FORT WORTH, Texas Kevin Harvick returned to form in the series he once dominated.
To earn his victory in Saturday night’s O’Reilly Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway, however, Harvick had to fend off a fast-approaching rookie looking to break into the win column.
Ryan Blaney, the 18-year-old son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, moved into second with six of 200 laps remaining and moved quickly to gain ground on Harvick.
There were not enough laps left and Harvick held on for his second Nationwide Series victory of the year and 39th of his career. Harvick, a two-time series champion, is now third all-time in wins.
“This car has been fast every week. It was pretty much a flawless night,” Harvick said. “I really wanted to stay ahead of (Kyle Busch) on the restarts and take control of those last laps there and it turned out good.”
Blaney’s late charge came in part from a gutsy pit call by his crew chief, Jeremy Bullins. Bullins had Blaney remain on the track when most everyone else took their last set of new tires. When the next caution came out, Blaney added fresh tires.
“I can’t thank Jeremy for making good calls. We weren’t the best early in the week but these guys hung in with me,” said Blaney, who won a Truck race earlier this season.
“We almost got there at the end but just didn’t really get clear of traffic soon enough.”
Kyle Busch finished third, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was fourth and Denny Hamlin was fifth.
Elliott Sadler, who entered the race as the points leader, struggled with the handling of his car late in the race and finished 11th. He and Stenhouse are now tied atop the standings with two races remaining.
“We were a little better at the end and restarted 11th with 25 to go or whatever it was and we got up into the top five and it drove a little better but not quite as good as we wanted it to or needed it to,” Stenhouse said.
“All in all it was a great night for us.”