Kevin Harvick Wins Wild Coca-Cola 600
Pit Note #14
Sunday, May 26
KEVIN HARVICK WINS COCA-COLA 600: At 600 miles, it was already the longest race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The longest race got even longer Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway when three red flags halted the event for 36 minutes and 11 caution flags further slowed the action. More than five hours after the green flag fell, Kevin Harvick escaped the wild night of racing to win the Coca-Cola 600.
At lap 123, a nylon overhead camera cable failed, causing two red-flag periods for 27 minutes. A third red flag following an incident involving Jeff Gordon, Aric Almirola and Mark Martin halted the action for another 9 minutes.
"Well, you know coming into this race that it is going to be a long night trying to survive," Harvick said. "Obviously, we had some strange circumstances with the cable."
Harvick's late-race pit strategy was the key to his second win at the track, pitting for right-side tires during the final caution flag with 14 laps remaining. Kasey Kahne, who led 161 laps - more than any other driver - decided to stay out, a move he and his team almost instantly regretted.
When the race restarted with 11 laps remaining, Harvick bolted to the lead and never looked back; Kahne ended up second.
"We just thought that some of the guys would pit," Kahne said. "And then Harvick started right beside me, and in one and two I had to lift and felt a little free getting in, so I had to back off the gas. And when I backed out he was in front of me. That was the end of our race."
Kurt Busch, who had been leading the race when the last red flag came out, could not restart his car after the delay and had to go to the pits to change the battery. He restarted 14th but clawed his way back up to finish third.
"It was a good 550 miles it seemed like for us, and then it was the normal something's got to pop up," Busch said. "Some kind of adversity we've got to overcome. I'm a little shell-shocked still and trying to find the exact words since I'm always judged on my reaction and not my performance."
COCA-COLA 600 QUOTES
KEVIN HARVICK (Winner, No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet): "Well, you know coming into this race that it is going to be a long night trying to survive. Obviously, we had some strange circumstances with the cable. This particular car was balanced right from the start and with the temperature being a little less, the swing was a little less than normal. It was just a great night. (Crew chief) Gil (Martin) made a great call there at the end. And we were able to improve our position and then it was time to go. (On the cable issue) The first time I drove by, I thought my eyes had taken a crap. I thought, 'What was that?' The eyes are one of the biggest things we have as drivers. And you gotta believe in your eyes; you gotta believe what you saw. I came back the next time and got to the start-finish line and eased off the gas because I knew what I had seen the lap before. I was hoping what I saw was right. There was that black streak, and I was kind of looking for it. It was just a strange incident. We have been in a couple of strange incidents here. You just want to get everything fixed. I was glad NASCAR was able to let the guys get their cars fixed that were involved to try and get back to where they were to be competitive. This is one of those nights, you know going into it that you have got to grind away and just keep yourself on the lead lap, and not make any mistakes, and later in the race be more aggressive. And it came down to the end and a restart and we had track position. At the end, it was good enough to win the race, and that's all that matters."
GIL MARTIN (Crew chief, No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet): "At the end of the race, we probably had 12 different scenarios to try and play out. Everybody started getting on different ones. We knew we were going to have to pit somewhere around the 368-lap mark, and a lot of the guys were talking. We had scenarios for getting fuel later on. And then when that final caution came out, I thought that we need to come. I mean, it was a no-brainer. The car was going to be better, especially getting through the first couple of corners, to be able to run wide open on cold tires. And it worked out for us."
RICHARD CHILDRESS (Owner, No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet): "Gil (Martin) made a good call there at the end. Kevin was really digging all day long. This is a grueling race, and he sat there and just dug and dug. To win this race on this special weekend is very special for all our troops, families and everybody."
KASEY KAHNE (Second place, No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet): "We had a great car from the drop of the green. We just drove to the front. It felt really good throughout the race when I thought Matt (Kenseth) might be a little better. But then we adjusted, so it was definitely our race to lose, especially those last hundred laps. We just thought that some of the guys would pit. I think there were three guys that had just pitted within a few laps. I thought if someone got two or four tires that could get away. And then Harvick started right beside me, and in (turns) 1 and 2, I had to lift and felt a little free getting in, so I had to back off the gas. And when I backed out, he was in front of me. That was the end of our race.
(How are you feeling?) I actually felt pretty good during the race. It was the best I felt all day. I took some IV packs right before the drivers meeting and once they kicked in… That break wasn't a bad thing for me. I feel really confident with my team. They were just on it the entire time, the calls, the team, and the adjustments. We had a car that was balanced the entire race tonight. This is the third time this year I have been to a mile-and-a-half and have run second. We just didn't get the win in any of them. I feel like we were the best car in them."
KURT BUSCH (Third place, No. 78 Furniture Row Racing/Serta Chevrolet): "It was a good 550 miles it seemed like for us and then it was the normal something's got to pop up. Some kind of adversity we've got to overcome. I'm a little shell shocked still and trying to find the exact words since I'm always judged on my reaction and not my performance. So watch this: It was a great run for our guys. We really did the best we could with 600 miles. Solid pit stops; the car was a little tight here and a little loose there. All in all, we brought it home third. Congratulations to Harvick. Those guys are teammates of ours. We got third and it's a good points night."