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Second-Place Finish at Atlanta and Points Lead for Harvick

Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick
Hampton, Ga. (March 10, 2008) — Returning to the East Coast, the NASCAR Nationwide Series unloaded at one of NASCAR’s fastest tracks, Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) for the Nicorette 300 on Saturday.

Teams pulled into AMS Thursday for a full day of NASCAR inspection and returned Friday for two practice sessions. Due to inclement weather, the first morning practice session was canceled, leaving teams with only one afternoon practice. Kevin Harvick and the No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet ran fast laps, improving the car throughout. Harvick rounded out practice with the ninth fastest time with a lap of 31.311 (177.062 mph). Arriving back at the track on Saturday morning for qualifying followed by 300 miles of fast-paced action around the 1.5-mile track, teams were faced with an unusual sight for Atlanta, Ga. With cold temperatures and a steady snowfall, qualifying for the Nicorette 300 was canceled and set by the NASCAR rules. Based on last year’s Owner’s Point Standings, Harvick lined up sixth on the starting grid.

With sunny skies and a dry track, teams took to the track Saturday afternoon for 195 laps and 300 miles around the fast 1.5-mile track. Rolling off in the sixth position, Harvick moved into fourth place by lap 11 when the first caution flag of the day waved for a wreck in turn one. Crew chief Wally Rogers made the call to stay out and Harvick restarted on lap 15 in the fourth position.

By lap 28, Harvick had moved into the third position and radioed Rogers that the car was “a little tight up off.” Immediately following the radio exchange, the second yellow flag of the day waved. The team entered pit road in the third position, taking on four tires with half a pound of air pressure removed from the left side tires and fuel. After examining the tires, Rogers let Harvick know the “tires looked good.” On the lap 31 restart, Harvick crossed the line in the fourth position. Losing several positions, Harvick was scored in the eighth spot on lap 35.

Beginning to make his move toward the front of the pack, Harvick was in the fifth position when the race was slowed for the third time on lap 48. Rogers made the call for Harvick to stay out and restarted on lap 52 in the fifth position. On the restart, Harvick made a bold move, passing the No. 5 car and then going four-wide in turn one to take the lead. Several laps later, while in the fourth spot, Harvick radioed Rogers to let him know the car was way too tight off turn two. Ten laps into the run, Harvick was one of the fastest cars on the track and Rogers radioed Harvick saying “what you’ve found there is really working.” On lap 74, Harvick moved the No. 33 car moved into the second position.

With the race continuing under green-flag conditions, Rogers called Harvick down pit road on lap 88 for four sticker tires and fuel. After filtering through green-flag pit stops, Harvick was in the fifth position on lap 101 when the fourth caution of the day was brought out. The team made the decision to stay out and restarted third on lap 106.

As with other restarts of the day, within 10 laps, Harvick was extremely fast and had moved into the second position. Caution number five waved on lap 141 with Harvick pitting on lap 143 from the second position. The team took on four tires with an air pressure adjustment and fuel. Rogers again inspected the tires and let Harvick know that the set looked good. Harvick in return asked about fuel mileage and Rogers assured him he was good to the end, no need to save fuel. The race was restarted on lap 145 with the No. 33 in the second position.

Maintaining his spot behind the dominant car of Kyle Busch, the race was slowed for the sixth time of the day when Busch’s No. 20 blew a tire in turn one, hitting the wall. With a loose-handling car, the No. 33 team pitted for four scuffed tires and fuel. After a slow pit stop, Harvick and the No. 33 Camping World team restarted in the sixth position with 20 laps remaining in the Nicorette 300.

Making his move toward the front, Harvick was able to move back into the second position by lap 188. The seventh caution of the race came on lap 189 when the No. 41, No. 24 and No. 5 cars were involved in a wreck on the backstretch. NASCAR stopped the field on the frontstretch, red flagging the race for seven minutes and 53 seconds. Restarting on lap 192, Harvick made a challenge for the lead, only to have the yellow flag waved on lap 193 for the eighth and final time. With this caution, the race was forced to end under the green-white-checked rule. Cars restarted on lap 196 with Harvick in the second position.

Harvick held his position and took the checkered flag in the second position. Leaving Atlanta Motor Speedway, Harvick now has the NASCAR Nationwide Series points lead heading into the World’s Fastest Half-Mile, Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

After the Race with Harvick:
“We had a good car today,” said Harvick. “Obviously once we got the track position where we needed to be, we for sure were not quite as good as the 20, but we put ourselves in a position to win. We just kind of gave it away on the last pit stop and didn’t have enough time to get back through there. I’m proud of the guys for everything they’ve done, but disappointed at the same time that we’re not capitalizing on the situation. When you get handed those situations, you’ve got to capitalize on them.”

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