NASCAR's hottest driver out of circuit's longest race
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR's hottest driver didn't last 100 laps in the Coca-Cola 600.
Kevin Harvick hit the wall Sunday, ending his night early at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Harvick had won five times this season, including the past two points races at Dover and Kansas and winning the All-Star event here a week ago. He didn't even mind much about starting 39th after failed inspections, certain it would not take him long to get back among the leaders.
After Harvick got to fourth, he slammed the wall on Lap 83 and ended his try at winning both Charlotte weekends.
Harvick trailed sparks along the track and into the garage where he immediately headed after the accident.
Harvick hadn't left the track early since dropping out of the Daytona 500. It's the first time in 18 Coca-Cola 600s that two-time winner Harvick will not cross the finish line. It was a troubling race week for Harvick since the All-Star win. He failed inspection three times Thursday and couldn't qualify. Delays Saturday caused him to miss practice time.
Harvick, while disappointed, seemed to take the early exit in stride.
"Sometime those things happen," Harvick said. "I can't complain about anything that's happened this year. We have to take the good with the bad."
No one's been as good as Harvick at finishing out races this season.
After leaving early at Daytona in February, Harvick won three straight events at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix. He picked things up again this month with his wins at Dover, Kansas and Charlotte, albeit in a non-points race.
Harvick has been on the lucky side of the speedway during his career. In 2011, he was in second when Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran out of fuel on the final lap, allowing Harvick to sweep past to victory.
Harvick returned to victory lane in the 600 two years later, moving in front on the final cycle of pit stops and holding on for victory.
Harvick thanked his crew for giving him another fast car, one that looked poised to make a run at the leaders after his charge from the back of the field. "To come out and have the fastest car again was quite an honor to drive and they're doing a great job," he said. "It was just bad luck."
Was it a matter of time before Harvick took the lead? Harvick wouldn't go there.
"Our car could go in multiple lanes and we were able to really make ground the second half of those runs," he said. "So it was fun to come up through there."