Kevin Harvick has made it an art of winning races that others dominate. He did it again Sunday night, adding a final touch to a bizarre Coca-Cola 600 that saw a nylon rope from an overhead TV camera fall on the track and grandstands, injuring 10 fans and damaging some cars, including the leader.
It also was a night that saw the leader unable to restart his car after the race’s third red flag, a seven-car crash, a five-time champion spin and trigger a five-car crash and another leader be the only lead-lap car not to pit late.
“I’m a little shellshocked,’’ third-place finisher Kurt Busch said of his night, although he could have been referring to the race.
The race was stopped twice after a nylon rope on FOX Sports’ overhead camera dangled on lap 122 and was struck by at least four cars, including Kyle Busch, who was leading at the time. The rope also fell into the grandstands and injured 10 fans, according to Charlotte Motor Speedway officials. Seven fans were treated and released from on-site care centers. Three were to taken to an area hospital and later released.
FOX Sports apologized for the incident and said an investigation would begin immediately.
Once the event resumed, the season’s longest race tormented competitors.
Kyle Busch led 65 laps and was running in the top five when his engine failed, marking the second time this season a blown engine has ended his race early. Engine woes played a role in him missing the Chase last season.
“I’ve got more ... blown motors than wins,’’ he said on his team’s radio.
Busch, who finished 38th, later told reporters: “Just catastrophic engine failure. It seems to be that time of the year again.’’
Such misfortune shadowed his older brother, Kurt, who took the lead on lap 319 of the 400-lap race but soon relinquished it because of a mechanical problem.
Problems surfaced after a seven-car crash that started when Mark Martin and Aric Almirola made contact running three-wide down the frontstretch. Jeff Gordon was among those collected, ending his night with a 35th-place finish.
The race was stopped to clear the track. Busch radioed his team that he lost power and couldn’t restart his car. When the delay ended, Busch was pushed to pit road where he gave up the lead to change a battery.
“Something happened that didn’t happen to (42) other cars in the field,’’ crew chief Todd Berrier said. “We’ve just got to do a lot better as a group. We didn’t do our due diligence on something for that to happen.
“All we have to do is not mess up and he’s going to make us look good.’’
The night would take another turn.
Kasey Kahne, who led a race-high 161 laps returned to the lead on lap 382 after every car made its final scheduled stop. A debris caution, the 11th and final caution of the race, took away his advantage and left Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis wondering what to do.
“We’ve got to decide whether we want to stay out here or not,’’ Francis said on the radio. “A lot of them just pitted so they’re going to stay out.’’
“They have fresher tires,’’ Kahne said. “I think we pretty much have to stay out, right?
“Yeah, I think you pretty much have to,’’ Francis said.
Francis told Kahne not to pit but every other car on the lead lap pitted.
“Did anyone stay out, Kenny?’’ Kahne asked.
“I think they all came, every one of them,’’ Francis said.
“Oh boy,’’ Kahne said.
“Ten-four, that sucks,’’ Francis. “Do what you can with it.’’
Harvick shot past Kahne on the restart and led the final 11 laps to score his second victory of the season and 21st of his career.
Harvick won last month at Richmond, leading only three laps. He finished Sunday leading 28 laps.
“I like to just take my time and put myself in position at the end of the race,’’ Harvick said. “I’m not going to burn my car up in the first half of the race, go out and show off basically. Obviously, you want to run as fast as you can, but it really doesn’t matter until the end.’’
Kahne finished second. After Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin finished fourth. He’s placed in the top five in both points races since returning from a broken vertebrae.
“We need solid runs like this,’’ said Hamlin, who moved three spots to 24th in the points in his quest toward a wildcard spot for the Chase.
Johnson remained the points leader but lost 12 points to Carl Edwards. Johnson leads Edwards by 32 points heading into this weekend’s race at Dover.
Johnson finished 22nd, his night ruined when he spun in turn 4 to trigger a five-car crash that included Matt Kenseth, who led 112 laps. Juan Pablo Montoya also was involved and hit Johnson’s car.
Ryan Newman finished sixth and Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Tony Stewart placed seventh _ his first top-10 finish since Phoenix in early March.
“Probably the most positive night I’ve had leaving the race track, and I’ll probably get the best night’s sleep I’ve had all year,’’ Stewart said.
Clint Bowyer placed eighth with Martin Truex Jr. ninth and Marcos Ambrose came back to finish 10th after his car was damaged by the nylon cable from the TV camera.
“We’re closer to getting back to the front and it was a good night for us,’’ Ambrose said, “a crazy night.’’