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Harvick Passes Gasless Earnhardt To Win The Coca-Cola 600

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 29 2011

Kevin Harvick burns some tires after winning the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

Kevin Harvick passed an out-of-fuel Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead on the final turn of the final lap and went on to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night.

The victory was the third of the season for Harvick, who led just two laps Sunday night.

The victory was the 17th of the Richard Childress Racing driver’s career. It came at a track which he does not care for.

“I just don’t like racing here,” Harvick, who got his first win in Charlotte, said. “Not even now.”

Earnhardt coasted to a seventh-place finish in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

“We played our hand,” Earnhardt said. “If we would have won that race, it would have been a gift.

“I was out on the back straightaway. My car just kept up enough speed it didn’t look like it was out. But, I was out. The spotter is like ‘man, they are comin’, they are comin’ and I’m like I’m just crusin’ here, what am I supposed to do? Get out and pedal this thing with my feet? It was a long race and a really hard race and I haven’t ran good here in a long time. We ran really, really good tonight. Real good and I’m real happy about that. The wins are going to come; we just have to keep working.”

Ford driver David Ragan of Roush Fenway Racing finished second and Joey Logano in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was third.

Kurt Busch and A.J. Allmendinger rounded out the top five.

“It’s amazing that we can race 600 miles and it comes down to a green-white-checkered finish and fuel mileage,” Busch said. “That’s the excitement that this sport brings and you never know when it’s going to be your time to have fuel or not. Today, we had enough and Steve (Addington) made a great call to come in and top-off for fuel. It

Dale Earnhardt Jr. came up just short in Charlotte. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

worked out and we made the right calculations to make it to the end of the race.”

Carl Edwards took the lead from polesitter Brad Keselowski eight laps in and dominated the first 75 laps.

He lost it when the race went yellow at that point as he was beat out of the pits by Jeff Burton, who took just two tires.

Denny Hamlin quickly moved past Burton and into the lead after the lap 80 restart. Hamlin held the lead until a caution came out on lap 99. Ragan emerged from the pits first after his pit stop, having taken just two tires.

Ragan surrendered the lead to Matt Kenseth after leading seven laps.

From there, Kenseth ran away. He was able to build leads of almost 8 seconds over second-place cars. He was holding a 6-second lead over Edwards when a caution came out on lap 171.

When the race resumed on lap 176, Marcos Ambrose and two othere drivers who took just two tires were out front. Kenseth restarted fourth.

Jamie McMurray, a two-tire guy, grabbed the lead shortly after the restart when Ambrose wiggled.

On lap 182, Kenseth moved back to the lead – just as McMurray’s engine blew.

On a restart on lap 194, Marcos Ambrose jumped past Kenseth to take the lead. Four laps later, Kenseth took the lead back. And once again, he began pulling away.

On lap 233, the caution waved again. Kenseth, who had pitted a bit earlier under green, came back in and went out ninth.

When the green dropped, Amborse had the lead and Kyle Busch was second. On lap 240, another crash brought out another yellow.

On lap 245, the race restarted and Busch blew past Ambrose. And, with darkness descending and track temperatures coming down, it was Busch’s turn to stretch a lead to past a second.

Busch surrendered the lead to Kenseth on green-flag stop with 123 laps to go. When the pitting cycled through, Busch had the lead and Ambrose was second.

Busch lost the lead when he pitted under yellow with 98 laps to go. He lost it because several cars – Jeff Gordon’s foremost among them – stayed out.

Busch restarted well back in the pack and with 82 to go, he got loose and took a trip through the grass.

On the ensuing yellow, Gordon and several others up front pitted and Kasey Kahne inherited the lead.

With 58 laps to go, Busch whacked the wall just as Kahne, who was out of sequence, was about to have to pit for fuel.

When the race restarted with 52 to go, Gordon had the lead and Biffle was second. A lap later, Biffle took the lead from Gordon. Biffle, like most leaders before him, used clean air to build a big lead.

With 40 laps to go, Kahne began moving up on Biffle. But when he got to within a half second, he stay there until there were about six laps to go. Kahne then moved to Biffle’s rear bumper.

With five laps to go, Jimmie Johnson’s engine blew, bringing out a yellow flag and setting up a green/white/checkered restart.

Also set up was a fuel-mileage race as Biffle, Kahne and third-place Earnhardt Jr. all were driving thirsty cars.

Biffle opted late to pit during the caution. That handed Kahne the lead for the restart. Second was Earnhardt and Denny Hamlin was third.

Earnhardt jumped to the lead and took the white flag first.

But coming out of the final turn, Earnhardt slowed as he ran out of fuel. Harvick passed him and took the checkered flag.

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 29 2011
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