Ricky Stenhouse got by the dominant No. 33 Richard Childress Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick on the final lap of the NRA American Warrior 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday night to claim the win and drive his No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford into victory lane. He shaved seven points off of Elliott Sadler’s championship points lead.
Brad Keselowski came back from two laps down after two early-race pit road speeding penalties to finish second.
I knew I had to get everything I could on that restart.
"All my fault," Keselowski said. "I was speeding on pit road."
Harvick finished third after leading 157 laps of the 195-lap event and building up leads of over 12 seconds multiple times throughout the race.
"It's kind of how the whole year's gone," a dejected Harvick, still winless in 2012, said after the race.
After Kyle Busch in the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota and Stenhouse led the early laps of the race, Harvick took the lead for the first time on lap 19. By lap 4, he had a cushion of nearly 13 seconds on the rest of the field.
"Man, that 33 was fast," Stenhouse said after the race.
Cars began cycling through green-flag pit stops on lap 48. During the cycle, both Keselowski and Kasey Kahne were caught speeding on pit road, and both were caught speeding again when serving their pass through penalties. They both went two laps down.
Harvick cycled back into the lead, with Busch in second. By the time the yellow flag waved again on lap 65, Harvick had built up a 16-second lead over second place.
Keselowski got back on the lead lap during a caution that came out around lap 120, and, again, Harvick restarted up front, this time with Stenhouse alongside in second.
Harvick headed down pit road, giving up a lead of more than 10 seconds, when the field cycled through green-flag stops again with 26 laps to go. Keselowski and Justin Allgaier in the No. 31 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet had yet to pit under the final green cycle and were able to pit under caution with 13 laps to go.
Having recently pitted, Harvick and Stenhouse stayed out during the caution to restart first and second. The eighth and final caution of the race came out for a multi-car incident involving the No. 30 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet of James Buescher and the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Danica Patrick and led to a red flag to allow time for track cleanup and a handful of green-flag laps to decide the finish.
"I was hoping that 33 wouldn't start," Stenhouse said to his team over the radio as cars started moving when the race went from red back to yellow.
When the race went back to green, Harvick and Stenhouse restarted on the front row, with Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon in the No. 3 Chevrolet and Sadler in the No. 2 on the second row.
Keselowski made his way of to third on the restart, while Stenhouse was able to stay up beside Harvick after the race went back to green. On the final lap, Keselowski was able to push Stenhouse to the lead and then follow him by Harvick to claim the second spot.
"I knew I had to get everything I could on that restart," Stenhouse said.
Sadler finished fourth and Allgaier got by Dillon to round out the top-five. Dillon wound up sixth. Busch was seventh, Cole Whitt was eighth in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, Sam Hornish Jr. 9th in the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge, and Michael Annett was 10th in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.