Kasey Kahne pulled out to a 4.3-second lead in the closing laps of Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway en route to his first win for Hendrick Motorsports and his third in NASCAR’s longest race.
“It feels really good,” Kahne said. “Our Hendrick engine was awesome tonight.”
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch finished second and third.
“This is our new 2012 car,” Hamlin said. “It’s the first car (crew chief) Darian (Grubb)’s had a hand in building.”
Greg Biffle finished fourth after leading a race-high 204 laps in the 400-lap event.
“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.
After a speeding penalty during the first caution of the race that came out on lap 111, Brad Keselowski moved back toward the front to round out the top-five finishing order.
With the yellow flag waving only five times in 600 miles, Sunday’s race was the fastest Coca-Cola 600 in NASCAR history, with an average speed of over 155 mph.
Biffle took the lead briefly for the first time when he passed Marcos Ambrose on lap 10. He took the top spot for an extended period when he passed Ambrose again on lap 24. Biffle built of a lead of more than four seconds before the first caution of the race for debris on lap 111.
Ambrose reassumed the lead by taking only two tires during the caution, but he lost the top spot to Busch a few laps later. Biffle took back the lead on lap 126.
Another caution came out soon after, on lap 133, and Jeff Gordon stayed out on the racetrack while everyone else pitted to inherit the lead. Gordon’s time up front was short-lived, though, as Busch reclaimed the lead on the restart.
Biffle made his way back to the front on lap 192, but lost the top spot to Kahne on lap 221, just before the two drivers made their ways down pit road during a cycle of green-flag stops. By the end of the cycle, though, Biffle was back in the lead.
Kahne, once again, passed Biffle for the top spot on lap 280, but Hamlin found himself up front after another cycle of green-flag stops on lap 301. Biffle retook the lead with 92 laps remaining, but Kahne moved back to the front some 10 laps later.
Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. stayed out when the yellow flag waved for the fifth and final time on lap 319 to restart the race on the front row. By lap 332, Kahne was back up front.
The field cycled through its final round of green-flag pit stops with about 47 laps remaining. Kahne cycled back to the lead, with Hamlin in second and Biffle in third. Kahne and Hamlin maintained the top-two positions for the remainder of the race, while Biffle lost third to Busch.
Jimmie Johnson, who ran near the front through much of the race, suffered a problematic pit stop during the final green-flag cycle. After a slow pit stop, he had to return to pit road for a stop-and-go penalty as a result of pulling out of his pit stall with his gas can still attached. He wound up falling off the lead lap and finishing 11th.
“It happens,” Johnson said after the race.
Nine cars finished on the lead lap, with Earnhardt in sixth, Gordon seventh, Kevin Harvick eighth and Carl Edwards in ninth. Matt Kenseth, the first driver a lap down, finished 10th.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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