After Coke 600, Harvick leads the NASCAR power rankings pack
Hours after an IndyCar car with a JR behind the wheel and a National Guard sponsorship on the side lost the Indianapolis 500 with a last-lap crash, a stock car with a Junior behind the wheel and a National Guard sponsorship lost the lead of the Coca-Cola 600 after running out of fuel. A potentially tremendous day for a military sponsor on Memorial Day evaporated into one of consolation. A potentially storybook day for racing in the United States could have collapsed into one of failed promise. But
"When we pull into Charlotte, I apologize before I even get to the race track because there's nothing -- this is a great race track -- it's a great facility, and I know everybody loves coming here because it's close to home," he said. "For me it's just been that thing in my mind, that one race track that just frustrates the hell out of me that I can't figure out.
"When they threw the green flag tonight, we'd fought the same thing for last week and this week, and I said, 'Well, we haven't fixed it in two weeks,' and Gil said, 'Well, we've got four more hours and we're going to fix you right up.' Usually when he says something like that, it always comes back to haunt me."
Harvick was skeptical as usual during the race, but finally put himself in position to spring to the front on the last lap of the green/white/checker finish.
"It's great to be a part of this team because everybody knows who I am," he said. "They don't get down on me, and nobody gets really down on each other. And if we wouldn't have won the race, everybody would have went home and we would have said we'd do this different or that different and we'd have all smiled about it by the time we got done at 8 on Monday morning after our competition meeting."
Earnhardt Jr. left nearly as contented as Harvick with a seventh-place result, saying "this was probably, in all honesty, the best turnout of events for us besides winning the race," after running out of fuel on the backstretch and coasting the rest of the distance.
"I believe we needed more than 500 feet," he said of crew chief Steve Letarte's assessment. "We weren't supposed to win tonight. We played our hand and those other guys came in. I tried to save a ton of gas, but I know I didn't save enough. I tried to save as much as I could. I'm disappointed we didn't win. I know all our fans were disappointed to come so close. We were a top-5 car. This was our Vegas car and it is really, really good so we will keep taking it to race tracks and running good. We were so fast at the start of the race and once the sun went down we kind of went back. We ran good tonight, I'm proud. I'm proud of my guys and I'm proud of the care we unloaded."