Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

TROPICANA 400 Harvick Ends Slide Timely Spin, Pit Stop Help Snap Year-Long Drought

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

TROPICANA 400 Harvick Ends Slide Timely Spin, Pit Stop Help Snap Year-Long Drought

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble, Times-Union sports writer

JOLIET, Ill. -- Moments after Kevin Harvick went on a mile-long slide through the infield grass and along the first and second turns of the Chicagoland Speedway, he keyed the microphone on his two-way radio and made the following promise:

"In 20 laps I'll be back up there."

He didn't lie.

Harvick used the same fuel strategy that carried Richard Childress Racing teammate Johnny Sauter to Saturday's Busch series victory to get to the front with 25 laps to go, and from there Harvick did the rest to win for the first time since last year's victory at the same raceway.

His wild ride started 69 laps from the Tropicana 400 finish as he dropped to the track apron to pass Kurt Busch and Dave Blaney. He lost control of his GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo, but he rode the spin through the first turn, back to the apron, then into the infield grass in the second turn.

Not only did he keep the car from hitting any of the concrete walls at the 2-year-old speedway, he missed all the traffic that scattered to avoid the accident.

The spin gave Harvick his biggest break because it afforded him the opportunity to make a final pit stop for tires and gasoline. Most of the other lead-lap drivers decided to wait to make their final stops since 67 laps stretched the limit of their mileage.

A final caution period for Joe Nemechek's wreck in the second turn sent the majority of leaders to pit road and pushedHarvick to the front of the field.

"We learned from Johnny Sauter," Harvick said. "We learned track position was everything."

Jeff Gordon and RCR teammate Robby Gordon were the only ones attempting to stretch their fuel mileage at the end. Jeff Gordon wound up second; Robby Gordon was eighth.

Jeff Gordon, who was trying to end a winless streak that stands at 26 races, got as close as Harvick's rear bumper during the restart following Nemechek's crash with 20 laps to go. But the challenge was short-lived.

"I think my car was just as fast as his, but as soon as I got up on him, my car got such a push [in the third turn]," Jeff Gordon said, "I couldn't pass him. …

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