Updated at: 11/04/2012 10:35 AM
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
(AP) FORT WORTH, Texas - Kevin Harvick became a five-time NASCAR Nationwide winner at Texas, leading 127 of 200 laps on Saturday night.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had the most important finish, battling an ill-handling car that slid around the track all night and still managed to finish fourth.
That got his No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford even with Elliott Sadler for the Nationwide points lead with two races remaining.
"I didn’t think we would get it back to a top-five car. We weren’t near as far behind as we were at Kansas though so it gave us a little hope," said Stenhouse, who came from two laps down to win the last race at Kansas.
"The cautions came out and we were able to work on it as much as we could and I don’t think there were any more adjustments we could do to it to get it tight enough."
Sadler was sixth, only two spots behind Stenhouse, on the final restart with 18 laps left at the 1 1/2-mile high-banked track. But the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevy started slipping back, and lost the points lead after dropping out of the top 10 with three laps left. He finished 11th.
Stenhouse, the defending Nationwide champion, made up a six-point deficit in the standings. He has the tiebreaker because of his six victories, two more than Sadler.
"It doesn’t really matter now. We have to be leading after Homestead," Stenhouse said. "That is still our goal and still what we have our eye on. We have gained some points the last two weeks which is good and you saw last year that if you tie it goes to the most wins and I think we have that covered right now and we will keep plugging away."
The series goes to Phoenix next week, where Sadler won and Stenhouse was third in the second race of the season back in March. The season finale is at Homestead.
Harvick got his second Nationwide victory this season, and the 39th of his career. He finished in his No. 33 Chevrolet 1.63 seconds ahead of Ryan Blaney’s Dodge. Kyle Busch, the pole-sitter, was third.
Busch is still winless in 20 starts on the Nationwide Series this season. He won at least eight races in each of the past four years, including a stretch of five consecutive wins at Texas from 2008-10 that made him the winningest driver in that series at the track before being matched by Harvick.
Stenhouse started fifth, but was down to 13th after 80 laps. After making some adjustments during a caution, he managed to get back in the top 10 within the next 45 laps, though he was six spots and 8 seconds behind Sadler at the time.
When Joey Gase spun with 45 laps to go, Stenhouse’s crew made some drastic changes to his car in hopes of tightening it up. And that apparently worked enough.
"We were still sliding around. I think total we went three down on the track bar, put a rubber in the left rear and four rounds in the left rear," Stenhouse said. "It didn’t touch it as much as I thought it would or needed it to."
On the restart with 40 laps left, he was 14th, four spots behind Sadler. Within 10 laps after that, Stenhouse had passed Sadler and was running fifth.
Sadler was still within striking distance of Stenhouse, and ahead in the points, until the 197th lap, when he was passed by Joey Logano and Cole Whitt, dropping him to 12th.
Car owner Richard Childress said he still feels good about Sadler’s chances in the championship chase.
"I think right there at the end, he got tight, a bunch of those cars got to racing real hard," Childress said. "He got tight, that’s what got him. The cars that got tires came up through there, and that cost him."
Nobody had enough to overtake Harvick, who hadn’t run the Nationwide race at Texas since the fall race two years ago.
Denny Hamlin finished fifth ahead of Austin Dillon, who is third in the points chase 21 back. After the checkered flag, Hamlin knocked Dillon into the pit entry wall as retaliation for the rookie pushing him down to the apron during the closing laps and then running into him after the race.
"I was three-wide on the inside and you’ve got to give room. ... He crowds really, really bad," Hamlin said. "That’s part of it. If you’re going to pinch, you’re going to pay."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)