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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]
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, soc during practice for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
David Ragan, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, drives in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
David Ragan, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, signs the Coors Light Pole board after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with the Pole Award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS qualifies in second position Friday, February 27, 2015 for a front row position start in Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS qualifies in third position Friday, February 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #4 Energizer Chevrolet SS qualifies in sixth position Friday, February 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS qualifies in seventh position Friday, February 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development, speaks to members of the media after a testing session at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)
David Ragan, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, stands in the garage during a testing session at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer drives the #15 5-Hour Energy Toyota during a testing session at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, is spun by Brian Vickers, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 26, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finished in 5th position and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS finished in 12th position Sunday, October 19, 2014 in the final Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Newman, who was in the Chase, advances to the Eliminator 8 phase of the Chase which begins next week at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Kahne, who was also in the Chase, did not advance. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet SS qualified for eighth position Saturday, October 18, 2014 for Sunday`s Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Khane, who is in the Chase, is 8th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Sunday is the final round of the Contender 12 phase of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Mason Mingus, driver of the #15 811 Call Before You Dig Chevrolet, Korbin Forrister, driver of the #07 McNair McLemore Midlebrooks & Co LLC Chevrolet, Ron Hornaday Jr., driver of the #9 Armour Vienna Sausage/Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, and Ryan Sieg, driver of the #39 Pull-A-Part Used Auto Parta Chevrolet, are involved in an on track incident during the NASCAR Camping World Series Fred`s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Talladega Superspeedway on October 18, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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