.”
Harvick led twice for 14 laps. He has two series victories this season and 42 in 309 career starts. He also won at the track in 2001.
His triumph was surprising only because the race seemed to belong to Keselowski before his penalty gave Busch an opening that he wasn’t going to relinquish. But as the laps wound down, Harvick remained close enough to Busch to still have a chance and his persistence finally paid off.
Before the pit road speeding penalty, Keselowski seemed headed for a second straight victory at the track in leading 138 laps. He settled for his seventh top-10 in as many Nationwide starts at Kentucky and third top-three in his last four.
On the penalty, Keselowski said, “I did put us behind with that, but you still have to give credit to Kevin at the end there. He drove by and took the lead, so he was really good.”
Paul Menard was fourth.