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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 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS who finished in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, leads Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS, with team owner and grandfather Richard Childress after capturing the pole position Friday, March 18, 2016 for a front row start in Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Dillon will be joined on the front row with Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS who qualified second. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #78 Furniture Row Toyota, leads Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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 February 28, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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 February 28, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, takes the chequered and yellow flags to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 under caution at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, leads Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with a burnout Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins.  (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with his wife, Chandra and daughters Genevieve and Lydia Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, crosses the finish line for the victory Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #78 Furniture Row Toyota, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualifies for second position Friday, February 26, 2016 and will start on the front row for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch/Jimmy John`s Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet SS race Sunday, February 21, 2016 during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Harvick finished 4th and Dillon finished 9th. (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)

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