May 19, 2007
CONCORD, N.C. (cbssportsline.com/AP) -- Kevin Harvick is no fan of the All-Star race. A monster payday changed his mind.
Harvick earned $1 million Saturday night by winning the Nextel All-Star Challenge after Matt Kenseth was caught speeding and brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch took each other out of contention.
"I know I am not the biggest fan of the All-Star race, but I guess I have a million reasons to be to," said Harvick, who won for the first time in seven tries in the event.
Harvick started the final 20-lap segment in fourth place, but quickly used a three-wide pass to get by Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch and take the lead. It was a gutsy move at the time, but once out front, he told his crew it had just won him the race.
"I told 'em, 'We just threw the haymaker, boys, and I think it landed,"' Harvick said. "I just I didn't really think we had anything to lose. I said, 'What the heck? We'll just try it up top here.' I didn't let off the gas and it didn't hit the wall."
With Kenseth and the Busch Brothers out of contention, Harvick only had to deal with Jimmie Johnson, a two-time All-Star race winner.
But Johnson barely mounted a challenge, staying in line behind Harvick until the final lap at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Johnson made one attempt at a pass, Harvick blocked it, then drove off to his second win of the season.
Harvick's other victory also was a jackpot -- he earned $1.5 million for winning the season-opening Daytona 500.
"To win a Daytona 500 and the All-Star race, that's pretty cool," Harvick said in Victory Lane.
Harvick, who was second to Johnson last season, scored his first All-Star victory in seven tries and gave car owner Richard Childress his first win in the non-points event since Dale Earnhardt in 1993.
"Always, this has been one of my favorite races," Childress said. "It brings back Saturday night racing like it used to be. I know Dale loved this race. It was one of his favorite races, because you're going to win or you're going to tear it up, usually."
Harvick certainly did his share of wrecking here. He finished last in his first All-Star appearance, then crashed in consecutive years to spoil his opinion of the event.
"The All-Star race kind of brings out the best in all of us," Harvick said. "It's one of those things where everybody is kind of just going for it."
The victory capped a hugely successful weekend for Childress, who said Friday he had formed an engine alliance with Dale Earnhardt Inc. Then AT&T won an injunction to get its logos placed on RCR driver Jeff Burton's car.
The car has been sponsored by Cingular, but AT&T has been fighting to get on the hood since the two companies merged. NASCAR denied the request, citing its exclusivity agreement with series sponsor Nextel, but a U.S. district judge allowed RCR to put the AT&T logo on the car Saturday morning.
"I haven't slept a whole lot, I can tell you that," Childress said of his weekend. "It's been a long year, and for our teams to still be competitive, we've had a lot of challenges."
Mark Martin finished third and was followed by Burton, Tony Stewart, Johnny Sauter and Kenseth. Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr., who got into the race by winning the Nextel Open, rounded out the top 10.
Kenseth had the field covered, leading 37 laps and winning the first and third segments. But he was flagged for speeding off pit road as he tried to beat Jeff Gordon out after the last stop.
"I got so busy with those other cars, I looked down and I was 200 (RPM) over," Kenseth said.
The All-Star race is usually good for some drama, and it came 18 laps from the finish when brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch wrecked each other.
Kyle Busch, who led 23 laps over the first three segments, was trying to pass his older brother on the outside when Kurt Busch drifted down and the two made contact. Kurt Busch surged ahead, Kyle Busch spun, tapped his brother, and both cars bounced off the wall.
"I was waiting for the day when we got together, and we did, and we were racing for a million bucks," Kurt Busch said. "That was a bummer, to have my little brother pull that move on me. Maybe I should have given an inch instead of taking an inch from him, but hey, that's what the All-Star race is all about.
"We'll see what we can do to discuss it, but right now I'm not eating any Kellogg's anytime soon."
While Kyle Busch was back in the garage, things fell apart for mighty Hendrick Motorsports.
Winners of eight of the last nine points races, Hendrick saw three of its four cars fall out of contention in a matter of minutes. Jeff Gordon got a flat tire to fall off the pace, then Casey Mears and Denny Hamlin made contact to bring out the third caution of the race.
It left Johnson, the defending race winner, as Hendrick's only hope. And after three mediocre segments, it didn't appear he would challenge for the win.
But he was in third after the Busch Brothers wrecked and wasted little time working into second while Martin settled into third.
It stayed that way for several laps, as neither Johnson or Harvick stepped out of line. Only when Harvick appeared to have it in the bag did Johnson make his move.
"I kept chasing him on the bottom, trying to force him to make a mistake, but he drove a solid race," Johnson said. "On the last lap I thought, 'I've got a cushion behind me, let me just try it.' After 1 and 2, I got right to the 29's bumper and I was like, 'Why didn't I try that a lot sooner?' But that's racing."
The Associated Press News Service
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