JOLIET, Ill. – What looked like yet another almost certain Kyle Busch win on Saturday literally went up in smoke, as Kevin Harvick rallied to earn his third career Nationwide Series victory at Chicagoland Speedway.
It was a fitting win for Harvick, as the race was sponsored by one of his primary sponsors, the Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300.
“To win the Freaky Fast 300 with all the Jimmy John’s people that were here is pretty cool,” said Harvick, who led 43 laps, including the last 39 of the race.
It was the fifth time overall that Harvick has won at Chicagoland Speedway in his career, having also captured the first two Sprint Cup races held at the 1.5-mile track in suburban Chicago.
It was Harvick’s 44th career win in the Nationwide Series, his fourth win and 13th top-10 NNS finish this season and the ninth overall win for JR Motorsports in the NNS this season.
“Having (crew chief Ernie Cope) and Kevin as part of the fold, they’ve won a lot of races this year and have helped the speed on the cars,” team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “They’re a big part of the reason why the program has been able to make that big step. … Kevin has three more races this year and he’s chomping at the bit to get three more wins.”
Kyle Busch dominated the first three-quarters of the race, leading 141 laps. But when the yellow caution flag came out on Lap 153 due to Jeremy Clements’ engine failure, Busch opted to go with four tires vs. two by Harvick, and dropped from first to 16th by the time the race restarted on Lap 160. Harvick, meanwhile, regained the lead one lap after the race restarted and never looked back, with a 2.108-second margin of victory.
“We were either going to stay out or get two (tires),” Cope said. “We were going to make the 54 (Busch) come get us.”
Added Busch, “I had a really fast car and we knew we had to come down and get tires, but obviously four was the wrong call and put us behind. I fought my butt off to try to get back, but the best I could do was third.”
Kyle Larson finished second, while Ryan Blaney was fourth and Trevor Bayne was fifth.
Elliott Sadler was sixth, followed by Ty Dillon, Regan Smith, polesitter Brian Scott and points leader Chase Elliott.
Elliott now leads Smith in the NNS standings by 18 points. Dillon is in third-place, 40 points back, followed by Sadler (-51) and Scott (-56).
Getting back to the rest of the finishing field in Saturday’s race, Paul Menard finished 11th, followed by Chris Buescher, Brendan Gaughan, Aric Almirola, Daniel Suarez, Landon Cassill, Dylan Kwasniewski, James Buescher, Ross Chastain and Mike Bliss.
Ryan Sieg was 21st, followed by Dakoda Armstrong, Brennan Newberry, Ryan Reed, J.J. Yeley, Eric McClure, Matt Dibenedetto, Will Kimmel, Cody Ware and Jeffrey Earnhardt.
Wrapping up the final 10 finishers were Kevin Swindell, Denny Hamlin, Jeremy Clements, Tanner Berryhill, Joey Gase, Derrike Cope, Josh Reaume, Martin Roy, Ryan Ellis and Blake Koch.
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