By: Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent
- Harvick gets his first win at Charlotte
- Earnhardt runs out of fuel in Turn 4
- Ragan & Logano hold on for 2nd & 3rd
Harvick saving fuel gets him the Sprint Cup win at Charlotte
Kevin Harvick may have only led two laps in the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night, but one of those two laps was the most important one -- the final lap. As other cars on the lead lap ran out of fuel, Harvick raced from third to the lead between turn four and the checkered flag to take the win.
“Today, we were lucky,” Harvick said in victory lane.
I just don’t like racing here.
Charlotte Motor Speedway has never been one of Harvick’s best tracks. Coming into this weekend’s race Harvick had only led a total of three laps in 20 starts there.
“I just don’t like racing here,” Harvick said.
Even after winning on Sunday night, Harvick said that his dislike for the track hadn’t really changed.
Everyone pitted when a caution came out with about 57 laps to go after Kyle Busch spun and hit the wall. That round of stops put everyone right on the line between making it and not making it the rest of the way on fuel.
Another caution when Jimmie Johnson’s engine expired with five laps to go, resulted in a green-white-checker finish, adding laps to the race that several drivers already weren’t sure they could complete with the fuel they had in their tanks.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. led coming to the white flag and led most of the final lap, with Denny Hamlin running second. Both, however, ran out of gas before they could get to the checkered flag.
“We weren’t supposed to make it,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I tried to save a ton of gas.”
Earnhardt Jr. wound up finishing seventh and Hamlin was 10th.
“You can’t run second on the back straightaway and be happy with 10th,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin’s almost-second-place run came despite his crew having to replace the carburetor on the No. 11 car during the race.
Several other drivers gave up spots near the front during the final caution to get a splash of fuel.
While other cars on the lead lap came down pit road for a little extra fuel in the closing laps, Harvick was on the receiving end of pushes from Richard Childress teammates Paul Menard and Jeff Burton under the yellow flag in an extra effort to conserve fuel.
Even though Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth both took splashes of fuel under the final caution, David Ragan opted to stay out. The move resulted in his best-career Sprint Cup finish -- second.
According to Ragan, though, his runner-up showing wasn’t simply because of fuel mileage.
“It was a top three or top-four car,” Ragan said of his No. 6 ride. “We were saving gas there at the end.”
We’re happy to get a top-five ...
After winning the Sprint Showdown non-points-paying race last weekend at Charlotte, Ragan was itching for his first points win.
“We’re happy to get a top-five, but when you’re that close to a win, you’re kind of disappointed,” Ragan said.
Joey Logano finished third after going a lap down a couple of times during the race and getting those laps back under caution. Kurt Busch finished fourth, and A.J. Allmendinger rounded out the top-five.
“We definitely had a strong car tonight,” Busch said.
The Roush Fenway duo of Kenseth and Carl Edwards were the class of the field throughout the first half of the race. Edwards led several laps early before Kenseth took over to lead 103 laps of the race. Kenseth ended up 14th, and Edwards was 16th.
As the RFR cars faded out of the picture, Kyle Busch took over during the second half of the race before two spins took him out of contention. Busch first spun through the infield grass on lap 318, but managed to not damage his car. He spun again, though, with 57 laps to go, this time hitting the wall to end his race for good.
With the green-white-checker finish that added laps to the race, Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 was the longest race in NASCAR history. It also produced 38 lead changes, the most lead changes at Charlotte since 1988.