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Surprise, surprise: Not Jimmie, not Denny...but Kevin Harvick wins Martinsville

   Kasey Kahne (4) and Martin Truex Jr. both escaped unscathed from this crash in Sunday's Goody's 500 at Martinsville (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Two in a row…not bad, and Kevin Harvick seems finally back on track.
   And the man Harvick beat Sunday to win the Goody's 500 at Martinsville Speedway: Dale Earnhardt Jr., the man Harvick passed for the win with four laps to go.

   The race was halted midway for a savage crash when Martin Truex Jr.'s accelerator hung. He slammed into Kasey Kahne and then into the wall, and after escaping without a scratch Truex praised NASCAR's safety rules.
    The man with the best car most of the day might have been Kyle Busch. But on short runs, like the stretch, it was anybody's game.
    "Unfortunately just didn't win with it," Busch said. "Coming down to the last run of the race, we just didn't quite have the car to do it on a short run.    
    "Every time we had the lead off pit road, we lost it and took about 28 laps to get going again.
    "I think the last run was about 28 laps, and that's when I started catching those guys a little bit. Probably would have had something to beat them with, but can't seem to find speed at Martinsville when it matters most."

   Winner again: Kevin Harvick (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Harvick gave credit to crew chief Gil Martin for keeping him cool early on in the four-hour race, when things weren't looking too good. New tires this weekend had crews struggling.
   "I've got to thank everybody on this team for keeping me sane," Harvick said, after successfully following last week's win in Los Angeles. "I was pissed at the beginning, looking for whatever I needed to do to make the car to go.
    "I nearly wrecked it…and it got a lot better. I don't know what that means. But we just kept digging until the end.
    "Had a lot of fun racing with Dale Jr. at the end. I hate to be the bad guy, but he had a heck of a day too."
    The pass for the win? "He was a little bit lose getting into the center of the corner," Harvick said, "and I was able to roll up under him.
    "Just barely got up underneath his left-rear quarterpanel…and got a good run down the straightaway.
    "I knew what he wanted to do down there, and I tried to keep him from crossing back over. I had my car pointed straight enough to when he got into me I was able to get a good drive up off."
      It was Earnhardt's third top-10 of the spring. But…."I ain't really proved it to myself yet.  I'll let you know when I feel like I'm back."
     Earnhardt conceded " I felt like for the most part of the day, I didn't run up to my standard.  I feel like my standard here is a third through fifth place run.      

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. (L) had his best shot yet at victory Sunday, but Kevin Harvick foiled the finish (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   "We all know Denny (Hamlin) and Jimmie Johnson (his own teammate this season) have been winning all the races here recently (nine between them). But I feel I'm right there behind them in how we performed over the last 10 years here."
     Earnhardt took the lead from Busch late in the race, and the two tangled. "I thought I had a nose on him getting into three, and knew he was going to get down and crowd me a little bit, but I had to try to hold my ground," a feisty Earnhardt said. "We were racing for the lead with just a few laps to go, so I think I did what any other driver probably would have done.
    "We got out front and just tried to put together good, solid laps. Right around 10 to go, the rear started to go away and started to slip around a little bit on the braking and down through the center.  I was trying to back my corner up because I was wondering if I might be overdriving the car.
    "But Harvick had caught me.
   "So you're backing your corner (entry) down, with a guy in your bumper with four laps to go -- ain't really an option that you've got at the time. 
   "And he was just real fast. We slipped off into three, and he got under me -- and I thought the only chance I had was a little bit of a cross-over in one and two.  I tried to make it work, but I couldn't get really up under him enough. 
    "He crowded me the way he was supposed to do.  And the next corner down in three and four and went on.  And that was that.
    "I was thinking at the end that I was meant to win that damn race.  Hell, I'm not sitting there leading that thing by seven car lengths thinking I'm about to lose.
    "I've got a hell of an opportunity right here and if I can put together decent laps, I might be able to keep the distance I had on him…which was only about three or four car lengths. 
    "But I just couldn't do it.  I made some mistakes in the corners and the back end of the car was giving up on me a little bit.
    "We had an opportunity to win the race.  I'm disappointed that I didn't get the job done and it will probably bother me more and more as the night goes on."
    Meanwhile Johnson, nabbed with a pit road speeding penalty that took him out of contention, was hot. And he wasn't buying the call:
   "I wasn't speeding. They didn't like how it looked -- the way I managed my timing lines (between NASCAR's scoring loops).
    "Had this happened one other time where I do a good job with my timing lines -- to know exactly where I needed to accelerate and where I needed to stop.
    "There is just no way.
    "We know our timing lines; there is just no way.
    "But it won't do me any good to have a conversation; it isn't going to matter."
       Results of Sunday's Goody's 500 at Martinsville Speedway




   Took 30 minutes to repair the soft walls where Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne collided (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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