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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)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, races Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. With him are Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS who finished second, and Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet SS who finished in third place. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, and his crew chief, Greg Ives, celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, is congratulated by Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. Johnson finished second behind Earnhardt, Jr. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, qualifies for second position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Kahne is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate and Pole winner Jeff Gordon, driver of the #5 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, wins the Pole position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Gordon is tenth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, wins the Pole position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Gordon is tenth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz and the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 Ortho Ford, climbs out of his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 1, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates with champagne and crew chief Tony Gibson in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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