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Another wild and crazy race, but Kevin Harvick again proves one cool customer, winning the Daytona 400

  Kevin Harvick high-fives with his crew after surviving a brutal Saturday night 400 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   The werewolves came out to play Saturday night, and it was a nightmare of an evening -- and early Sunday morning. But Kevin Harvick, the stock car tour leader the past two months, showed more championship cool in pulling off the victory in the Coke 400 at soon-to-be-repaved Daytona International Speedway.
    "This has been a great place for us, a magical place ever since we started coming here," Harvick said after his second win Sprint Cup tour win of the year, following Talladega in April.   "I don't care about the trophy; I want some of that asphalt from the start-finish line."
   That's because this was the final Cup race on this 1978-vintage asphalt. A $20 million repaving project is to begin in the next few days, and next February's Daytona 500 will be run on a completely different, much smoother surface, without all the bumps that drivers profess to love, as giving this place such character.
   Harvick a year ago here was in an angry mood, upset at the uncompetitive cars he was saddled with. That's been turned around 180 degrees, and Childress' engines are hot and the team's computer simulation programs, with help from the company AVL, are top-notch too. All three Childress teams have been strong this season.
   Kyle Busch had one of the strongest cars in Saturday's field and was leading when he got clipped midway by Juan Pablo Montoya, in an incident that left Busch very hot.
   After that the race was pretty wild open, then gradually turning into a battle involving Richard Childress' three drivers, Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton versus Roger Penske's Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish Jr.
    Then with only 40 miles to go, a huge crash took out or damaged nearly half the field and triggered a 20-minute red flag for cleanup. The 20-car wreck appeared to begin when Kurt Busch tagged Burton, who banged into Hornish, all at the front of the pack. And the guys behind them jammed up, completely blocking the track. Jimmie Johnson was among those taken out, and his car was virtually destroyed. Mark Martin's car caught on fire; Johnson's crew rushed to help Martin get out.
   "We knew it was coming, we could sense it....and then it happened," Johnson said. "Well, we did go 380 miles before the big one."

  The final lap set-up: Kevin Harvick (29), with Jeff Gordon (24), Clint Bowyer (33) and Kasey Kahne (9) (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Kasey Kahne finished a surprising second:  "Every time I looked up I saw a crash the last 30 laps.
   "I spun out in some oil once, or I'd have been in that big crash."
   Through it all, Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin looked solid, cool and in command.
    When the red flag was pulled and teams were allowed to pit, everyone took that opportunity, except Bowyer, who was leading.
   That set up an unusual restart of Bowyer and Carl Edwards side-by-side, with Harvick and David Reutimann right behind, and Jeff Gordon and Kahne behind them, with eight laps to go.   
    Gordon charged to the lead, but without any help, he was outnumber by Childress' men. Then, just as Bowyer and Harvick, 1-2, were coming to take the white flag, Hornish lost it in the middle of a three-wide situation and went nose-first into the outside wall, with Elliott Sadler hitting just as hard to.
   "When they crashed, I was really thinking Clint would finish first and we'd be second, and I'd been okay with that, because those guys needed a good night," Harvick said.

  Things got quite messy in Saturday's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   That set up a green-white-checkered overtime finish, with Bowyer and Harvick side by side, ahead of Kahne and Gordon.
   "That wasn't really the situation we wanted," Harvick said. "I wanted to be behind Clint pushing.
   "I helped him as much as I could.
   "But then Kasey Kahne split things up."
    And Bowyer got the worst of the last lap shuffling, getting spun out before he could get back to the checkered flag. NASCAR didn't throw the yellow for Bowyer's spin, in part because he was okay and out of everyone's way at that point....which let Harvick battle his way to finish, beating Kahne and Gordon.
     "It's been a while since we finished one of these races lately," Jeff Gordon said. "I got some good runs at the end, and I was trying to push Clint Bowyer, but I don't know if he was dragging the brakes or what, but I finally said 'I've got to go, man.' That messed up our momentum for winning.
   "Man, I'm just glad to survive one of these restrictor plates races.
   "I'm starting to get used to the fact that these races have all become bumper-cars at 190 mph."
   Dale Earnhardt wound up a surprising fourth and that helped him crack the top-12, which if he can hold on would put him in the championship playoffs in September: "We were terrible all night, and we didn't do a good job as a team all weekend. We got real lucky tonight to get what we did.
   "Even after the checkered  cars were spinning. I don't know what was going on."
    One incident there -- Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch ran into each other after the race, each blaming the other for that.
    And they had words in the garage afterwards.
    Edwards, finishing sixth:  "I'm not exactly sure what happened...that's why I went and asked.  We were just coming to the start-finish line, having a good race, and Kurt for some reason just turned left and hit me. 
    "I don't know if he didn't know I was there or if he did it on purpose. But it seems like he was just frustrated. 
    "We all get frustrated when we have a bad day, so I'm sure it'll be no big deal."
    Sadler was upset with Hornish: "I was trying to stay away from him. But that's just the way my season has gone.  I just cannot get a break. 
   "We were going to have a solid top-seven or eight finish. But it's just one of those years.  It's just very hard to swallow."

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  A jubilant Richard Childress hugs Kevin Harvick after Childress' second straight win of the weekend at Daytona (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

I can't understand how a pair

I can't understand how a pair of no driving racers like Sadler and Hornish are even on the track. Probably because NASCAR knows that these clowns are good for a couple of cautions at each race.
So many good drivers outside looking in, and these clowns are still driving. Incredible, because there are a lot of "jokes" driving in NASCAR.

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