Harvick ropes a memorable 600
Sunday’s running of the Coca-Cola 600 certainly didn’t have anywhere near the 68 lead changes that took place in the hotly contested Indianapolis 500.
That doesn’t mean it won’t be remembered. It just won’t be remembered for much of anything that happened on the track leading up to Kevin Harvick’s victory.
It will be forever known as the race in which a rope attached to a Fox Sports overhead camera came down, tore up some cars, stopped the race for a total of 27 minutes and injured 10 people.
Putting a camera on wires running above the length of a race track frontstretch (or over the field of play of any sporting event) raises the possibility of potential troubles for those below it.
Matt Kenseth was worried about the potential for disaster.
“I remember seeing the camera for the first time at Vegas,” Kenseth said. “I talked to (Sprint Cup Series director) John Darby about it and I was like, ‘I hope that thing never falls down,’ and he said, ‘Nah, it will never fall.’”
The camera didn’t fall as it remained fixed to two guide ropes on which it slides. But, the drive rope that moves the camera failed, a portion of it dropping so low over the track that Kyle Busch’s car snagged it, ripping apart Busch’s right-rear fender.
At least five other cars were damaged. NASCAR officials did the right thing and gave all teams 15 minutes to check their cars and make repairs.
More importantly, 10 fans were injured — which is not a good thing for a sport losing paying customers, the track or the network. Fortunately, in the wee minutes of Monday morning, a CMS spokesman announced that three people who went to hospitals for treatment had been released and none of the injuries were life threatening.
Fox eventually apologized on air. It also released a statement saying it will conduct an investigation of why the rope failed and that the use of the camera (which provides little more than panoramic shots) has been suspended indefinitely.
“Maybe we’ve gotten rid of that thing once and for all,” Busch said after he was later sidelined by an engine failure.
When the rope dropped, Harvick couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“The first time I drove by I said, (Heck), my career is over, my eyes have (gone to junk). I saw this streak go by me. I was thinking, ‘What in the (heck) was that?’
“I always have this thing with my eyes. It’s one of the biggest things we have as drivers. You’ve got to believe in your eyes. I told myself, ‘You got to believe what you saw.’”
Harvick didn‘t take any chances when he came around the next time.
“I got to the start/finish line, I eased off the gas,” he said. “I knew what I had seen the lap before, I was hoping it wasn’t my last race, I was hoping what I saw was right. I let off at the start/finish line, there was that black streak again. I was looking for it. You could see the cable hanging down.”
When the race was over, it wasn’t hard to believe that Harvick was visible in Victory Lane, having won in typical fashion.
He usually doesn’t lead many laps but is notorious for charging into the lead late if he has a chance.
This time, Kasey Kahne, who had one of the two best cars, gave Harvick a chance by not pitting and keeping the lead during a late caution period.
“There were two or three guys who had pitted just before that so we were counting on them staying out and giving us a cushion,” Kahne said. “When everyone else on the lead lap stopped, I knew I was in trouble.”
Harvick lined up beside Kahne on the restart, had the lead by the time they got to turn two with 11 laps to go and didn’t look back.
And while Kahne was a contender the entire race, Harvick didn’t make much noise until the final 100 laps. It was much the same earlier this year at Richmond when he charged to the front and won after a late restart.
“I like to just take my time and put myself in a position at the end of the race,” Harvick said. “I think a lot of that comes from growing up. The only way to race the next week was to win enough prize money that week so you could buy tires, whatever the case may be, to race.
“I’m not going to burn my car up in the first half of the race, go out and show off basically. That’s what happens at the beginning of the race. Obviously you want to run as fast as you can, but it really doesn’t matter until the end.”
Harvick and car owner Richard Childress are showing they are not playing out the string in advance of Harvick going to Stewart-Haas Racing next season.
“This is something that he and I sat down and talked about as men and just have really focused on what’s most important for our sponsors and the guys on this team and this organization. That’s the most important thing,” Harvick said. “It’s too important to the people that put in hours and hours and hours, the people that put in millions and millions of dollars.”
Childress also mentioned the championship word. Harvick is currently seventh in points and his two wins would give him a shot at a wild-card slot if he drops out of the top 10. (Busch is the only driver currently outside the top 10 with any wins). Childress has another driver, Paul Menard, in the top 10 in eighth.
“In a business world things happen, changes happen,” Childress said of Harvick moving on. “You do everything you can in the business world. Like I told Kevin, I wish him the best of luck at the end of the year, but right now we got a job in front of us.”