Kasey Kahne won out in a Hendrick Motorsports, two-car, two-lap sprint to the win in Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. Jeff Gordon had to settle for second.
“It’s funny how our emotions go up and down in this sport,” Gordon said. “Before the race, if you told me that I’d finish second, I’d say that was a great birthday gift. But when you’re leading and take the lead from Kasey the way we did, you know, on that restart, I thought we had him. He was better than us, but I thought getting out in front, I could hold him off. I got a perfect restart that last one and probably jumped him a little bit and I moved up front of him and it looked like I needed to block the inside. I tried to protect the inside, and he got on the outside and flat outdrove me through one. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get this win.”
Three of four Hendrick cars finished in the top-five, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. claiming fifth. Chevrolet swept the top-five of the finishing order, as Kurt Busch finished third and Ryan Newman fourth.
The ninth and final caution of the race resulted in a restart with two laps remaining, with Gordon as the race leader and Kahne beside him on the front row in second. Kahne spun his tires on the restart, but didn’t let Gordon out of his sights. The two teammates raced side-by-side until Kahne was able to take the lead before taking the white flag.
The one other Hendrick Motorsports driver, Jimmie Johnson, looked to be the class of the field in the first half of the 160-lap race. Several drivers led in the first half of the race as pit strategies varied as if the race was at a road course. But despite the various leaders, Johnson looked to be the class of the field, always winding up back up front once pit stops were completed.
Johnson’s fortunes changed, though, in the form of a tire problem about halfway through the race. A blown tire resulted in extensive damage to Johnson’s No. 48 that necessitated repeated pit stops for repairs. Johnson never returned at the front the field.
“I really felt like we had a shot to win,” Jonshon said. “Unfortunately blew a tire off of turn one and ended those hopes there. We worked on the car and got it better. Then, I hit the wall so hard that it knocked a spark plug wire off the spark plug.”
That’s when Kahne took over. After Johnson’s problems, Kahne assumed the lead, with reigning series champion Brad Keselowski in second. Keselowski got by Kahne on a restart, but Kahne quickly retook the lead and pulled away.
Most drivers got back on similar pit strategies when the fifth caution of the race came out with about 65 laps to go. Kahne, along with several others, took only two tires, and the eventual race winner got off pit road first. Martin Truex Jr. restarted in the lead, though, after being the only driver to stay out. Meanwhile, Keselowski, who was previously up front with Kahne, took on four tires and restarted 15th.
Truex gave up the lead when the yellow flag waved again just a few laps later, handing the lead back over to Kahne. While Kahne pulled out to a lead of more than five seconds, Keselowski had problems working his way back up toward the front.
Drivers pitted for the last time with about 30 laps to go. With quick stops, Kahne was the leader and Earnhardt second after the cycle completed. While others took four, Keselowski took only two tires this time around to make up some of the positions he lost on his previous stop.
Gordon also wound up in the top-five after the cycle and moved by Earnhardt to take second with 11 laps remaining. Right after taking second, the yellow flag waved again. Gordon then took the lead on the restart that followed and was still up front at the final yellow flag. During that time, Earnhardt dropped back, losing spots to Busch and Newman.
“I about gave it away when Jeff got by me,” Kahne said. “And then I spun the tires a little bit and he got a great jump and Kurt pushed me all the way to turne one, which really helpd. And then I had one opportunity. It was either to go for it and make it work, or not. And as good as our car was, our Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, 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 two, I was able to do that.”
Keselowski wound up sixth at the finish. Finishing seventh through 10th were Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle.
- Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR