Kahne claims Pocono victory

Kahne claims Pocono victory

Kasey Kahne is starting to feel like the king of comebacks. Kahne, who was winless in 2007, won for the second time in three starts when he rebounded from a pit-road mistake to take the checkered flag in the Pocono 500 today at Pocono Raceway in...

Kasey Kahne is starting to feel like the king of comebacks.

Kahne, who was winless in 2007, won for the second time in three starts when he rebounded from a pit-road mistake to take the checkered flag in the Pocono 500 today at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA.

Victory lane: race winner Kasey Kahne.
Photo by Action Sports Photography.

Kahne, who started the race from the pole, followed Jimmie Johnson for the first 16 laps before making the first lead change of the day on lap 17. But a miscue on pit road on lap 59 cost him a bunch of track position and threatened to keep him out of contention for the win.

Kahne came in for a planned four-tire stop but his crew chief called an audible to change only two tires. Unfortunately his crew had already started to loosen the lug nuts on his left side tires and Kahne was forced to come back down pit road to get them tightened up.

"I really messed up and tried to call a two-tire (stop)," said crew chief Kenny Francis. "Our driver dug us out of a big hole. He did a great job. It was just a great team effort."

Kahne fell all the way back to 38th but had a strong car and rallied to take the lead back from Denny Hamlin on lap 111.

"I've never had a car that dominant before," said Kahne, who also won at Charlotte two weeks ago. "It stayed the same all day and it was so good. It's been a huge turnaround and it's been great."

Kahne made a flawless green-flag stop for fuel and tires with 25 laps to go. He quickly passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. and was held up briefly by Brian Vickers before taking the lead for good with 16 laps to go.

"I wanted to take my time but then I saw the 11 (Hamlin) coming and I knew how good he's been here," Kahne said about the closing laps. "It was time to go and we got to where we needed to go."

After winning a series-high six times in 2006, Kahne went all of last year without visiting Victory Lane. He won the All-Star race at Lowe's three weeks ago and said that he feels like his team is finally getting back to the level that they were in 2006.

"It feels good to win another race," said Kahne, who led a race-high 69 laps and moved up three spots to ninth in the championship standings with the win.

Kasey Kahne leads the field.
Photo by Action Sports Photography.

Vickers also had a sensational day. He picked up a season-high second place finish after making what he described as wholesale changes to his car after practice on Saturday.

"It means a lot," said Vickers, who picked up his second top five finish of the season. "I'm so proud of these guys. We were a bucket yesterday in practice and we made a lot of changes."

Vickers held the lead briefly near the end but had older tires than Kahne.

"I felt like we had the best car at the end of the race but we just didn't have any tires," Vickers said.

Hamlin, who won both of the 2006 races here from the pole, finished third and jumped up to fifth in the championship standings while Earnhardt held on for a fourth place finish.

"We were pretty good to start the race but then got a little bit tight and lost a lot of track position," Earnhardt said.

Jeff Burton finished fifth while Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus were on a different pit strategy than the rest of the leaders. It looked like it might pay off until the final caution of the day came out with 22 laps to go. He led 59 laps and finished sixth.

"I knew he was up to something unfortunately it didn't really pan out the way we needed," Johnson said. "That last caution really hurt us. We had to work really hard for that one. We'll take the sixth but I felt like we could have been in the top three."

Kyle Busch.
Photo by Action Sports Photography.

Points leader Kyle Busch was caught up in an early wreck when he bumped into Jamie McMurray on the front stretch on lap 46.

"I saw the 26 get high and get loose," Busch said before returning to the track 60 laps behind the leaders. "I didn't know he was still there and my spotter didn't say anything."

Busch spun again on lap 177 to bring out the 10th caution of the day and finished 43rd. He maintained first place but saw his lead over Burton slip to just 21 points.

Kurt Busch brought out the second caution of the race on lap 39 when he spun coming out of Turn 1 and slid through the grass. He damaged his front splitter and needed five trips to pit road to fix it. But Busch managed to stay on the lead lap and rallied late in the race for an eighth place finish.

The cars were brought to pit road for a brief red flag for rain on lap 71 and then Clint Bowyer and Juan Pablo Montoya were both taken out of the race in an incident on lap 81. Bowyer made contact with the Dodge of Ryan Newman and gathered up Montoya, whose Dodge caught on fire. Montoya parked it near the safety/fire marshals in a safe location.

"I was just trying to get around the 12 and 15," said Bowyer, who finished 39th and dropped to 11th in the championship standings. "I got loose and lost it. It's unfortunate. It was hard to pass and you get yourself in those situations."

Greg Biffle had a solid day going and led four laps before some misfortune when he pitted with what he thought was a cut tire with 35 laps to go. He picked up a speeding penalty coming out of pit road and was forced to make a pass through lap under green. That left him with a 15th place finish.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya