Gerry Broome Associated Press Kevin Harvick puts on the obligatory smoke show after winning the Coca-Cola 600 for the second time in three years.

Longest race falls Harvick's way again

Published: Monday, May. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3C
Last Modified: Wednesday, May. 29, 2013 - 9:02 am

CONCORD, N.C. – Kevin Harvick isn't done surprising people at Charlotte Motor Speedway or Richard Childress Racing.

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

The race was stopped for 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 treated at and released from hospitals.

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 moves to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.

Harvick made it through the broken rope, several crashes and Kahne's dominant machine that led a race-high 161 laps.

Harvick pulled off an unlikely win here in 2011, sweeping past an out-of-fuel Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap.

"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 where you have to grind it out and keep yourself on the lead lap."

The race stopped suddenly a little more than 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 for the delay and problems.

In a statement, Fox said it suspended use of the camera indefinitely. Drive rope that moves the camera back and forth failed, and Fox 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. He wasn't the only one surprised.

"I came off turn four, 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 said.

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 victory drought.

Kahne had the strongest car, quickly moving 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.

Kahne remained on the track while Harvick pitted for two tires. Harvick quickly took control on the restart.

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

He entered as a favorite 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," Busch said.

Busch did praise NASCAR for halting the race and allowing teams to repair damage.

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.

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