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Harvick prevails in thrilling finish at Charlotte



Concord, NC (Sports Network) - Kevin Harvick had a happy ending in NASCAR's longest race of the season at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn't.

Earnhardt Jr. led the way on the final lap and saw the checkered flag in hand, but his hopes of ending his lengthy winless drought in the Sprint Cup Series came up short when he ran out of fuel on the last turn. That allowed Harvick to drive past him and steal the win in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, a race that took 4 hours, 33 minutes to complete.

"We weren't supposed to make it," said Earnhardt Jr., who managed to coast home in seventh. "We were going to run out of gas and kind of knew it, but we played our hand. That's what we were going to do. Other guys came in, and I tried to save a ton of gas. I know I didn't save enough, but I tried to save as much as I could."

Five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson blew an engine and dropped oil on the track in the closing laps, which setup a green-white-checkered finish. During the caution, Earnhardt Jr. turned his engine off in an attempt to save gas. He had trouble restarting his car, running third at the time.

Greg Biffle held the lead before the caution, but Biffle was forced to pit, which allowed Kasey Kahne to assume the top position.

Kahne led the way for the final restart but ran out of fuel in the first turn, slowing up traffic behind him. Jeff Burton spun around after being bumped. NASCAR did not display the caution, as Earnhardt Jr. took over the lead.

Harvick led only two laps in the 402-lap affair. It was his first win a Sprint Cup points-paying race at Charlotte, a track he considers as one of his least favorites.

"It's Charlotte. Even though we won, I'm still miserable," Harvick said. "We finished second the first time I came here, and that was about it. So for me, it's just been that thing in my mind, that one racetrack that just frustrates the hell out of me that I can't figure out."

Harvick claimed his series-leading third victory of the season and the 17th of his career. Last month, Harvick won at Martinsville after passing Earnhardt Jr. with less than three laps to go.

Earnhardt Jr.'s winless streak has now stretch to 105 races. His last victory came almost three years ago at Michigan.

"I'm disappointed we didn't win," he said. "I know all of our fans are disappointed that we came so close. If we would have won that race, it would have been a gift."

The 600-mile race at Charlotte concluded in almost the same fashion as the Indianapolis 500 earlier in the day. Rookie J.R. Hildebrand held the lead on the final lap at Indy but hit the wall in turn four, allowing Dan Wheldon to slip past and claim his second win in one of auto racing's most prestigious events.

David Ragan finished second at Charlotte, while Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and A.J. Allmendinger completed the top-five. Ragan won last Saturday's Sprint Showdown preliminary event and advanced into the starting field for the all- star race.

"We were just in the right place at the right time," Ragan said. "We had a strong car all day and got the finish that we deserved. We just went about doing it the hard way."

Marcos Ambrose took the sixth position. Regan Smith, David Reutimann and Denny Hamlin finished eighth through 10th, respectively.

Biffle wound up finishing 13th, while his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth, was one spot behind in 14th. Kenseth led the most laps with 103 but had to pit for fuel with less than 20 laps to go, which put back in the field.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driving the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford in place of Trevor Bayne, had an impressive Sprint Cup debut with an 11th-place run. Bayne is expected to be back in the No. 21 car next month at Michigan.

Despite a 16th-place finish, Carl Edwards padded his lead to 36 points over Harvick. Johnson fell 37 points behind after his 28th-place finish.

05/30 01:18:20 ET


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