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Harvick victorious in first race of 2013

"Two days, two wrecked cars and only a few laps completed," contributed Kurt Busch after parking his #78 Furniture Row Racing car in pit lane. "It's been a disappointing start to say the least. But the good news is that we've had fast cars. If our luck can change we'll be competitive for the big show in next week's Daytona 500."

Martin Truex Jr. also sustained damage in the crash, but he was still able to continue, and Ambrose's car needed some work on it at the next pit stop to sort out some of the damage sustained in the initial contact with Stewart.

That wiped out a full third of the entries in the Unlimited, but apart from that one wreck the rest of the race went off according to plan. After the green flag flying at 8.30pm, the race had followed a 30/25/20-lap three segment format decided by a ballot of race fans. Other fan-decided aspects of the event included the selection of a full four-tyre pit stop at the end of the first segment, and no cars being eliminated before the final segment other than those already retired through race damage.

The vote starting order for the race saw the drivers line-up in the order in which they had won the 2012 pole position that made them eligible for the event in the first place. That would have put Carl Edwards and Mark Martin on the front row for the start, but an accident in practice on Friday meant that both men together with Kurt Busch had to drop to the back of the field before the start as a result of switching to back-up cars for the race.

Instead it was Greg Biffle who emerged as the initial leader, then Martin Truex Jr. put in a couple of laps in front before Matt kenseth emerged as the most dominant force by pushing to the front on lap 5 and maintaining the lead for the next 25 laps. However, that was one lap shy of making him the segment 1 winner, a surge down the backstretch on lap 30 assisted by a push from Kevin Harvick rewarding Stewart with the cash prize for getting to the line first.

The mandatory four-tyre pit stop saw Harvick win the top spot for the restart, followed by Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth. With just a single exception harvick led every lap of the rather quieter second segment and picked up the cash for winning the middle stint of the race followed by Biffle, Joey Logano, Stewart and Truex Jr.

The one moment of tension in the second segment had been a near-miss between Logano and fan favourite Dale Earnhardt Jr., which sent Earnhardt down the track in response and into light contact with Stewart's car. All three drivers survived the scare, although the #88 was slightly the worse for the experience.

Harvick and Kenseth resumed battle for the lead at the start of the third and final segment on lap 55; Kenseth did all he could on the inside line to take to the front at the green flag, but Harvick held him off with the advantage of having the outside position. One final push from Kenseth saw him poke the nose of the Joe Gibbs Racing #20 in front on lap 62, but it had taken everything he had and next time around it was Harvick back in charge again - and he stayed there for the remainder of the race thanks to some top-class blocking moves to ward off any threats.

On the final lap, the main threat to Harvick was Tony Stewart on the inside and Greg Biffle running on the outside, but Harvick managed to move his car around on the track enough to prevent either man getting a run on him to the chequered flag. Harvick's block on Stewart was enough to force the #14 to lose momentum to the extent that he lost positions to both Biffle and Logano and ended up in fourth place at the line.

“I wasn't quite sure exactly which move to make,” Stewart admitted of those final moments in the race. "I saw the #22 [Logano] coming on the bottom, I thought they were going fast enough that I needed to move down, but I should've stayed where I was," he said.




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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by John Harrelson/NASCAR via Getty Images)  (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, Mark Martin, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Yellow Chevrolet, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) (Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, Mark Martin, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Yellow Chevrolet, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) (Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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