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Harvick wins battle of survivors

by Pete McCole
Monday, May 27, 2013

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Kevin Harvick
Getty Images for NASCAR

Full Moon Fever was in full effect on Sunday night as Kevin Harvick survived a wild night of racing, beating out Kasey Kahne in the final laps to score his 21st-career Sprint Cup victory in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Harvick passed Kasey Kahne on a restart with 11 laps to go and pulled away to easily collect his second victory of the season and his second win in NASCAR’s longest race, which turned out to be one of the most bizarre races in recent memory.

Cameras falling from the sky, three red flags, 11 caution flags and 24 lead changes - Harvick made it through it all. 

“This is a long night,” said Harvick. “We have been here a lot of times and know that you just have to grind through mile after mile, keep your car running, don’t get tore up, don’t get a lap down and you’re going to be somewhere around at the end.  Everybody did that on our Budweiser Chevy tonight and there we were at the end.”

Sunday night, under a nearly full moon, it seemed like whatever could go wrong, did.

The strange events started on lap 127, when a nylon cable that was part of FOX Sports CamCat overhead camera system snapped and fell onto the racetrack, damaging several cars on the track and injuring a dozen fans in the stands.

Kevin Harvick
Brian Lawdermilk for Chevrolet
Harvick, running in the top 15 at the time, spotted the wayward cable and couldn’t believe his eyes.

“The first time I drove by I said, Hell, my career is over, my eyes have taken a crap.  I saw this streak go by me.  What in the hell was that?” said Harvick.  “I got to the start/finish line, I eased off the gas, I knew what I had seen the lap before, I was hoping it wasn't my last race, I was hoping what I saw was right.  I let off at the start/finish line, there was that black streak again.  I was looking for it.  You could see the cable hanging down.

NASCAR threw the red flag to clean up the cables, and allowed teams 15 minutes to repair any damage on their cars caused by the cable.

Among the damaged cars were Marcos Ambrose, polesitter Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, who had most of his right-front fender ripped away.

Busch, who was leading at the time and looking to finally capture his first Charlotte Sprint Cup victory, managed to get his car back into fighting trim and continued to lead the race, only to see his chances go up in smoke with a blown engine on lap 260.

“I didn’t see anything,” said Busch after hitting the cable. “I just heard a big thunk on the right-front tire and thought the right-front tire blew out. That’s how hard it felt and what it felt like. It did have an effect of slowing my car down and I could feel it like, ‘Whoa.’ That’s weird and I don’t know that anybody has ever seen that. Maybe now we can get rid of that thing.”

Within a lap of Busch’s engine expiring, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. suffered a catastrophic engine failure, triggering a four-car crash as they slid in his oil behind him.

For several of the top contenders, things got even worse.

On laps 320, Danica Patrick and Brad Keselowski tangled in turn three, sending the defending Sprint Cup Champion to the garage for the night, and on the ensuring restart, a six-car pileup in the front straight collected Jeff Gordon, Aric Almirola and Mark Martin, bringing out a 10-minute red flag.

Just one lap later under green, last weeks Sprint All Star race winner Jimmie Johnson would get loose coming through turn four, taking Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard, Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya with him.

For the final 50 laps things started to settle down and it seemed like the race would come down to fuel mileage, with Kahne looking to capitalize coming to pit road with 36 laps to go. Once the field cycled around under green-flag pit stops, Kahne was back out in front with just 18 laps left.

But the full moon wasn’t done playing tricks quite yet.

Four laps later, the caution waved for the 11th and final time, giving the teams at the front of the field a choice – pit or stay out.

As the field came around, Kahne was the only driver to stay out as all the lead-lap cars came to pit road, leaving Kahne a sitting duck on the restart.

Harvick, who took just two tires on his final stop, restarted on the inside as the green flag waved on lap 389 and quickly overtook Kahne coming out of turn two to regain the lead, pulling out to a half-second lead within two laps.

With Harvick out of reach, Kahne had his hands full holding of Kurt Busch, who had roared up from sixth-place on the restart to slide into third, but managed to hold to finish in the runner-up spot.

Despite posting his fourth top-two finish in the Coca-Cola 600, Kahne was left to contemplate letting the win slip through his fingers.

