Kasey Kahne gets his first win with his new team
Kasey Kahne drove his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet out to 4.3- second lead in the closing laps of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday on his way to his third win in NASCAR's longest race and his first victory for Hendrick Motorsports.
"Our Hendrick engine was awesome tonight," Kahne said in victory lane.
I think we've had seven top-10s in a row, counting the All-Star Race.
Denny Hamlin was second in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
"This is our new 2012 car," Hamlin said "It's the first car (crew chief) Darian's (Grubb) had a hand in building.
Hamlin's teammate, Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota, finished third.
The No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Greg Biffle dominated the race, leading 204 laps of the 400 that made up the event. He took the lead for the first time on lap 10, only to lose it to the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford of Marcos Ambrose a few laps later. Biffle reassumed the lead on lap 24, and by the time the first caution of the race came out on lap 111, he had a lead of more than four seconds.
Ambrose reassumed the top spot by taking only two tires during the caution, but lost that lead to the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch on lap 121. Biffle then got by Ambrose for the second spot.
Biffle got back up front when he passed Busch on lap 126. Busch got the lead back on a restart following a lap 133 caution and led several circuits until Biffle reassumed the top spot on lap 192.
Busch then lost the second spot to Kahne on lap 215, and Kahne went on to take the lead from Biffle a few laps later. Kahne's lead was short-lived, as Biffle got back up front during a cycle of green-flag pit stops a few laps later.
Kahne took the top spot back when he passed Biffle for the lead on lap 280, but saw his lead drift away once again on another cycle of green-flag pit stops that got underway on lap 302. Hamlin inherited the lead during the cycle of stops, but gave it up to Biffle with 92 laps to go.
When a caution came out for debris on lap 319, Hamlin and the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. stayed on the racetrack to restart first and second. Kahne made his way back toward the front, getting by Earnhardt for second with 72 laps to go. He then set his sights on Hamlin and got by him to retake the lead with 68 to go.
Cars began heading down pit road for the final pit stops of the race under green with about 47 laps to go. At the end of the cycle, Kahne was back up front, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Chevrolet, had a slow pit stop that involved the gas can getting stuck in the car and had to serve a stop-and-go penalty, dropping him off the lead lap.
"It happens," Johnson said after the race.
Kahne led the rest of the way, with Hamlin in second.
"We're gaining," Kahne said of the steady improvement to his 2012 season, capped off by the win. "I think we've had seven top-10s in a row, counting the All-Star Race."
Right after the final cycle of stops completed, Busch got by Biffle for the third spot. Biffle finished fourth, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge, overcame a speeding penalty during the lap 111 caution to round out the top-five.
"We were pretty dang good until speeds picked up," Biffle said. "Kasey got good as the night fell, and we seemed to struggle a little bit."
Earnhardt finished sixth. Johnson wound up 11th.
With the yellow flag waving only five times, Sunday night's race was the fastest-ever Coca-Cola 600, with an average speed of over 155 mph.