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Sports

Harvick halts winless streak

| Monday, April 26, 2010

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Kevin Harvick executed the pass exactly how his team drew it up in the playbook.

With a last-second slingshot past Jamie McMurray, Harvick snapped a 115-race winless drought with an overdue victory Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

The margin of victory of 0.011 seconds was the eighth-closest in NASCAR since it began using electronic scoring in 1993.

It was the payoff for perfect strategy devised in conversations over the weekend with crew chief Gil Martin and their Richard Childress Racing team.

Harvick lurked behind in traffic, trying to move his way into second place as the race hit the closing laps. His plan was to set himself up for one attempt at the lead, which he made roughly 500 yards from the finish line by sliding inside of McMurray, then drag-racing him to the checkered flag.

"We made a plan, and I'm telling you, every piece of it played out exactly how we wanted to play it," Harvick said. "Coming into to the last lap, that's exactly how we planned it out on paper."

The win gave Harvick his first victory since the 2007 season-opening Daytona 500, and it came in the longest Talladega race in Sprint Cup history. Because NASCAR's new overtime rule allows for three attempts at its version of overtime, the race went 12 laps past the scheduled distance of 188 trips around the 2 1/2-mile superspeedway.

It covered a record 88 lead changes among a record 29 drivers, and the final pass was the one that had everyone talking.

"I hate to show my age, but that was a tremendous pass, just like the old days, like you would have seen Buddy Baker or Cale Yarborough," Martin said. "That was a tremendous pass, and it was timed perfectly."

McMurray, this year's Daytona 500 winner, couldn't hide his disappointment at misplaying the final half-lap. Seeking his third consecutive restrictor-plate victory, he stretched his fuel tank to the bitter end while racing wide-open to the finish line.

He held the bottom line certain that Harvick's lone attempt to pass would be on the outside. But he was wrong.

"I really thought that Kevin was going to go high," McMurray said after his second-place finish. "I felt like I was close enough to the yellow line that there was a lot more racetrack to the right. I was really guarding against the outside.

"It's hard to explain to you guys that aren't in cars, but when there's someone directly behind you and they pull their car out of line really fast, it's like you pull a parachute in your car. It literally feels like you lose three or five miles an hour immediately, and when that happens, the car that's doing the passing just has the momentum."

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