Late Stenhouse Pass Wins Controversial NNS Race
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. grabbed the lead from Kevin Harvick Harvick on the final lap, held off Brad Keselowski and went on to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway Saturday night.
Keselowski, who helped Stenhouse move to the lead by way of a bump from behind, finished second.
Harvick, who dominated the race up to the final lap, finished a very unhappy third.
After the race, Harvick accused Keselowski of throwing a water bottle out of his car late in the race. Harvick believed that was the cause of the a debris caution which allowed Keselowski to pit for fresh tires and Stenhouse to steal the win.
“Heck, yeah, we stole it,” Stenhouse said. “We’ve had a few stolen from us. You go out and get as many as you can, any way you can. It was good, hard, clean racing. I’m glad we could put on a show for the fans, because it really wasn’t a show up to that point.”
Keselowski, on fresh tires, passed Harvick for the second spot after Stenhouse grabbed the lead. Harvick was followed across the finish line by Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier.
Though it was Stenhouse who prevailed on the track, it was Keselowski’s water bottle that stuck in Harvick’s craw.
Harvick hunted Keselowski down on pit road after the race and confronted him.
“It’s pretty obvious,” said Harvick, who had confronted Keselowski on pit road after the race. “They put it on TV and showed when the caution came out on the same lap. . . . He told me it was intentional, so it is what it is.”
Turning to Keselowski in the post-race press conference, Harvick added, “Sleep good tonight.”
Keselowski said throwing a water bottle from the car is nothing unusual and that many drivers follow the same practice. Keselowski also disagreed with Harvick on the timing of the incident.
“It went out of my car 15 to 20 laps before the yellow came out,” Keselowski asserted. “I guess that’s why I was caught off guard with the comment that the water bottle caused the yellow.
“Everybody throws water bottles out of the car. . . . That’s how racing works. If you go around the infield at these tracks, I’m sure after the race you’ll find 20 water bottles.
“I don’t know why the yellow would come out. Yellows come out all the time without any explanation. That’s not a question for me; that’s a question for everybody that runs the show. I’m sure they felt like there was a reason, and that’s their right. Do I feel guilty for throwing a water bottle out of the car? No, everybody throws that stuff out of the car. I threw about three out during the course of the race, and I do every race. I don’t know how the two are linked together without NASCAR saying so.”
NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said that a piece of aluminum in Turn 1 was the cause of the caution. He added that the jettisoning of water bottles is a common practice with some drivers.
“We don’t think it’s out of hand,” Pemberton said.
An ESPN spokesperson said the network had taped the water bottle toss earlier and showed it during the caution as a possible cause of the yellow, a set of facts which supports Keselowski’s version of events.
Perhaps a portion of Harvick’s frustration can be attributed to his failure to win the race with the fastest car, one that led 157 of 195 laps before Stenhouse grabbed the lead on the final lap. Before the last restart, Harvick appeared to have the race in hand, having opened an advantage that exceeded 16 seconds at one point.
Harvick lost the lead briefly during a cycle of green-flag pit stops late in the race, but he was back in front for a restart on Lap 188, after NASCAR called the seventh caution of the night – the source of the controversy between Harvick and Keselowski – on Lap 182 for the debris in Turn 1.
“All in all, we got beat on the last restart there and unfortunately because of the 22 car that threw the water bottle out there, we weren’t able to push the (No.) 6 up and they hung on my quarter panel,” Harvick said. “I got a little bit tight getting into one and they got a good run.”
Stenhouse narrowed Sadler’s lead in the Nationwide standings to 12 points, as the same two drivers who battled for last year’s title have begun to separate themselves from their pursuers. Sam Hornish Jr. finished ninth Saturday and is third in points, 32 behind Sadler.
Asked if he throws water bottle out during races, Stenhouse said, “I do not because the team pays for our water bottles, so I don’t want to throw them out and waste them, so I keep them and give them to my guys on a pit stop. But I’ve run over water bottles before and it’s just part of it. I think plenty of people throw them out.”
