Harvick has enough gas to win Coca-Cola 600
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. came oh-so-close to his first win in more than 100 races, and Denny Hamlin came close to a second-place finish after his crew managed to keep him on the lead lap despite an in-race carburetor change, but both ran out of fuel on the final lap, as Kevin Harvick passed them by to take the win in the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday.
“Today, we were lucky,” Harvick said in victory lane.
Harvick only led two laps in Sunday’s race, but that almost matched the total number of laps he had led in his previous 20 starts at the track -- three.
After running out of fuel coming out of turn four, Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh and Hamlin was 10th.
“You can’t run second on the back straightaway and be happy with 10th,” Hamlin said.
The entire field pitted, some drivers for the final time, when Kyle Busch spun for the second time with 57 laps to go. Those stops put many drivers on the edge of being able to make it the rest of the way on fuel. Another caution, the final one of the race, with five laps to go when Jimmie Johnson lost his engine, stretched the gamble even further for some teams.
Some drivers opted to pit for a splash of fuel, including the Roush Fenway Racing duo of Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. Kenseth was still running solidly in the top-five after leading 103 laps of the race when he made his stop, and Biffle had raced his way back toward the front after early race problems stemming from a cool box malfunction and miscommunication within his team when trying to remedy the problem. Biffle also served a pit road speeding penalty early in the race.
Although his RFR teammates pitted in the closing laps, David Ragan opted to stay out. As other drivers who stayed out ran out of fuel, Ragan was able to make it to the checkered flag to post his career-best finish of second.
“We were saving gas there at the end,” Ragan said.
Joey Logano, who fell off the lead lap twice during the race, got his laps back under cautions and was around to take advantage of the late-race fuel shortages to finish third. Kurt Busch finished fourth, and A.J. Allmendinger rounded out the top-five.