Harvick Pits His Way To Victory Lane In Charlotte
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – With 14 laps remaining in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick pitted for two fresh tires and returned to the 1.5-mile track with only one thought – “Don’t screw up.”
“I knew they put me in the best position to win the race,” said Harvick, who led three times for 28 laps in the event that had 24 lead changes among 12 drivers. “You don’t want to make a mistake on the restart.”
Harvick was second to leader Kasey Kahne when the 11th and final caution flag waved on a bizarre race that could have been the foundation for a Stephen King novel. Kahne was the only lead-lap car that elected not to pit during the caution period. Harvick’s crew performed flawlessly and returned him to the track in second.
“I knew I was in trouble because my tires were hot,” said Kahne, who led eight times for 161 laps to be the race’s top lap leader. “He [Harvick] had cold right sides.”
Harvick said he knew he couldn’t make the same mistake someone did earlier, which was trying to time it to the restart lines.
“Kasey was having a lot of trouble on the restarts, spinning the tires,” Harvick continued. “That was the thing I didn’t want to do, was time it to the restart line, have to check up, have the guys behind me get a run. I needed to time it to the start/finish line so I could carry the momentum into turn one, not put three-wide, we could keep the guy on the outside at bay by being fast enough into turn one. That was really the most important thing.”
Harvick’s plan worked. He grabbed the lead when the race restarted on lap 390 of the 400-lap event and was never seriously challenged, pulling away to a 1.490-second victory over Kahne.
Kurt Busch finished third, but the Las Vegas native couldn’t hide his disappointment. He led once for eight laps and was in the No. 1 position when the red flag appeared for the third time. That’s when his car lost power.
“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,” a dejected Busch said. “It came about this week in a dead battery. I’m a little shell-shocked still, trying to find the exact words because I’m always judged on my reaction instead of my actual performance.”
Busch’s problems occurred during the 9-minute 13-second red flag that occurred on lap 327 for a seven-car accident on the frontstretch. The race’s other two red flags were the result of FOX’s nylon rope cable for its CamCat overhead camera system breaking. FOX spokesperson Megan Englehart said the camera system’s drive rope failed near the first turn connection and fell to the track. The cable also fell over the grandstands in the fourth turn on lap 121, injuring 10 spectators. Speedway officials said seven people were treated for minor cuts and scrapes at track care centers and released. Three people were taken to an area hospital where they were treated and released.
Kyle Busch was leading at that time and the cable severely damaged his car’s right front.
“I just heard a big thunk on the right-front tire and thought the right-front tire blew out,” the younger Busch said.
The cable then caught Mark Martin’s Toyota before going underneath Marcos Ambrose’s Ford.
“It was like getting attacked by a giant squid,” Ambrose said when asked what it was like when the cable hit his car. “It was just flapping and I didn’t know what was going on. I thought it was cords coming out of maybe one of the [No.] 55’s [Martin] tires or something, but I could just hear it flapping. Then it got caught up in the rear end and I lost my brakes, so it was a nightmare.”
NASCAR initially stopped the race for 10 minutes 40 seconds to obtain all of the cable that had fallen onto the track. Then NASCAR gave a 16-minute 22-second red flag so the teams could repair the damage to their cars; a move all of the drivers applauded.
Harvick said the first time he drove by the cable in his Chevrolet he thought, “Hell. My career is over. My eyes have taken a crap.”
“I always have this thing with my eyes,” Harvick continued. “It’s one of the biggest things we have as drivers. You have got to believe in your eyes. I got to the start/finish line. I eased off the gas. I knew what I had seen the lap before. I was hoping what I saw was right. I let off at the start/finish line (and) there was that black streak again. You could see the cable hanging down.”
Harvick’s 21st career victory and his second in the Coca-Cola 600 came on a day that Chevrolet won the Indianapolis 500 as well. It also came on the 20th anniversary of team owner Richard Childress’ third and final race victory at the facility with Dale Earnhardt.
“Any time you win at Charlotte, you win a grueling 4-hour 30-minute race, it’s special,” said Childress, who has won the race five times, three with Earnhardt and twice with Harvick. “I can still today remember the races we won with Dale. Every one of them was special. The night that Kevin won over here that was special.
“The day that you quit thinking that a race isn’t special to win, you better go home and pack it up.”
– Deb Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment