Kevin Harvick wins Coca-Cola 600 after TV cable snaps

CONCORD, N.C. — CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR's longest race of the season became a mangled mess of metal Sunday night, a race of luck, patience, attrition — and a touch of crazy — under a full moon.

Kevin Harvick became the ultimate survivor, winning a Coca-Cola 600 race marred by multiple crashes and an odd stoppage involving a TV cable that got loose at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

An overhead TV camera cable snapped, forcing race officials to stop the race for nearly a half-hour to clean up the debris and allow pit crews to fix the damage on some cars.

Harvick, on two fresh tires, overtook Kasey Kahne on a late 10-lap restart after Kahne's crew chief, Kenny Francis, chose not to pit when a caution came out with 14 laps to go. Kahne finished second, followed by Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin.

"We had a great car from the top of the green," Kahne said. "It was definitely our race to lose. We thought some of the guys would stay out and that would be a big enough buffer. It didn't happen. That was the end of our race."

Harvick has won this race two of the last three years, including a wild 2011 finish when he passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the last lap when Earnhardt ran out of gas.

"This is a long night," Harvick said. "We have been here a lot of times and know that you just have to grind through mile after mile, keep your car running, don't get tore up, don't get a lap down and you're going to be somewhere around at the end."

Harvick is a lame-duck driver for Richard Childress Racing this season. He will join good friend Tony Stewart's team next season. Ironically enough, the Stewart-Haas racing team has struggled this season while Harvick remains a solid contender for the title. He is in seventh place in the Chase standings, with two victories.

"You know, we're in a business world," Childress said. "In a business world things happen, changes happen. You do everything you can in the business world. Like I told Kevin, I wish him the best of luck at the end of the year, but right now we got a job in front of us.

" I honestly think RCR is ready to contend for the championship this year.''

Only 13 of 43 cars were left on the lead lap at the finish, reflecting the big-bang theory theme of the night.

Those in for a short night included Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Danica Patrick, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Earnhardt. Busch and Earnhardt saw their evening end with blown engines. Keselowski and Patrick made contact and crashed on Lap 319.

That was just a precursor to the big bang of the night when Martin and Aric Almirola got tangled jockeying for position on the front stretch, taking out Gordon in the process in a three-wide mishap. That brought out the third red flag of the night on Lap 327, following the long delay for the snapped cable earlier in the night.

The night will be most remembered for that nylon rope that fell over the grandstands in Turn 4. Ten fans were injured, including three who were transported to an area hospital for further evaluation before being released and seven who were treated for minor cuts and scrapes on-site.

Three drivers also took a hit, including Busch, who was leading the race after 123 laps when the cable tore into his right fender.

"They're going to have to disassemble that thing and take it down," Busch said before the stoppage. "They're going to have to throw the red [flag] here."

After the race was halted, Busch got out of his No. 18 Toyota Camry to take a picture of the front end of the car and sent it out via Twitter.

The cars of Martin and Marcos Ambrose also suffered damage.

Overall, there were two stoppages involving 18 laps. The first stop lasted 10:40. The second one was 16:22.

"#NASCAR will work closely with our partners at FOX on their investigation of the CamCat issue tonight. Thoughts & prayers are with the fans," tweeted NASCAR vice president and chief communications officer Brett Jewkes.

FOX Sports released this statement: "At this time, we do not have a cause for the failure of the camera drive line that interrupted tonight's Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and our immediate concern is with the injured fans.

"This camera system had been used successfully at this year's Daytona 500, last week's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and other major events around the world. We certainly regret that the system failure affected tonight's event, we apologize to the racers whose cars were damaged, and our immediate concern is for the race fans. We also offer a sincere 'thank you' to the staff at CMS for attending to the injuries and keeping us informed on this developing situation."

Read George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego or email him at gdiaz@orlandosentinel.com

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