“It was definitely our race to lose, especially those last hundred laps,” said Kahne. “We just thought that some of the guys would stay out.  I think there's three cars that just pitted within the last couple laps, five or six laps, just felt like they'd stay out and that would be a big enough buffer to someone who had two or four tires that we could get away. Didn't happen.

“Harvick started with two, he held it flat.  I got a little free, had to back off the gas.  When I went back down, he was in front of me.  That was the end of our race.  Just made sure we got second from there.”

Kurt Busch’s third-place finish was a bittersweet result after being forced to give up the lead with 74 laps to go due to a dead battery in his no. 78 Chevrolet.

Busch was able to get back out and rallied get back into the top ten, then jump into the top-three on the final restart to pick up his first top-five finish in seven races.

“I'm a little shell-shocked,” said Busch. “It was a good 550 miles it seemed like for us, then the normal something has to pop up, some adversity we have to overcome came about.  It came about this week in a dead battery.

“We did the best we could with 600 miles, solid pit stops. The car was a little tight here, a little loose there.  All in all, brought it home third.  That's a good points night.”

Despite finishing 22nd, Johnson still leads the points standings, although his margin over cut by 12 points over second-place Carl Edwards, now 32 points back.

Results

Pos Driver Car Make Start Laps Laps Led Status
1 Kevin Harvick 29 Chevrolet 15 400 28 Running
2 Kasey Kahne 5 Chevrolet 6 400 161 Running
3 Kurt Busch 78 Chevrolet 2 400 8 Running
4 Denny Hamlin 11 Toyota 1 400 6 Running
5 Joey Logano 22 Ford 31 400 0 Running
6 Ryan Newman 39 Chevrolet 10 400 1 Running
7 Tony Stewart 14 Chevrolet 25 400 6 Running
8 Clint Bowyer 15 Toyota 5 400 0 Running
9 Martin Truex Jr 56 Toyota 17 400 0 Running
10 Marcos Ambrose 9 Ford 19 400 0 Running
11 Carl Edwards 99 Ford 13 400 7 Running
12 Jeff Burton 31 Chevrolet 27 400 0 Running
13 Paul Menard 27 Chevrolet 22 400 1 Running
14 Ricky Stenhouse Jr 17 Ford 30 398 0 Running
15 Matt Kenseth 20 Toyota 3 398 112 Running
16 Trevor Bayne 21 Ford 29 397 0 Running
17 Regan Smith 51 Chevrolet 36 397 0 Running
18 Juan Pablo Montoya 42 Chevrolet 16 397 0 Running
19 Jamie McMurray 1 Chevrolet 9 396 2 Running
20 David Gilliland 38 Ford 26 396 0 Running
21 David Reutimann 83 Toyota 38 396 0 Running
22 Jimmie Johnson 48 Chevrolet 12 395 0 Running
23 Casey Mears 13 Ford 21 394 0 Running
24 Bobby Labonte 47 Toyota 34 394 0 Running
25 David Ragan 34 Ford 35 394 0 Running
26 Josh Wise 35 Ford 43 393 0 Running
27 Timmy Hill 32 Ford 40 391 0 Running
28 J.J. Yeley 36 Chevrolet 23 390 0 Running
29 Danica Patrick 10 Chevrolet 24 385 0 Running
30 Dave Blaney 7 Chevrolet 33 339 0 Accident
31 Greg Biffle 16 Ford 7 335 0 Running
32 David Stremme 30 Toyota 39 326 0 Running
33 Aric Almirola 43 Ford 18 324 0 Accident
34 Mark Martin 55 Toyota 4 324 0 Accident
35 Jeff Gordon 24 Chevrolet 14 324 0 Accident
36 Brad Keselowski 2 Ford 20 317 3 Accident
37 Landon Cassill 33 Chevrolet 42 303 0 Accident
38 Kyle Busch 18 Toyota 8 257 65 Engine
39 Dale Earnhardt Jr 88 Chevrolet 11 256 0 Engine
40 Travis Kvapil 93 Toyota 28 253 0 Accident
41 Joe Nemechek 87 Toyota 41 213 0 Electrical
42 Michael McDowell 98 Ford 32 50 0 Brakes
43 Scott Speed 95 Ford 37 39 0 Transmission

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