Kevin Harvick celebrates after winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway late Sunday.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On a wild and strange Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick stole the spotlight and the victory when Kasey Kahne, who led a race-high 161 laps, decided not to pit with 16 laps to go in the Coca-Cola 600.
Kahne was leading by almost four seconds when a yellow flag was waved for debris on the front stretch.
However, he and crew chief Kenny Francis elected to stay out. Everyone else on the lead lap pitted for tires.
“We had a great car from the drop of the green,” Kahne said. “There were times when I thought Matt (Kenseth) might have a better car, but those last 100 laps, it was our race to lose.
“We thought a couple of other cars would stay out and act as a buffer -- allow us to get away a little -- but it didn’t work out. Harvick came out of the pits second, and we just couldn’t hold him off.”
Harvick quickly grabbed command on the restart with 11 laps remaining and pulled away to a 1.7-second win, his second victory of the season and his second 600 triumph. His other 600 win came in 2011.
“Gil (Martin) made a great call there at the end,” Harvick said of his crew chief. “It was certainly a long night, and with this race, it is always about surviving, and we kept getting better and better as the night went along.”
Martin thought the decision to pit for two tires was a “no-brainer.” Martin said, “We knew the car would be better, especially through the first few corners. And it worked out perfectly.”
Kahne held off Kurt Busch for second with Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano completing the top five.
The second five consisted of Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Marcos Ambrose.
The race was red-flagged three times -- once for a multi-car accident and twice for a camera drive line that snapped, injuring 10 fans and damaging several cars, including that of Kyle Busch, who was leading at the time.
The overhead camera is operated by Fox Sports.
NASCAR first red-flagged the race on lap 125 to clear up the cable lines. After realizing that several cars were damaged pretty severely, including those of Kyle Busch and Ambrose, who had a brake line broken by the cable line, NASCAR told the teams they had 15 minutes to fix the damage.
Normally, teams are not allowed to do any work on their cars during a red flag.
“I commend NASCAR for taking the initiative and letting us all repair our damaged car,” said Kyle Busch, who had the cable line slice its way through the right front fender and wheel.
“I didn’t see anything. I just heard a big thunk on the right front tire and thought the right front tire had blew out. That’s how hard it felt and what it felt like.”
Kyle Busch’s car showed no ill effects from the damage, pulling away on the restart following the two early red flags. However, the No. 18 car’s night ended on lap 257 due to engine failure. Kyle Busch finished in 38th place.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kenseth took the lead from Kyle Busch, but his night began to go wrong when he decided not to pit during the fourth yellow flag on lap 243. On that occasion, too, all of the other lead-lap cars pitted for new tires.
Kahne, who had dominated the first 100 laps of the race, took advantage of Kenseth’s old tires to take the lead on lap 274.
Kahne stayed in command of the race even though things got pretty wild behind him with five caution flags between laps 302 and 332.
Several of the yellow flag were caused by multi-car wrecks.
The eighth caution flag of the night occurred when Brad Keselowski tangled with Danica Patrick as they raced three wide with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is dating Patrick. Keselowski took the blame for the accident saying, “I cut down on Danica.”
On the restart with 77 laps to go, Aric Almirola clipped Mark Martin as they raced three wide with Jeff Gordon on the outside to trigger a huge crash that forced NASCAR to red flag the race a third time. Almirola, Martin, Gordon, Stenhouse and Bobby Labonte were all involved in that incident.
While the cars were stopped as officials cleared up the track, leader Kurt Busch told his crew that “he had no power.” However, NASCAR allows cars to be pushed if they do not start after a red flag, and Busch was able to get his car re-fired, but he was forced to come to pit road, turning the lead over to Harvick.
The battery on Busch’s car had to be replaced, dropping him all the way to 22nd.
On lap 332, five-time champion Jimmie Johnson spun while trying to pass Truex. Kenseth slowed to miss the spinning Johnson but was run into by Juan Pablo Montoya. Paul Menard and Bobby Labonte were also involved in the incident.
Kahne slipped by Harvick on the restart and looked to be en route to his second straight 600 win and fourth overall until the 11th yellow flag of the night.
Speedway officials said 10 fans were injured when a “nylon rope” from the camera cable fell. Seven fans were treated for minor cuts and scrapes at the track care center and released. Three people were treated and released from an area hospital, track officials announced.
The track put out a statement from Fox Sports later in the race that said “the camera system consists of three ropes -- a drive rope which moves the camera back and forth and two guide ropes on either side. The drive rope failed near the turn one connection and fell to the track. The camera itself did not come down because the guide ropes acted as designed. A full investigation is planned and use of the camera is suspended indefinitely. Our immediate concern is with the injured fans.”
When asked about the TV cable incident, Harvick said, “I saw this streak go by me. ‘What in the hell was that?’
“I always have this thing with my eyes. It’s one of the biggest things we have as drivers. You got to believe in your eyes.
“I got to the start/finish line, I eased off the gas. 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. There was that black streak again. I was looking for it. You could see the cable hanging down.”