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Harvick wins Xfinity race at Atlanta for 3rd year in a row

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — Kevin Harvick turned in another dominating performance Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, holding off Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano in the Xfinity Series race.

Harvick has won the Atlanta race in NASCAR’s second-tier series three years in a row and four times overall.

Logano has been the runner-up the last two years.

No one else was even close on this day.

“It seems like I finish second on this track all the time,” said Logano, who came up just short of a victory from the pole. “I’m going to keep running this Xfinity Series race until I win it.”

Good luck beating Harvick, the defending Sprint Cup champion and a 45-time winner in the Xfinity cars.

In Atlanta, he’s especially tough, having mastered the art of running strong at the bottom of a track that is infamously rough on tires.

“He’s a great talent,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., owner of the winning No. 88 car. “Kevin has got a knack at this place. When he comes to Atlanta, he’s hard to beat.”

Harvick won a race off pit road under yellow with 27 laps to go, which proved to be crucial in holding off Logano. On the restart, Harvick had the prime inside position, and Logano’s bid to pass from the outside was thwarted when Chase Elliott gave Harvick a bit of a nudge.

“That pit stop was what won the race,” Harvick said.

Logano made one last push for the front. A vibrating right rear tire ended any hope of catching Harvick, who won by 1.207 seconds with an average speed of 149.813 mph.

“Once it got really bad, I couldn’t keep up with Kevin anymore,” Logano said. “It just kept getting worse.”

Ty Dillon was a distant third, the top finisher among drivers eligible for the Xfinity Series championship.

But this was a two-man race. Harvick, who started eighth, led 101 laps in his Chevrolet, while Logano’s Ford was out front for 59 laps.

Matt Kenseth was the only other leader, with just three laps in front.

Logano has always run strong at the 1.54-mile trioval, never finishing lower than sixth in five career Xfinity starts.

“We really wanted to win here. We had the car to beat Kevin,” Logano said. “We just lost it on pit road.”

The duel among the top two — no one else was within 4 seconds of the lead — could be a preview of Sunday’s Cup race. Logano will start from the pole, and Harvick was the second-fastest qualifier. They also went 1-2 in the season opener at Daytona.

“We take away the confidence of knowing we can win,” Harvick said. “Confidence goes a long way in this sport.”

While disappointed by another second-place showing, Logano is brimming with confidence heading into the race that really matters this weekend.

“We’re going to try to finish one spot better tomorrow,” he said. “Things are going well. They’re still going well. I don’t think this takes any steam out of our sails.”

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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