Team owner Jack Roush said it was not a water bottle that cost Harvick the victory.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years here and many times at the end of the race you’re frustrated, the driver is frustrated, the team is frustrated because you just don’t get the best adjustment,” Rousch said. “And all night tonight for the three stops that we had, (crew chief) Mike Kelley dictated great changes, as good a changes I’ve seen in 25 years.”
1. (2) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 195, $63,793.
2. (8) Brad Keselowski, Dodge, 195, $29,200.
3. (3) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 195, $28,575.
4. (7) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 195, $27,743.
5. (13) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 195, $27,768.
6. (9) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 195, $23,368.
7. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 195, $19,210.
8. (12) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 195, $21,238.
9. (6) Sam Hornish Jr., Dodge, 195, $20,818.
10. (14) Michael Annett, Ford, 195, $21,168.
11. (15) Brian Scott, Toyota, 193, $19,393.
12. (5) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 193, $12,875.
13. (17) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 193, $18,318.
14. (18) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 193, $17,768.
15. (25) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 191, $18,768.
16. (20) Jason Bowles, Toyota, 191, $17,518.
17. (27) Mike Wallace, Chevrolet, 191, $17,443.
18. (38) Tayler Malsam, Toyota, 189, $17,343.
19. (36) Danny Efland, Chevrolet, 187, $17,268.
20. (28) Erik Darnell, Chevrolet, 187, $17,668.
21. (30) Eric McClure, Toyota, 187, $17,268.
22. (10) Mike Bliss, Toyota, Accident, 186, $17,018.
23. (23) James Buescher, Chevrolet, Accident, 185, $16,943.
24. (35) Benny Gordon, Toyota, 184, $16,868.
25. (24) Kyle Fowler, Ford, Accident, 183, $17,293.
26. (16) Travis Pastrana, Toyota, 173, $16,768.
27. (19) David Starr, Chevrolet, Engine, 130, $10,250.
28. (4) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, Accident, 128, $10,425.
29. (40) Tony Raines, Chevrolet, Brakes, 105, $16,593.
30. (26) Matt Carter, Ford, Ignition, 101, $16,793.
31. (41) Robert Richardson Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 68, $16,438.
32. (11) Reed Sorenson, Ford, Accident, 63, $9,910.
33. (33) Timmy Hill, Ford, Electrical, 42, $9,875.
34. (37) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Handling, 35, $9,840.
35. (21) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 25, $9,810.
36. (22) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, Ignition, 14, $9,750.
37. (42) Fain Skinner, Ford, Engine, 8, $9,715.
38. (31) Chase Miller, Chevrolet, Vibration, 7, $9,661.
39. (39) Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, Overheating, 6, $9,545.
40. (29) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, Electrical, 5, $9,480.
41. (32) Carl Long, Chevrolet, Fuel Pressure, 4, $9,415.
42. (34) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, Overheating, 3, $9,365.
43. (43) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, Accident, 2, $9,286.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 117.880 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 32 Mins, 51 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 0.157 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 43 laps.
Lead Changes: 9 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Busch 1-2; R. Stenhouse Jr. 3-17; K. Harvick 18-49; S. Hornish Jr. 50; K. Harvick 51-120; T. Pastrana 121-126; K. Harvick 127-170; J. Allgaier 171-183; K. Harvick 184-194; R. Stenhouse Jr. 195;.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Harvick 4 times for 157 laps; R. Stenhouse Jr. 2 times for 16 laps; J. Allgaier 1 time for 13 laps; T. Pastrana 1 time for 6 laps; K. Busch 1 time for 2 laps; S. Hornish Jr. 1 time for 1 lap.
Top 10 in Points: E. Sadler – 904; R. Stenhouse Jr. – 892; S. Hornish Jr. – 872; A. Dillon – 867; J. Allgaier – 810; M. Annett – 760; C. Whitt – 707; M. Bliss – 662; B. Scott – 583; D. Patrick – 570.No Comment