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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)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 2nd position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined on the front row by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS who won the Pole position. Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, won the pole position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined by Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS on the front row. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ParkerStore Chevrolet, poses with the Keystone Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, talks to his crew chief, Paul Wolfe, after failing to advance to the championship round of the Chase for the Spring Cup after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/ Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finished in 2nd place Sunday, November 9, 2014 in the final Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Gordon just missed out being in the Championship 4 finale next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, speaks to the media after failing to advance to race for the championship in the season finale after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, lead the field through the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series DAV 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 8, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series DAV 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 8, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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