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Harvick beats Kahne on final restart to win Coca-Cola 600

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Associated Press
5/27/2013 12:34:09 AM
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CONCORD, N.C. -- Kevin Harvick isn't done surprising people at Charlotte Motor Speedway or Richard Childress Racing.

Closing a bizarre night in NASCAR's longest event, Harvick pulled away from Kasey Kahne on a restart Sunday with 11 laps left to win the Coca-Cola 600 for the second time in three seasons to

The race was stopped nearly 30 minutes at one point when a TV camera support rope snapped and landed on the track and in the grandstands. There were 10 people hurt, according to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Three were taken to hospitals, and have been treated and released.

It's Harvick's final season at RCR -- the only team he's known since filling the seat of the late Dale Earnhardt in 2001 -- before he swifts to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.

Harvick's already shown with a victory at Richmond this year he wouldn't coast through the year and proved that again as he made it through the broken rope, several crashes and Kahne's dominant machine that led a race-high 156 laps.

There was no other course for Harvick than giving his all, saying he and Childress "have really focused on what's most important for our sponsors and the guys on this team and this organization."

Harvick's pulled off an unlikely win here in 2011, sweeping past an out-of-fuel Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap. "Last race (2011) we came off turn two in third and by the time we got to the start-finish line we had won the race," he said.

"It was one of those nights," he said, "where you have to grind it out and keep yourself on the lead lap."

Especially when you don't know what you'll face.

The race stopped suddenly a little over a quarter of the way into the long event after the nylon rope snapped in the first turn. The cars were brought into the pits and cleanup crews coiled up the long sections of rope as if they were putting away a garden hose. Drivers were allowed back to their pit stalls and crews given 15 minutes to assess and fix damage caused by the failure.

Fox Sports announcer Chris Myers apologized to fans and drivers several times for the delay and problems.

In a statement, Fox said it had suspended use of the overhead camera indefinitely. It said drive rope that moves the camera back and forth failed and it had no immediate reason why.

"A full investigation is planned," the statement said.

Harvick couldn't believe he'd seen the cable along the track and did his best to avoid problems. And Harvick wasn't the only one surprised.

"I came off turn four," Kahne said, "and I saw it wrapped around Kyle's car and it hit mine and I thought I had to be seeing things because there's no way there could be a cable on the race track."

Kahne finished second, Kurt Busch third and polesitter Denny Hamlin was fourth in his second full race since returning from injury.

Harvick's win was almost as big a surprise as it was in 2011 when the crowd anticipated Earnhardt ending what was then a long, long victory drought.

Kahne had the strongest car, quickly moving back to the front each time he fell back. He had a large lead and lots of open track when the final caution flag came out with 16 laps remaining.

But Kahne remained on the track while Harvick pitted for two fresh tires. On the restart, Harvick quickly took control and Kahne couldn't catch up.

Ryan Newman was sixth followed by Tony Steward, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Marcos Ambrose.

Harvick's victory ended a long, strange day of racing in the biggest motorsports' weekend. Tony Kanaan took a crowd-pleasing win at the Indianapolis 500 before one of NASCAR's showcase events was marred by the rope problems.

Childress said he texted Chevrolet's vice-president of motorsports, Jim Campbell, to congratulate him on Kanaan's win in Indy. "I texted him back and said, 'We'll win for you tonight.' We kept our word," Childress said.

The race stopped suddenly a little over a quarter of the way into the long event after the nylon rope snapped in the first turn. The cars were brought into the pits and cleanup crews coiled up the long sections of rope as if they were putting away a garden hose. Drivers were allowed back to their pit stalls and crews given 15 minutes to assess and fix damage caused by the failure.

Fox Sports announcer Chris Myers apologized to fans and drivers several times for the delay and problems.

In a statement, Fox said it had suspended use of the overhead camera indefinitely. It said drive rope that moves the camera back and forth failed and it had no immediate reason why.

"A full investigation is planned," the statement said.

Kyle Busch might want to look into why he can't seem to win a Sprint Cup race in Charlotte.

He entered a favourite after winning the Truck Series event last week and powering to a Nationwide victory Saturday. He was in the lead, though, when the nylon guide rope snapped and ran smack over it. Busch heard a "thunk" and knew he had problems. "It did have an effect of slowing my car down and I could feel it like, 'Whoa,"' he said. "That's weird and I don't know that anybody has ever seen that."

Busch's team got the car back in winning shape and he continued near the front. However, his race ended for good on lap 257 when his engine failed.

"Catastrophic engine failure. Seems to be that time of year," said Busch, who has yet to win a Sprint Cup event at the track he calls his favourite.

Busch did praise NASCAR for halting the race and allowing teams to repair damage, which he said was unrelated to his engine problems.

About the same time Busch's engine failed, Earnhardt's race concluded with a similar problem. Earnhardt had smoke and oil pouring out on lap 257. Greg Biffle slipped into the wall, sending him to the garage, and Dave Blaney and Travis Kvapil collided.

"We didn't have a really good car," Earnhardt said. "We know why. We can go back and feel like we can rebound from this real quick."

That started of series of incidents that ended things for some of NASCAR's most popular and successful drivers.

Defending series champion Brad Keselowski and Danica Patrick saw their chances end on lap 319 when they collided on a restart. It appeared that Patrick's boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., forced her car up the track and she clipped Keselowski, who began his day in the Penske pits at the Indianapolis 500.

Keselowski took the blame for the wreck and apologized to Patrick, in her second Coca-Cola 600.

On the following restart, Mark Martin clipped Aric Almirola and set off a six-car wreck that caught up four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon and Stenhouse.

Kurt Busch, leading at the time, suddenly lost power and needed a wrecker to push him along into the pits to change the battery. He returned to the track in 15th.

And the problems weren't over, either. Truex Jr. brushed series points leader Jimmie Johnson on the next restart to send the five-time champion skidding sideways and collected Matt Kenseth, who leads the series with three victories this year and led 112 laps at Charlotte.

Johnson remained the points leader while Harvick improved from 10th to seventh with his second victory this season.

NASCAR, as usual, did its best to honour the military and those who've served their country on Memorial Day weekend. Busloads of troops were brought to the track and retired Lt. Col. Oliver North gave a pre-race speech. There were massive American flags, several flyovers and even an eagle named Challenger who swept down from the top of the race track.

Kevin Harvick (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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