Ricky Stenhouse Jr. steals Nationwide victory from Kevin Harvick; Waterbottlegate

HAMPTON, GA - SEPTEMBER 01: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #6 Cargill Beef Ford, pits during the NASCAR Nationwide Series NRA American Warrior 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on September 1, 2012 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

One lap, and a series of cautions, changed the entire complexion of Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. A late-race caution between Danica Patrick and James Buescher bunched the field up for one more restart, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. overtaking a dominant Kevin Harvick on the last lap to win the NRA American Warrior 300.

Harvick was Superman all day, at one point lapping all but six other cars as the third caution dropped on lap 65. The remainder of the race was filled with sporadic cautions but one common theme - Harvick gaining and maintaining the lead.

He even restarted fifth at one point, on lap 87, and took the leaders three-wide into turn 1 to regain the top spot. Harvick had the easiest time navigating through traffic and was absolutely untouchable in clean air.

That is, until the final restart.

Brad Keselowski, on much fresher tires, pushed Stenhouse past Kevin Harvick on the final restart, a scenario that should have never played out according to Harvick.

Due to the timing of the caution - which fell at the end of green-flag pit stops - two drivers were able to pit for fresher tires than Harvick. One of those drivers, Brad Keselowski, helped push eventual race winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. past Harvick.

Around the time of the debris caution, ESPN showed viewers at home - and on Sprint Vision screens at the track - an in-car video of Keselowski throwing a water bottle out of his window during the green flag. While that's a common practice for drivers, it led many viewers to believe the caution was connected to the water bottle based on the TV images.

Even Harvick's team thought the water bottle was the "debris" which brought out the yellow. Harvick was told about the water bottle toss while still in the car, and it infuriated him - especially when Keselowski wasn't penalized for it.

But as it turned out, he and his team had the wrong information. Keselowski did throw a water bottle out the window, but that didn't have anything to do with the yellow flag.

- Jeff Gluck

Keselowski drafted around the 1.5-mile circuit behind Stenhouse Jr., proving the difference in Saturday night's race.

A note on the Saturday night Atlanta Motor Speedway schedule as well as the complete race results can be found after the jump.

Perhaps this isn't an issue to fans but the schedule this weekend at Atlanta leaves a lot to be desired. There's just not enough going on to occupy three full days of racing. Friday provided media obligations, practices sessions, qualifying and the Camping World Truck Series race but Saturday and Sunday feels largely lifeless.

Perhaps Speedway officials and NASCAR should consider consolidating the weekend into a two-day racing show, eliminating most of Friday's track activity, giving fans more to do on Saturday without having to spend their entire Friday at the facility.

NASCAR likes holding the Sprint Cup race on Sunday nights because it delivers a sizeable television rating. So instead of cutting from the end of the weekend, I suggest cutting from the beginning. Three full days at the Speedway is just too much, even for yours truly.

Audiovisual

Final Laps: Stenhouse Jr. catches Harvick (via TheOfficialNASCAR)

Nationwide Series Post-Race Reactions: Atlanta (via TheOfficialNASCAR)

Race Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 2 6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford Cargill 47/4 195 Running
2 8 22 Brad Keselowski Dodge Discount Tire 0 195 Running
3 3 33 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Bad Boy Buggies 0 195 Running
4 7 2 Elliott Sadler Chevrolet OneMain Financial 40/0 195 Running
5 13 31 Justin Allgaier Chevrolet Brandt 40/1 195 Running
6 9 3 Austin Dillon * Chevrolet American Ethanol 38/0 195 Running
7 1 54 Kyle Busch Toyota Monster Energy 0 195 Running
8 12 88 Cole Whitt * Chevrolet NASCAR Bashers 36/0 195 Running
9 6 12 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Detroit Genuine Parts 36/1 195 Running
10 14 43 Michael Annett Ford Old Wisconsin / Pilot Flying J 34/0 195 Running
11 15 11 Brian Scott Toyota Dollar General 33/0 193 Running
12 5 18 Denny Hamlin Toyota Z-Line Designs 0 193 Running
13 17 7 Danica Patrick Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 31/0 193 Running
14 18 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM-FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves / AC General 30/0 193 Running
15 25 51 Jeremy Clements Chevrolet Phoenix Group Metals / stjude.org 29/0 191 Running
16 20 81 Jason Bowles * Toyota theRANDOMact.org 28/0 191 Running
17 27 01 Mike Wallace Chevrolet Tradebank 27/0 191 Running
18 38 19 Tayler Malsam Toyota G-Oil / Noah's Light Foundation 26/0 189 Running
19 36 4 Danny Efland Chevrolet Tradebank 25/0 187 Running
20 28 40 Erik Darnell Chevrolet Park 'N Fly 24/0 187 Running
21 30 14 Eric McClure Toyota Hefty / Reynolds Wrap 23/0 187 Running
22 10 44 Mike Bliss Chevrolet BanditChippers.com 22/0 186 Accident
23 23 30 James Buescher Chevrolet Central Wire 0 185 Accident
24 35 124 Benny Gordon * Toyota American Childhood Cancer Organization 20/0 184 Running
25 24 108 Kyle Fowler Ford Commercial Disposal / Techiweld 19/0 183 Accident
26 16 199 Travis Pastrana Toyota Boost Mobile 19/1 173 Running
27 19 50 David Starr Chevrolet Liberty Tire Recycling 0 130 Engine
28 4 38 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Great Clips 0 128 Accident
29 40 70 Tony Raines Chevrolet Tidal Wave Response 0 105 Brakes
30 26 171 Matthew Carter Chevrolet Lilly Trucking 14/0 101 Ignition
31 41 23 Robert Richardson Jr. Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 13/0 68 Accident
32 11 198 Reed Sorenson Ford Carroll Shelby Engines 12/0 63 Accident
33 33 15 Timmy Hill Ford CarportEmpire.com 11/0 42 Electrical
34 37 89 Morgan Shepherd Chevrolet Hyland's Leg Cramps / Racing With Jesus 10/0 35 Handling
35 21 10 Jeff Green Toyota TriStar Motorsports 9/0 25 Vibration
36 22 100 Blake Koch Chevrolet Ruch Motorsports 8/0 14 Ignition
37 42 41 Fain Skinner Ford CarportEmpire.com 7/0 8 Engine
38 31 46 Chase Miller Chevrolet The Motorsports Group 6/0 7 Vibration
39 39 174 Mike Harmon Chevrolet Koma Unwind Relaxation Drink 5/0 6 Overheating
40 29 42 Josh Wise Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 0 5 Electrical
41 32 171 Carl Long Chevrolet RWR / Lilly Trucking 3/0 4 Fuel Pressure
42 34 47 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 0 3 Overheating
43 43 52 Joey Gase * Chevrolet Metro Ministries 1/0 2 Accident
* Denotes Rookie
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