Kevin Harvick was dancing in pit lane last night after taking the checkered flag at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca~Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest race of the year.Ã‚Â In a race where he had not been a factor all night, he managed to outlast the field at the end as Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr ran out of gas in the final laps of the race.Ã‚Â Harvick makes no bones about not liking to race in Charlotte, and even after scoring his third win of the season, and becoming the only driver to achieve that in the 2011 season, he still has no love for this track.
“Even though we won, I’m still miserable,” said Harvick after the race. “In about 30 minutes, I’ll be happy, when we drive out of that tunnel and leave the month of May behind.”
“We were lucky,” Harvick said. “I told them at the beginning of this thing that we haven’t fixed this thing in two weeks, there’s no way we’re going to fix it today. Nothing against this race track — I just don’t like racing here. It just doesn’t feel right. … I griped and griped and griped all freaking day long about how terrible it was. I just have a bad attitude here, so hopefully this helps.”
David Ragan scored his best career finish in second place as his team had gambled on fuel and almost won.Ã‚Â When asked by Carl Edwards after the race how close he was to running out, his answer was “Yards.”
Ragan was running in 5th when Kahne ran out of gas, causing the field to stack up.Ã‚Â He and Joey Logano, the third place driver, made some outstanding manouvers to get around the back up and set them selves up for what was coming next.
“I loved it. I wish they all would have dropped out,” Ragan said. “I love it when they’re checking up and dropping out. I wish the start/finish line had been a down a little further in Turn 1 and maybe we would have had a shot at getting Harvick.”
Ragan showed no surprise that there was no caution flag as Earnhardt was approaching the white flag.Ã‚Â No controversy, no conspiracy theories, just a well thought out conclusion.
“Not really. I won’t tell you why I’m not surprised, but I think everybody knows,” Ragan said. “Nothing was stopped on the race track. I don’t think anybody was in danger; everybody was moving.”
“That’s what makes it exciting. I can’t wait to hear what everybody has to say. This was one of the most exciting Coke 600’s that I can remember.”
“We had a good car,” Ragan said. “We’ve had some speed in our UPS Ford this year. We just haven’t been able to close the deal. We’ve made a lot of improvements on our team — andÃ‚Â Carl, Greg [Biffle] and Matt [Kenseth] are some of the best drivers out here, so that keeps the pressure pretty tight on myself to try to keep up. We had a good night.”
“If the 29 had just stumbled a little bit, we could have won it,” Ragan said of Sunday’s scramble on the last two laps. “But that’s a couple of races we’ve been close to winning this year. When you’re around at the finish in the top five, eventually a win will come.”
“I wish we raced here again next week,” Ragan said. “Our mile-and-a-half program has been really strong. So I can’t wait to get to Kansas and Pocono and Michigan. A lot of these tracks coming up are going to be fun.
As the tank rank dry on the back stretch and Earnhardt Jr.Ã‚Â started losing momentum, crew chief Steve LeTarte said over the radioÃ‚Â “We needed 500 more feet of fuel.” But Dale
Earnhardt Jr. wasn’t as upset as one would think about running out of fuel and finishing 7th in a race where it looked like he was finally going to break his winless streak at the end.Ã‚Â In fact he felt they would have been lucky to have notchedÃ‚Â win at all.
“I think we needed a lot more than 500 feet”
“We weren’t supposed to win,” Earnhardt said. “We played our hand, and those other guys came in (for fuel). I tried to save a ton of gas, but I know I didn’t save enough. I tried to save as much as I could. I’m disappointed we didn’t win. I know all our fans were disappointed to come so close.
“We were a top-five car. This was our Vegas car, and it’s really, really good, so we’ll keep taking it to race tracks and running good. We were so fast at the start of the race, and once the sun went down we kind of went back. We ran good. I’m proud. I’m proud of my guys, and I’m proud of the car we unloaded.”
Next week the series heads to Kansas Speedway for the first of 2 races there this year.Ã‚Â Another 1.5 mile banked oval and a new addition to the Sprint Cup lineup this year after a long protracted legal battle over the rights of the track.Ã‚Â It should be interesting to see this new facility and how the racers will feel about the track.