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Harvick steals Coca-Cola 600 from Junior

The restart on lap 301 was no more successful: David Gilliland got loose and made contact with Mark martin, the two of them then collecting Ryan Newman in the ensuing wreck. This gave the leaders a chance for a stop under caution giving them a chance of making it home with only one more stop.

Jeff Gordon led the restart and got a good jump away from Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt. Jr. at the green flag. Now, with the skies pitch black, everyone was finding it difficult to keep up the adjustments with the changing track conditions, and we saw in quick succession Joey Logano brush the wall and then Stenhouse Jr. hitting the wall next time around - not for the first time tonight.

But it was Kyle Busch going for a spin all by himself on lap 318 that brought out the 12th caution of the evening, the #18 taking to the grass and for once not following the Edwards/Cassill line of finding a car-wrecking undulation along the way.

There was an interesting mix of pit stop strategies on display with Gordon among those to come in for tyres and fuel, but Kasey Kahne taking point as one of those to risk staying out. Kevin Harvick was running second, while Greg Biffle - despite all those overheating problems early on in the day - was now battling with Earnhardt Jr. over third place.

By lap 343 Kahne was being warned that his pit stop was imminent after having opted to stay out previously, and a green flag stint would hurt him if everyone else get a caution later on. But the Gods were smiling on him, if not on Kyle Busch: for the second time in less than thirty laps, Kyle went for a spin after hitting the outside wall. The #18 crawled to the garage, a bad night for Kyle, but great timing indeed for Kasey who simply couldn't have asked for better.

After the pit stops (which saw Jimmie Johnson penalised and sent to the back of the lead lap after taking off with an adjustment wrench still fitted to the top of the #48) the race went green with 51 laps to the finish - very much touch and go for anyone trying to make it all the way on a single tank of gas.

Gordon was in front, with Biffle, Ragan, Keselowski and Kahne - and they were quickly joined by Earnhardt Jr., who was long over his mid-race wobble and back to a very strong, solid performance. Biffle soon proved the cream of this crop and took over the lead, and he would be immovable from the lead for the next 49 laps. You'll notice - 49 laps, when the race distance is 51 ...

The one common theme on team radios now was instruction to "Save fuel at all costs!" Even so, they would need caution laps and absolutely no overtime if they were going to make this work, it was clear. But as the lap counter clicked remorselessly upwards, a caution stubbornly refused to appear. The way it was going, the entire field could end up running dry before the chequered flag and no one at all would win this thing.

Seven laps shy of full race distance, Matt Kenseth had to concede defeat and made a dive for pit lane and some fuel; Jeff Gordon followed his lead two laps later after his pace started to drop from fuel starvation. And then, finally, the fourteenth caution of the evening came out.

It was not good news for Jimmie Johnson in the #48, because it was his engine that had blown up on him just four laps - six miles - shy of the 600 mile race distance: how galling to fall so close through mechanical failure. The frustration and pent-up stress was clear form Johnson's pit crew chief who was caught by surprise and exclaimed "F***ing kidding me!" over the team radio, which unfortunately was being broadcast live on the telecast at the time. Cue one very quick apology from the race commentators.




Related Pictures

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Kevin Harvick and the #29 crew celebrate winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. [Picture credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kevin Harvick crosses the finish line after passing Dale Earnhardt Jr on the final lap to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. [Picture credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Ryan Newman, Mark Martin and David Gilliland get tangled up on lap 301 during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. [Picture credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR.]
Darrell Wallace Jr. , driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, celebrates after winning the Camping World Truck 2nd Annual 1-800 Car Cash Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway on July 23, 2014 in Rossburg, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, does a burnout after winning the Camping World Truck 2nd Annual 1-800 Car Cash Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway on July 23, 2014 in Rossburg, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, celebrates after winning the Camping World Truck 2nd Annual 1-800 Car Cash Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway on July 23, 2014 in Rossburg, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, celebrates after winning the Camping World Truck 2nd Annual 1-800 Car Cash Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway on July 23, 2014 in Rossburg, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Tony Stewart presents Darrell Wallace Jr. , driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, with the trophy after winning the Camping World Truck 2nd Annual 1-800 Car Cash Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway on July 23, 2014 in Rossburg, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, wins the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2nd Annual 1-800 Car Cash Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway on July 23, 2014 in Rossburg, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cars race after a restart lead by Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet (L), Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Cartwheel by Target Chevrolet (R) during the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, and Erik Jones, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, lead the field during a restart of the American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway on July 11, 2014 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
Erik Jones, driver of the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
Erik Jones in action in the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, right, poses with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert and the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 11, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, lead a group of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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