New truck, same old result: Driving a No. 2 Chevrolet that saw its first action this weekend at Atlanta, Kevin Harvick dominated Saturday's E-Z-Go 200 to win for the third time in his last three starts in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series.
In a race that saw several championship contenders fall by the wayside, Harvick crossed the stripe 1.308sec ahead of Kyle Busch (18, below) at the end of a 14-lap green-flag dash to the finish. Aric Almirola came home third, followed by Steve Wallace, the 25th driver to register a top-five in his first race in the series.
Todd Bodine survived a spin to finish fifth. Ricky Carmichael, Timothy Peters, Johnny Sauter, Rick Crawford and rookie Austin Dillon completed the top 10.
Harvick said his occasional appearances in the Truck Series are designed to "protect his turf" and keep Busch out of Victory Lane as often as possible. To that end, Kevin Harvick Inc. builds new trucks for its owner and teammate Ron Hornaday Jr. to drive. Used trucks are sold to other teams.
"We probably have a third of the field out on the racetrack," Harvick said. "That's how we make truck racing work. We have a lot of customers that we hang bodies for and give a lot of technical support for, and that's what keeps our team going. If they want this one (Saturday's winning truck), they can come have this one, too."
Busch recorded the best finish for his fledgling Kyle Busch Motorsports team, which was formed during the off-season.
"We weren't quite as fast as we would have liked to have been, but we're not sure if that came from our damage early in the race on lap 1 or not," Busch said. "We still had a real decent effort, and I'm real proud of the way the KBM team ran today, with myself and the way (teammate) Tayler (Malsam) came up through there."
Malsam ran well in the second half of the race, but an off-sequence pit stop dropped him to 13th at the finish.
Four-time series champion Ron Hornaday Jr., who won the pole for Saturday's race, took another body blow against the defense of his 2009 title when a blown left rear tire shot his No. 33 Chevrolet backward into the Turn 4 wall. Hornaday, who opened the season with a 27th-place finish at Daytona last month, was credited with a 34th place result at Atlanta.
Hornaday's troubles started, however, at the beginning of the race, when Matt Crafton took Hornaday and Busch three-wide moments after the green flag. The right front of Busch's Toyota rubbed the left rear of Hornaday's Chevy, damaging both vehicles.
Harvick inspected a tire rub on the No. 33 and told Hornaday he thought the tire would last. Harvick was wrong, and Hornaday slammed the wall when the tire blew, injuring his truck beyond repair.
"Hate to see it, but we had a good truck, and we'll come back," Hornaday said after leaving the infield care center. "Kyle and I spun our tires a little (at the start) and that's what got (Crafton) the run."
Crafton, who finished second to Hornaday in the series standings last year, had his own succession of problems. On lap 60, Crafton slipped in Turn 2 and collected the Toyota of Bodine, who remained on the lead lap despite the accident. Bodine took the series lead from Peters, who trails by four points through two races.
The win gave Harvick victories at Atlanta in all three of NASCAR's top touring series – Trucks, Nationwide and Sprint Cup. He also has accomplished the feat at Phoenix, where he won the truck race last November to start his current streak of three wins in three straight starts.