Great Clips 300 Preview: Harvick Heads Field of Contenders

Great Clips 300 Preview: Harvick Heads Field of Contenders

by August 30, 2014 0 comments

Photo credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

HAMPTON, Ga. — If you’re looking for a favorite for Saturday night’s Great Clips 300 from the Atlanta Motor Speedway, it’d be hard to look past the driver of the No. 5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet – Kevin Harvick – for the 195-lap event.

Harvick is the defending winner of the track and has been red-hot here in recent years. The two-time Nationwide Series champion led 132 of the 195 completed laps last year to seal his second career NNS Atlanta race and he led 157 of 195 in 2012’s race that resulted in a third-place finish for the Bakersfield, California native.

Harvick has an average finish of 7.8 at the mile-and-a-half circuit and has seven top-fives and nine top-10s in 12 starts along with his two wins – his first win coming in 2009. With plenty of success at the track coming in the past, Harvick is excited to get Saturday’s race underway as he prepares to win his third series race at Atlanta and the 43rd series win of his career.

“Atlanta is always one of my favorite places to race,” Harvick said. “I’ve been fortunate to have had a lot of success there throughout my career. The surface is old and abrasive so the tires wear out and you’ll see everyone moving around as the grip goes away. With the limited number of tires teams get in the Nationwide Series, managing your tires, both on the track and in the pits for the end of the race, is going to be really important.”

Harvick’s JR Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott, may have a shot at winning in his debut at Atlanta as well. The driver of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet has been strong at the nighttime speedway races this year with all three of his wins this season coming at speedway races run under the lights. With his family and friends at the track on Saturday night to cheer him on, the 18-year-old and current Nationwide Series points leader could put together the winning combination and win his fourth trophy of the year in his first race at his home track.

Matt Kenseth will be making his Atlanta return in the Nationwide Series in the No. 20 Sun Energy 1 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth, like Harvick, is a two-time Atlanta winner in the series with both of his wins coming with Roush-Fenway Racing in 2004 and 2008. The driver of the No. 20 car has not made an Atlanta start since 2010 and will be looking to rely on his strong background at the track that consists of eight top-fives and nine top-10s to deliver himself a race-winning performance come Saturday night.

Kenseth will likely be leading the way for the Joe Gibbs Racing stable. Teammates Elliott Sadler and Kyle Busch are yet to win at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Atlanta is one of three tracks on the current Nationwide Series schedule that Busch is yet to win at.

Joey Logano is set to take his fourth crack at the track that has provided him with solid results just outside of the top-five in his young career. Logano has a trio of sixth-place finishes to his name at Atlanta – two with Joe Gibbs Racing and one with Team Penske from last year. Although he was able to show some strength in each of his showings at the track, the driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford has never led a lap at Atlanta Motor Speedway – something that he’ll be looking to change come Saturday night.

More importantly, Logano will be looking for that elusive W that has eluded him thus far this year in the Nationwide Series.

“I try to win every weekend I’m in the car,” Logano said. “Things just haven’t worked out the way we have wanted them to this year so far. I felt like there were a couple of times where we should have won the race. We were on our way to a win in Michigan and had a flat tire with less than five to go. And I thought we had a shot at Watkins Glen and Daytona and it just didn’t work out. We’ve had our chances, I just need to finish it. I guess the pressure is on me now though because Brad and Ryan have both won in the car now. I guess it’s time for me to hold up my end of the bargain and get this No. 22 Discount Tire Ford in victory lane. And it would be cool to win it at Atlanta.”

With Atlanta’s surface beginning to age, multiple grooves should be available for navigation for the field of 40 drivers throughout the course of the 300-mile race. Given that the surface has seen its share of wear and tear, tire preservation will be key for drivers to find their way to victory lane by the conclusion of the night’s proceedings.

We may see drivers make their moves right off the bat at the drop of the green flag on Saturday and run hard for around 10 laps before settling into a groove – this applying to restarts as well. The Nationwide Series at Atlanta has never had a caution-less race – the highest amount of cautions at the track is a tally of 10 while the lowest number is 2. The average number of cautions over the last 10 Atlanta races is 5.9.


Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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