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Kahne wins for Hendrick at Charlotte

Kasey Kahne delivered his first win for the Hendrick Motorsports team in the 2012 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday evening.
It had taken an age for Rick Hendrick's drivers to get that landmark 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win two weeks ago at Darlington, but then Jimmie Johnson followed up that win with a $1 million victory in last weekend's All Star Race, and the team's new boy Kasey Kahne has carried forward the momentum with a follow-up Cup victory this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Nor was it just any race win, but one of the most prestigious of the Cup calendar - and certainly the longest event. Richard Petty Motorsport duo Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose had set themselves up for the race perfectly with a front row lockout, starting under the setting sun just before 6.30pm on Sunday evening.

Almirola and Ambrose traded the lead between themselves over the opening laps, with Greg Biffle breaking through the RPM stranglehold for the first time on lap 9 despite struggling with skyrocketing water temperatures because of some debris lodged in his air intake. Once that was taken care of, Biffle started to fly: taking the lead again on lap 23, no one could shift him from the front for the next 90 laps which included two green flag pit stops.

Marcos Ambrose had played second fiddle to Biffle for the vast majority of those laps, and had his own chance to lead after pit stops under a debris yellow on lap 111. Kyle Busch quickly moved past him to the front, but Biffle put them both in their place by taking his crown back a couple of laps later.

Jeff Gordon stayed out under the next debris caution to lead on lap 136, but Kyle Busch was feeling in the mood to have a longer go up front and duly moved into the lead for the next 51 laps save for one during a cycle of pit stops that saw David Ragan briefly pop to the top.

But that was quite enough of a rest for Biffle, and he was back in front from lap 191 despite already having led more laps in this one race so far than in the entirety of the 2011 season. Kasey Kahne led for the first time on lap 220 during the next round of pit stops, but then it was back to the Biffle Show for another extended run in the lead.

By now the sun had gone and the floodlights were on. That meant that the track was rapidly cooling, and the teams were having to chase the changing conditions. Biffle's car slowly turned from looking uncatchable to looking merely strong, and then ... Not quite so good.

Kasey Kahne was on hand to pounce at the opportunity when it presented itself, and he took charge of the race properly on lap 280, shortly after Biffle had needed to save the car from a dangerous wobble getting loose off turn 2. BY the time the race hit lap 300, Kahne was leading a top ten consisting of Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards.

Keselowski had earlier had pit lane contact with Tony Stewart, pulling out of his pit stall just as Stewart was coming into his just in front. Keselowski was worrying about the reigning champion rolling up his sleeves and dispensing some street justice in retribution, as he's been known to do in the past and voicing his concern about "getting stuffed in the fence" by the #14. Keselowski's pit crew made representations to Stewart's crew chief Steve Addington, and ultimately both drivers seemed to come to an amicable sharing of the responsibility for the mishap, and a knife fight was averted for the night.




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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 Fastenal Ford, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday in Concord, N.C. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quaker State Chevrolet, poses with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday in Concord, N.C. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
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)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, suffers a mechanical issue during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via 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)
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)
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)
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)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finishes in fifth place, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finishes in 33rd place in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Gordon, who led for 87 laps,  was involved in a multi-car incident on the last lap. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS races to a third place finish with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS who finishes in fifth place in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by HHP/Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS pulls into his pit on his way to a second place finish in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Percision Chevrolet, lead the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota, race three-wide during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Smoke pours from the #2 Miller Lite Ford, driven by Brad Keselowski, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, lead the field to the green flag for the running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Reiners/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Kellogg/Cheez-It Ford, races Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ENEOS Chevrolet, and Ryan Reed, driver of the #16 Lilly/American Diabetes Association Ford, during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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