Kasey Kahne defeated Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon in a late battle for NASCAR Sprint Cup victory at Pocono.
Kahne had taken charge of the final stages of the race and was leading Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr in an increasingly spread-out all-Hendrick top three when a debris caution with 12 laps to go erased his seven second lead. Gordon pounced at the restart and managed to inch ahead of Kahne after a long side-by-side battle.
The four-time champion seemed to be pulling sufficiently clear to take his first win of 2013, but another caution when Matt Kenseth spun set up a green-white-checkered finish.
Kahne initially made a bad getaway, but then carried huge speed down the outside into Turn 1 and made it back into the lead by Turn 2. He then broke clear to win by 1.3 seconds over Gordon.
“On that final restart, I spun my tires a little bit and he (Gordon) got a great jump, and Kurt pushed me all the way to Turn 1, which really helped,” Kahne said. “I had one opportunity to either go for it and make it work or not. As good as our (car) was all day long, I thought we could make that work on the outside.
“I just needed to clear him, and when we got to Turn 2, I was able to do that. It was a great race. We had a really fast car. (Crew chief) Kenny (Francis) called an awesome race, and the whole pit crew did a perfect job We needed this one to get in the Chase — we were able to get it, and it feels really good.”
Kurt Busch was a front-runner all day and claimed third for Furniture Row, ahead of Indianapolis winner Ryan Newman and Earnhardt.
Hendrick’s dominant championship leader Jimmie Johnson had a rare bad day. He led most of the first half of the race, until a right-front tire blow sent him sliding into the wall. Progress was slow in his repaired Chevrolet, but he ultimately recovered to 13th.
Champion Brad Keselowski had his strongest race in a while and was fighting with Kahne and the Busch brothers up front for a spell. Choosing to take four tires when rivals took two at a mid-race pit stop dropped him out of contention, as he found himself 15th and unable to regain much ground. He salvaged sixth at the flag, having got back in the hunt by only changing two tires at the final stops.
The race featured plenty of incident. Denny Hamlin was among the other drivers to have solo crashes, while Juan Pablo Montoya and Ricky Stenhouse Jr tangled at the first corner of the race and Danica Patrick later triggered another multi-car shunt with a mid-pack spin.
Results - 160 laps:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 3h06m02.000s 2. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet +1.392s 3. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet +1.948s 4. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +2.425s 5. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet +2.747s 6. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford +2.987s 7. Joey Logano Penske Ford +3.175s 8. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota +4.191s 9. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +4.364s10. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford +4.774s11. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford +4.930s12. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford +5.234s13. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet +5.582s14. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota +5.592s15. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota +5.713s16. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +6.080s17. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet +6.200s18. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota +6.506s19. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota +6.746s20. Aric Almirola Petty Ford +7.064s21. David Ragan Front Row Ford +7.380s22. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota +7.459s23. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet +7.636s24. Casey Mears Germain Ford +7.825s25. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet +8.641s26. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota +23.806s27. Timmy Hill FAS Lane Ford +2 laps28. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +3 laps29. Landon Cassill Circle Sport Chevrolet +3 lapsRetirements: David Stremme Swan Toyota 151 laps David Reutimann BK Toyota 141 laps Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 127 laps AJ Allmendinger Phoenix Chevrolet 122 laps Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford 113 laps Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 110 laps Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 109 laps Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 55 laps Tony Raines Circle Sport Chevrolet 53 laps David Gilliland Front Row Ford 51 laps Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 44 laps Josh Wise Front Row Ford 44 laps Alex Kennedy Humphrey Smith Toyota 22 laps Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota 14 laps