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Harvick pips McMurray for victory

Kevin Harvick wins at TalladegaKevin Harvick snatched victory from Jamie McMurray in a close finish at Talladega Superspeedway.

The Richard Childress racer ended a 116-race winless streak with an impressive move on this year's Daytona 500 champion, after pushing both of them clear of the field on the third attempt at a green-white-chequered finish.

Harvick seemed to unsettle McMurray's car at the exit of the final turn, allowing him to dive his nose on the inside of the Earnhardt Childress Racing Chevy. Both sprinted towards the finish line side-by-side, with Harvick just edging McMurray by 12 thousandths of a second.

Both drivers succeeded at stretching their fuel mileage to the limit, staying out when the caution flags waved with 12 laps remaining. The race then went 12 laps longer than the scheduled distance, due to incidents that forced officials to call the maximum of three green-white-checkered finishes allowed by the rules.

Harvick's win comes just days after his team learned that its current sponsor Penzoil is set to end their partnership at the end of the season, in favour of a move to Penske Racing.

"Obviously we were tight on fuel but we managed to save enough gas to be where we needed for all the green-white-chequereds," said Harvick. "Once we got kind of past that window, it was all about timing and that worked out exactly how we wanted it to.

"Coming into the tri-oval we needed to be second, [McMurray] moved to the right, I moved to the left, and that was it."

McMurray came close to making it three in a row at restrictor-plate races, as he had won last year at Talladega last November before taking victory in the season-opener at Daytona. Despite losing out in the final sprint, he was happy to score well, following a number of disappointing outings for him and his team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya.

Both EGR cars, as well as Harvick, spent most of the first half of the race hanging at the back in a separate group hoping to avoid being involved in the multi-car incidents so typical of Talladega. Once they mixed it up at the front in tandem, they both showed enough speed, which coupled with the right strategy, placed them at the front for the closing laps.

"We thought it would just be best to log some laps for the first 20," McMurray said. "We waited for 50 or 60 laps to go then made our move to the front. We worked well with Juan all day long."

Montoya also stayed out following his team-mate on the fifth caution and led the race after pitting for the last time to take only two new tyres, 41 laps from the end. The Colombian was on the front row beside McMurray for the final green flag and for a while he seemed to be able to pass him on the outside, pushed by Denny Hamlin. However the Harvick-McMurray tandem took off on the final lap.

"I though I had a chance to win the race when I had Hamlin behind but for some reason the other two were a littie bit faster," said Montoya. "The way the season has been going I was surprised we didn't wreck to be honest with you... We really needed a good finish to get some points and we got both Ganassi cars up there, so it's pretty cool."

Behind Hamlin, Mark Martin rounded out the top five after spending a good bit of the race hanging back, as had Harvick, and the EGR drivers.

Points leader Jimmie Johnson ended up crashing after making contact with Greg Biffle, causing the final caution of the race, but that was after having yet another clash with his Hendrick Motorsports team-mate Jeff Gordon.

Gordon was trying to pass him while pushed by a train of cars and Johnson closed the door - igniting an incident that involved the #24 car as well as Jeff Burton's, which had led the most laps up to that point. Scott Speed also got collected in the incident.

Two other multi-car accidents took place, the first on lap 84 when Johnny Sauter got turned around by Kyle Busch, with at least another six cars getting involved. Then on the second attempt at a green-white-chequered finish, Ryan Newman got turned sideways by Joey Logano, getting seven more cars caught up in the wreckage.

The race featured a record-setting 88 lead changes, among 29 different drivers, in what was the first restrictor-plate event with the new spoiler.

Johnson continues to top the standings, now followed by race-winner Harvick, who went on to lead the field from pole position in the rain-delayed Nationwide Series race that followed the Sprint Cup race at Talladega.

Pos  Driver                Car        Laps
 1.  Kevin Harvick         Chevrolet  200
 2.  Jamie McMurray        Chevrolet  200
 3.  Juan Montoya          Chevrolet  200
 4.  Denny Hamlin          Toyota     200
 5.  Mark Martin           Chevrolet  200
 6.  David Ragan           Ford       200
 7.  Clint Bowyer          Chevrolet  200
 8.  Kurt Busch            Dodge      200
 9.  Kyle Busch            Toyota     200
10.  Mike Bliss            Chevrolet  200
11.  Carl Edwards          Ford       200
12.  Martin Truex Jr       Toyota     200
13.  Dale Earnhardt Jr     Chevrolet  200
14.  David Reutimann       Toyota     200
15.  Scott Speed           Toyota     200
16.  Tony Stewart          Chevrolet  200
17.  Greg Biffle           Ford       200
18.  Travis Kvapil         Ford       200
19.  AJ Allmendinger       Ford       200
20.  Robby Gordon          Toyota     200
21.  Kasey Kahne           Ford       200
22.  Jeff Gordon           Chevrolet  200
23.  Bobby Labonte         Chevrolet  200
24.  Sam Hornish Jr        Dodge      200
25.  Paul Menard           Ford       198
26.  Robert Richardson Jr  Ford       198
27.  David Stremme         Ford       197
28.  Matt Kenseth          Ford       196
29.  Brian Vickers         Toyota     195
30.  Kevin Conway          Ford       195
31.  Jimmie Johnson        Chevrolet  194
32.  Jeff Burton           Chevrolet  191
33.  Elliott Sadler        Ford       188
34.  Brad Keselowski       Dodge      188
35.  Ryan Newman           Chevrolet  188
36.  Joey Logano           Toyota     188
37.  Marcos Ambrose        Toyota     188
38.  Regan Smith           Chevrolet  100
39.  Michael Waltrip       Toyota     84
40.  Max Papis             Toyota     83
41.  Johnny Sauter         Chevrolet  83
42.  Joe Nemechek          Toyota     47
43.  Dave Blaney           Toyota     33
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