Harvick pads series lead with victory in Pepsi 300

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GLADEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Nextel Cup driver Kevin Harvick raced to his first NASCAR Busch Series victory of the year Saturday, taking the lead with 52 laps to go and holding off teammate Clint Bowyer after a late caution in the Pepsi 300.

Harvick finished 0.504 seconds ahead of Bowyer, his Richard Childress racing teammate, en route to his 18th career Busch Series victory. Harvick also took a 156-point lead over Denny Hamlin in the series standings and became the eighth Nextel Cup driver to win in the first eight races of the Busch Series season.

“Right now life is good,” Harvick said. “But life can go bad in a hurry. The best thing to do is enjoy it while you can, then move on to the next race.”

Hamlin, the pole-sitter, was third, followed by J.J. Yeley and Carl Edwards.

The top five are full-time competitors in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, and Nextel Cup drivers have won the first eight races of the season. Jon Wood finished sixth, the best showing by a Busch Series regular.

Harvick, racing on the 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway for the first time since 2001, relied heavily on crew chief Shane Wilson.

“The car needed to be loosened up and Shane has been here for a lot of races and knows what he’s doing,” Harvick said.

Harvick withstood a challenge from defending race champion Reed Sorenson in the waning laps.

“I was overdriving my car and he was beating me through the center of the corner in turns three and four,” Harvick said. “I had to adjust my line a little bit.”

Sorenson, who finished 19th, fell out of contention when he brushed the wall with six to go, setting up a final sprint to the finish between Harvick and Bowyer.

Bowyer climbed back into contention by recovering from a slow green-flag pit stop early in the race. He spent 26 seconds in his pit, apparently due to a gas can problem, and fell two laps behind. A winner at NSS last year, Bowyer was clearly aggravated after the race, said little, and left abruptly from his news conference

Harvick seemed to understand how his teammate was feeling.

“We’re greedy and we don’t like to finish second,” Harvick said. “This is one of Clint’s best racetracks. We wouldn’t be here if he didn’t do what he did here the last couple of years.”

Hamlin, who won the pole for the second consecutive week, also was upset following the race. Hamlin thought he was ahead of Harvick when a caution came out for Kyle Busch’s spin with 43 laps to go. Busch, a Nextel Cup regular, finished 30th.

“I’m going to go to NASCAR and have them show me where I was when the caution came out,” Hamlin said.

The reviews were mixed for the rest of the full-time Nextel Cup drivers.

In spite of his fifth-place finish, Edwards was never a factor.

“(Crew chief) Pierre Kuettel and I picked the wrong springs and shocks,” he said. “We struggled all day.”

But Michael Waltrip delivered a solid performance and finished 10th in his debut with Brewco Motorsports.

“I just appreciate driving good cars, and lately we haven’t been hitting it with our Busch cars, and it was good to get in there and run in the top 10 and have a consistent day,” Waltrip said.

However, Waltrip had a rough day as an owner. David Reutimann, who won a Craftsman Truck Series race here last year, crashed in Waltrip’s car and finished 34th.

The race featured 11 cautions for 47 laps. The 11 yellow flags tied a race record.

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