By Chris Knight
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
A late-race pass on Kyle Busch during the final restart gave Kevin Harvick a NASCAR Nationwide Series win Friday night at Kentucky Speedway in the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 presented by Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.
A caution on Lap 192 for an incident involving Trevor Bayne and Chase Elliott bunched the field back together for a five-lap shootout to the finish. On the restart, Harvick went to the low side to pass Busch for the lead, with Brad Keselowski attacking and moving into second while setting his sights on Harvick.
Keselowski, though, ran out of time and Harvick soared to his second Nationwide Series win of the season. Keselowski was second, Busch third and Paul Menard fourth
Winning his third pole of the season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series just an hour before the Nationwide race, Keselowski led the 40-car starting field to the green flag and pulled away from Busch. Keselowski continued to stretch his lead to 2.6 seconds in the first 30 laps.
After a pit stop, Menard surged from third to first, leading Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Harvick off pit road.
Menard held the lead on the initial restart, but Keselowski throttled forward a lap later and reassumed control on Lap 48.
Twelve laps later, Keselowski's lead grew to 1.7 seconds over Menard. He remained in control until Lap 83 when the caution flew for debris in Turn 4.
The leaders pitted with teams utilizing varying strategies. A two-tire stop for Elliott Sadler and Regan Smith moved them ahead of Keselowski, Road America winner Brendan Gaughan and Busch as they came off pit road.
Sadler was overtaken by Smith on the restart, but his time at the front was short-lived. He was no match for Keselowski, who reclaimed first on Lap 90.
Keselowski continued to lead through the halfway point until Kenseth crashed on Lap 102, bringing out the event's third caution. A majority of the leaders decided to stay out under the yellow, knowing that they could not make it to the finish.
On the restart, Keselowski, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, continued his race dominance and by Lap 135 was able to manage a 1.9-second gap.
Green flag pit stops began on Lap 138, with Keselowski bringing his Ford to pit road on Lap 148. But after a solid stop, the Team Penske driver was tagged with a speeding penalty and have to serve a pass-thru.
Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick took the lead when Keselowski pitted on Lap 149 with a 3.1-second margin over Gaughan until the caution waived on Lap 156 for debris.
Needing to make a stop, the leaders came to pit road. Busch, Menard and Ryan Blaney remained on the racetrack, holding the top-three spots. Harvick found himself fourth for the impending restart.
With 39 laps to go, Busch led the train back to the green flag and remained ahead of Harvick. But Keselowski, who took a waive-around under the previous yellow flag, had roared from 17th to ninth in just five green flag laps and set his sights forward.
Keselowski needed a caution to close the gap and that came on Lap 168 when Ryan Reed and Smith made contact on the backstretch, sending Smith's No. 7 into the wall.
When racing resumed, Harvick attempted to take the lead from Busch, with Keselowski lurking from behind in fifth. When Dakoda Armstrong wrecked on the backstretch on Lap 176, it stacked the field back together.
With 21 laps to go, racing resumed with intense side-by-side battles between Busch and Harvick, with Menard, Gaughan and Keselowski stalking from behind. With 16 laps to go, Busch cleared Harvick and built a small cushion between him.
Next for the NASCAR Nationwide Series is the Subway Firecracker 250, the final restrictor plate race of the season from Daytona (Fla.) Speedway next Friday night.