THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FORT WORTH, Texas — Kevin Harvick became a five-time NASCAR Nationwide winner at Texas on Saturday night, leading 127 of 200 laps.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had the most important finish, battling an ill-handling car that slid around the track all night while managing to finish fourth. That got his No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford even with Elliott Sadler for the Nationwide points lead with two races remaining.
Sadler was sixth, only two spots behind Stenhouse, on the final restart with 18 laps left at the 1 1/2-mile high-banked track. But the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevy started slipping back, and lost the points lead after dropping out of the top 10 with three laps left. He finished 11th.
Stenhouse, the defending Nationwide champion, made up a six-point deficit in the standings. He has the tiebreaker because of his six victories, two more than Sadler.
The series goes to Phoenix next week, where Sadler won and Stenhouse was third in the second race of the season back in March. The season finale is at Homestead.
Harvick got his second Nationwide victory this season, and the 39th of his career. He finished in his No. 33 Chevrolet 1.63 seconds ahead of Ryan Blaney’s Dodge. Kyle Busch, the polesitter, was third.
Busch is still winless in 20 starts on the Nationwide Series this season. He won at least eight races in each of the last four years, including a stretch of five consecutive wins at Texas from 2008-10 that made him the winningest driver in that series at the track before being matched by Harvick.
Stenhouse started fifth, but was down to 13th after 80 laps. After making some adjustments during a caution, he managed to get back in the top 10 within the next 45 laps, though he was six spots and 8 seconds behind Sadler at the time.
When Joey Gase spun with 45 laps to go, Stenhouse’s crew made some drastic changes to his car in hopes of tightening it up. And that apparently worked.
On the restart with 40 laps left, he was 14th, four spots behind Sadler. Within 10 laps after that, Stenhouse had passed Sadler and was running fifth.
Sadler was still within striking distance of Stenhouse, and ahead in the points, until the 197th lap, when he was passed by Joey Logano and Cole Whitt, dropping him to 12th.
Nobody had enough to overtake Harvick, who hadn’t raced in the Nationwide Series at Texas since the fall race two years ago.
Denny Hamlin finished fifth ahead of Austin Dillon, who is third in the points chase. After the checkered flag, Hamlin knocked Dillon into the pit entry wall as retaliation for the rookie pushing him down to the apron during the closing laps.