HAMPTON, Ga. — Kevin Harvick left no doubt in anyone’s mind who the fastest cat in town was during Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Harvick avenged a disappointing near-miss from last year’s XFINITY race at Atlanta by putting on a clinic, leading 141 of 163 laps around the 1.5-mile quad-oval to record his 48th career series win and fifth in the Peach State.
He won all three stages and took the checkered flag roughly four seconds in front of runner-up Joey Logano.
The Stewart Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste driver also tied a record held by his boss, Tony Stewart, by winning for his fourth different team in the NASCAR XFINITY Series — following prior victories with Richard Childress Racing, Kevin Harvick Inc. and JR Motorsports.
Harvick has now won the Atlanta XFINITY race in four of the last six years, and spoke to his comfort level at the track as being one of the reasons for his consistent success.
“It’s just been a really good place for me. Obviously, getting my first Cup win here and being able to run good cars throughout the years certainly helps,” said Harvick. “The race track has stayed very similar to what it’s been for a number of years, and I think as you look at the techniques and things that I do in the car, they all give me what I want in the car as far as the feeling.”
He added that coming so close to winning both the XFINITY and Cup races last year, but not coming away with either of the two trophies, motivated him to push harder.
“I was frustrated last year when we didn’t leave here with a trophy on either day, and that’s always our goal, is to win on (at least) one day. Last year was our first race together, both here as a team and on the race track. It was our second race total. So to contend like we did that day was good and to win today is a great testament to these guys.”
Only four cautions slowed the 250-mile distance — flying for a hard crash for Cole Custer on lap 11, for debris on lap 37 after Michael Annett shredded a tire in turn three, and then for the two stage breaks on laps 40 and 80.
After racing resumed with 75 to go in the final stage, the field ran green to the finish, with Harvick only relinquishing control briefly after he made his final pit stop inside of 40 to go.
Logano made a late pass of Christopher Bell to bring home a runner-up finish, but said there was little he could do to make a run at Harvick for the win.
“I don’t think we were even close,” said Logano. “Kevin played with us all day long. He just kind of rode on out there and ran a few hard laps when he needed to. He’d get enough distance and then he’d chill back out. Kevin’s just really good at it. It doesn’t matter what car he’s driving, he’s just really good at Atlanta and apparently, we’re second-best to that.”
“Today was a decent run for the Discount Tire Ford, but a second just always stings a little bit. I don’t know where he’s fast, but he’s faster all the way around Atlanta is what I figured out today. It’s not one spot — he’s able to go wherever he needs to. He’s just good at Cup cars and XFINITY cars; he’s really fast.”
Christopher Bell came home third for Joe Gibbs Racing, while John Hunter Nemechek rallied from being involved with Custer in the first crash of the day and then blowing a tire at the end of stage one to finish fourth in his debut.
Elliott Sadler completed the top five, ahead of Justin Allgaier, Austin Cindric, Kyle Benjamin, Ryan Truex and Ryan Reed.
The NASCAR XFINITY Series returns to action on March 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…