Harvick wins 600 on wild night at CMS
Kevin Harvick proved to be the best when it counted after Kasey Kahne held that role much of the way in a wild, wreck-filled Coca-Cola 600 marked by a red flag for a snapped TV cable.
Kahne led the most laps and had about a 3-second lead when the caution flag was waved for debris with 16 laps to go. Kahne stayed out while the other 12 cars on the lead lap made pit stops and changed at least two tires.
Harvick lined up beside Kahne for the restart with 11 laps left and drove away for the rest of the 400-mile race, winning by 1.491 seconds. It was Harvick’s second victory in NASCAR’s longest race. It was also Harvick’s second win of the season.
“We made a good strategy call,” Harvick said. “(Kahne) stayed out. We had fresher tires and got ahead of him on the restart.”
Kahne held off Kurt Busch, who bounced back from his battery going dead while he was leading during a red flag for a crash with just over 80 laps to go.
Kahne said he was in a tough spot.
“We thought some of the guys would stay out, at least two or three, and that would give us enough of a cushion,” Kahne said. “But Harvick started beside me and he went flat out in turn one and I had to lift and that was the end of my race.
“I knew I was in trouble because my tires were hot and he had cold right sides and I had gotten around Matt Kenseth like that earlier in the race.”
Busch’s battery died just after he had taken the lead. He managed to stay on the lead lap because of quick work by his crew under caution.
“I’m kind of shell-shocked, got lead and battery went dead,” Busch said. “It was time for our little hiccup. The guys changed it and we got third. You have to be perfect and we were close.”
Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin was fourth, followed by Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart.
The race was interrupted for 27 minutes and 10 fans were injured as a result of Kyle Busch snapping a low-hanging rope that served as a guide for an overhead camera that was on wires the length of the frontstretch.
“That was crazy,” Kahne said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The right-front of Busch’s car snagged the nylon rope at lap 120 after it drooped near the exit of turn four. The rope sliced Busch’s right-front fender when it was jerked. Pieces of it wound up wrapping around the rear axle of Marcos Ambrose’s car and hit Mark Martin’s car.
“I didn’t see anything,” Busch said. “I heard a big thump on the right-front tire and thought it had blown out. It did have an effect of slowing it down. That’s weird and I don’t think anybody has seen that. Maybe we can get rid of that thing.”
NASCAR stopped the race for 10 minutes while remains of the rope were cleared and then brought cars on pit road and gave teams 15 minutes to make repairs. The speedway said three of the injured fans were taken to hospitals for observation. The other seven were treated for “minor cuts and scrapes” on site and were released.
Busch’s crew put a new fender on his Toyota, which had no trouble keeping the lead when green-flag racing resumed. Ambrose was allowed to run five laps by himself to make up the ground he lost coming immediately to the pits after the rope became hung on his car.
Busch was later sidelined by an engine failure. Busch said the engine problem was not connected to the incident with the guide rope.
“I commend NASCAR for giving all of us who suffered damage a chance to fix it,” Busch said. “My guys did a great job. I felt we had a third, fourth, fifth place car. We had a catastrophic engine failure. It must be that time of the year.”
Fox Sports released a statement saying that the incident was caused by failure of the camera’s drive line. The system consisted of a drive rope that moves the camera and two guide ropes. The drive rope failed near its connection in Turn One and then fell to the track.
The Fox statement said an investigation is planned and use of the overhead camera has been suspended.
About the time Busch went to the garage, Dale Earnhardt Jr. oiled the track in turns 3 and 4. Greg Biffle, Dave Blaney and Travis Kvapil crashed when they hit the fluid.
“I smelled something burning,” Earnhardt said. “I thought it was rubber build-up against the engine. It didn’t start losing power until the last lap before It broke. We didn’t have a good car. We know why. We can rebound from this real quick.”
High Point’s Blaney wound up running into the side of Kvapil’s car. They were not close when Earnhardt’s engine let go going into turn 3.
“My spotter didn’t say anything,” Blaney said. “By the time I had a clue, I was in the oil and in the wall. I’m not sure but I think I ran in there, hit the oil and ran into (Kvapil). That was stupid. I was so far behind that, I should have missed it easy.”
Defending series champ Bard Keselowski was sidelined when was knocked into the wall by Danica Patrick just after a lap 319 restart. Patrick continued.
“I cut Danica off. I didn’t know she was down there running three wide,” Keselowski said.
The crash that caused the other red flag was caused when Aric Almirola, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon crashed going into turn one.
Matt Kenseth appeared to be the equal of Kahne for most of the first 300 laps but he was knocked out of the battle for the lead when he pitted under green and the caution came out a few laps later. He was working back into contention when he was knocked into a wall by Juan Montoya as Jimmie Johnson spun in front of them.