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Atlanta win boosts Kahne

For Kasey Kahne, victory in Sunday night's Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was the watershed moment of his Sprint Cup career.

For one thing, it all but guaranteed Kahne a position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, jumping him five positions to sixth in the series standings - a sizeable-if-not-comfortable 96 points ahead of 13th-place Brian Vickers, who finished seventh Sunday.

For Kahne, the victim of a late-season fold with back-to-back 40th-place finishes at Michigan and Bristol last year, the win was vindication. For Richard Petty Motorsports, the victory was cause for celebration, all but ensuring a Petty car in the Chase for the first time since NASCAR's playoff format was introduced in 2004.

Kahne beat resurgent Kevin Harvick to the finish line by 1.766secs, after a caution for Clint Bowyer's spin on lap 309 erased a sizeable lead for Harvick, whose car was unbeatable on long runs, but no match for Kahne's over the short haul.

Kahne broke away from Harvick and third-place finisher Juan Pablo Montoya after a restart on lap 315 of 325. David Reutimann finished fourth, followed by Mark Martin and Denny Hamlin, who locked himself into the Chase with the sixth-place finish.

“I knew Harvick and Montoya were going to be tough there at the end,” said Kahne, who won for the second time this season and the eleventh time in his career, “But I got 'em. We were really good there for about ten laps.

“We did it, and we did it right there at the end. When we got that restart with eleven to go, I knew we had a chance. This team just stepped up. The pit-stops were awesome all night. The calls from [crew chief] Kenny Francis were perfect. I knew we could go fast for about 15 laps - faster than anybody. After that, I was getting a little bit too loose to hang with Harvick and Montoya.

“But, with eleven laps to go, just getting to the front was what I was thinking I needed to do and, once we did it, everything was perfect from there on out. It was great team effort, something that Richard Petty Motorsports really needed.”

Kahne wasn't the only driver who helped himself immensely. Montoya improved to eighth in the standings, 88 points ahead of Vickers. Martin remained tenth in the standings but widened his advantage over 13th place to 69 points.




Related Pictures

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Kasey Kahne celebrates victory in the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway  [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet SS qualifies for third position Friday, March 6, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS stops in the pits on his way to his win Sunday, March 1, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS races to victory Sunday, March 1, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory with a burnout Sunday, March 1, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory Sunday, March 1, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
A large incident occurs in turn three during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Chevrolet, spins out after an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, lead the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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