Nationwide Series

Kevin Harvick wins Nationwide race, but Sam Hornish Jr. positioned for series title

jutter@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 1, 2013 

— Sam Hornish Jr. didn’t win the race, but he still came out on top at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Kevin Harvick held off a furious challenge from Kyle Busch to win Saturday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race for his first victory of the year.

Hornish’s third place finish, however, leaves him in an excellent position to win his first NASCAR championship with just nine races left.

Hornish, who has one win this year, left Atlanta with a 10-point lead in the standings over Austin Dillon, who has yet to register a victory this season.

“This is a new car that we brought from Penske Racing, so, in my eyes, that’s a good thing that we’re continually trying to evolve and even make ourselves better than where we’re at,” Hornish said after the race.

“I feel like there’s not a race track that we go to on this last group that I don’t feel like if we go out there and perform to what our ability is, that we’re not going to be able to either gain some points or hopefully at least minimize the day.”

Hornish hasn’t won since the season’s third race, at Las Vegas. However, his performance of late has featured a championship-like consistency.

In his past seven races, he finished second three times and third twice. He’s had one finish worse than 12th during the run.

“We look at places like Charlotte and Kansas; places like I feel we’ve got a great opportunity to go there and run well, and then we go to a couple of short tracks like Richmond and Phoenix that I’ve traditionally run very well at, so my outlook couldn’t be any better,” the former IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion said.

“The tracks that we’re going to, Bristol was the last one where I felt like that could be a downfall for us. I feel like if we go to these next ones and we race the way that we should, we’ve got a pretty good shot at it.”

Kasey Kahne finished fourth and Kyle Larson was fifth.

After the race, the cars of Larson and Nelson Piquet Jr. failed postrace inspection for being too low. NASCAR will announce any penalties for the infractions later this week.

Utter: 704-358-5113. Twitter: @jim_utter

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