Kevin Harvick outsmarts Kyle Busch, earns third career NNS win at Chicagoland Speedway

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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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Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?