A late pit call proved to be the difference for Kevin Harvick, who took the lead from Kasey Kahne on the final restart with 11 laps to go and sped away to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kahne had been holding a three-second lead over Harvick until debris on the backstretch brought out the caution at Lap 386. But while Kahne stayed out, the rest of the leaders decided to go to pit road for fresh tires. Harvick took two tires on his last stop of the night and when the green came back out on Lap 389, he quickly disposed of Kahne and went on to win by 1.49 seconds.
“It was a good strategy call there,” Harvick told Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “The 5 [Kahne] stayed out and we were able to have a little bit fresher tires and get in front of him on the restart.”
Kahne and his Hendrick Motorsports team were expecting the cars behind them to follow their lead and stay out as well.
“There’s a couple of guys that had just got tires, so we thought they’d stay out,” Kahne explained to Fox. “…That didn’t happened and the whole field pitted. We were in a tough spot. I bet if we pit, some of them don’t, so I think we’re just in a tough spot right there.”
Kurt Busch also had a chance to win and was leading the way when a three-car crash involving Aric Almirola, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin brought out a red flag with 74 to go. But shortly after the restart, Busch suffered a battery failure and was forced to the pits. However, the former Cup champion was still able to climb up to third position by the finish.
“We picked up the lead and the battery went dead – I don’t know what to think of that,” said Busch. “But we battled back. The guys changed it as fast as they could and we got third. We had a good car. You gotta be perfect to win these things and that was…close. We weren’t quite there.”
Denny Hamlin followed up his run to the Coke 600 pole with a fourth-place finish ahead of Joey Logano in fifth.
Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth were strong for the first half of the race, but did not have a say in the final outcome. After overcoming damage caused by a wayward guide rope for an overhead TV camera, Kyle lost his engine on Lap 251. As for Kenseth, he was caught in an incident at Lap 333 as he was hit from behind by Juan Pablo Montoya, who was trying to check up and avoid him while Jimmie Johnson was spinning out. Kenseth soldiered to a 15th place result.