TALLADEGA, Ala. – America's pass time could be found at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, as Kevin Harvick edged out Jamie McMurray at the finish line to win the Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on a record-setting day for passing.
Harvick's race-winning pass was the 88th of the day, shattering the record for most passes in a race in the history of NASCAR. The old mark of 75 also had been set at Talladega Superspeedway in May of 1984.
Harvick was one of 29 different leaders in the race, which broke the NASCAR record of 28 that had been set at Talladega in October of 2008. And Harvick's margin of victory over McMurray was .011 seconds, making it the eighth-closest finish since the introduction of electronic timing in 1993.
As third-place finisher Juan Pablo Montoya said of the pass-happy afternoon, "The show isn't going to get any better than this."
It took 200 laps to complete this show – making it the longest race in Talladega history – because there were three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish. Harvick tucked in behind McMurray at the beginning of the final green-white-checkered run, and the two quickly pulled away from the pack and remained in line through the fourth turn of the final lap.
Then as the duo entered the trioval, Harvick dipped down low in an old-fashioned "slingshot" move and had enough momentum to barely outrun McMurray to the finish line.
"It was all about timing," Harvick said. "You saw a lot of guys practicing that move. As long as you stayed against their bumper, you were able to shoot past them and you could stay ahead for several hundred feet until they drew back even. It worked out absolutely perfect on the timing side of it."
McMurray said he knew Harvick would attempt a last-second pass, but he anticipated that the move would come on the high side of the track. So as they roared toward the finish line, McMurray drifted slightly up the track to try and block a run by Harvick.
"I really thought Kevin was going to go high, so I was guarding against the outside" said McMurray, who was attempting to win his second consecutive Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega. "When he went left, it really loosened the car up. It's like you pull a parachute in your car. It feels like you lose 3 to 5 mph immediately. When that happens, the car that's doing the passing just has the momentum.
"So really, once he got beside me, all I was doing was side drafting and hoping I could beat him back to the start-finish line."
He nearly did, but Harvick waited until the perfect moment to make his move, and there wasn't much McMurray could do.
"Coming into the last lap, that's exactly how we planned it out on paper," Harvick said. "It's hard to wait and not pull out earlier, but I could see that we were way in front of all the guys behind us. When he made that dart to the right, I immediately went to the left, and that was it."
The victory is the first for Harvick since the 2007 Daytona 500, and it is the first win for Richard Childress Racing since October of 2008. It also is the first victory at Talladega Superspeedway for an RCR driver since Dale Earnhardt Sr. won his 10th and final Cup race at the track in 2000.
"This is about as sweet as it gets," Childress said. "This is as good a race as you could see at Talladega."