INDIANAPOLIS -- Kevin Harvick made Rick Mears sound like a prophet on Sunday by winning the 10th running of the Brickyard 400 by 2.758 seconds over Winston Cup points leader Matt Kenseth.
"I told Matt (Yocom, NBC pit reporter) I've got a picture hanging on my wall that says, 'Good luck, hope to see you here someday,' from Rick Mears. Damn if we aren't here in victory lane at the Brickyard. This is awesome."
The win fulfilled a dream that began when he was a child in Bakersfield, Calif, home of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears. However, the win was far from a sure thing late in the race.
Rookie Jamie McMurray had marched from his 22nd starting position and was leading the race when the green flag flew on lap 145. However, Harvick and Gordon would pass when McMurray was caught behind a slower car in traffic. The move would install Harvick as the front-runner as a late race melee caused one last caution.
The No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford of Kurt Busch rear-ended Terry Labonte between Turns 3 and 4 causing an accident that gathered up Sterling Marlin, Ricky Rudd, Mike Skinner, Jimmie Johnson and Joe Nemechek. No one was injured in the accident.
Harvick led the field on the restart ahead of teammate Gordon, would pull away for the victory. Kenseth took second ahead of McMurray who was the highest finishing rookie since the inaugural race in 1994. Jeff Gordon was fourth ahead of last year's winner Bill Elliott. Robby Gordon took sixth.
Though Harvick got the win, he admitted that the Home Depot Chevrolet of Tony Stewart was the car to beat all day. "I really thought that the 42 (McMurray) and the 20 (Stewart). You never know where your car's going to be after you make a pit stop. Our car, like I say, we made it better every run. . .I mean, my jaw just hit the floor when I saw the 20. I'm positive that he didn't need to pit. So, I mean they pretty much gave all the chances they had away, and that was it."
What Harvick was referring to was one of the strangest calls of the day made by Stewart's pit crew.
Stewart dominated the middle part of the race, leading a race-high 60 laps and taking as much as a 10 second advantage over McMurray on lap 88 but a late race green flag pit stop for what should have been extra fuel turned into a two-tire change that relegated Stewart to also-ran status back in the pack. "Poor finish," said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart's crew chief. "The Home Depot Monte Carlo ran good all day. The guys put up a great car. We kind of had a poor pit stop and gave up track position and kind of struggled from there."
Stewart who would finish 12th, just behind fellow Indiana native Ryan Newman.
But car owner Richard Childress's return to victory lane was the biggest story. Harvick garnered Childress his second Brickyard win, and first since 1995 when the late Dale Earnhardt won the race. "Anything we can do that Dale Earnhardt did is an accomplishment," Harvick said. "That's why we still have this '3' on the side (of the car). He's what made this whole organization what it is today. I'm just glad to be part of it."