Kasey Kahne won Sunday afternoon's LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, after a miscommunication between Denny Hamlin and his crew chief caused the longtime race leader to get four tyres when everyone else was taking two. That extra time in the pits cost Hamlin the lead, and ultimately the race win despite a spirited comeback fight over the final laps.
"We ran in the top five the whole race, but Denny was obviously the best car," admitted Kahne in victory lane. "We just had to battle hard throughout the whole race. We did it. We had good pit strategy, got the track position, and we were able to lead those final laps there."
Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Kyle Busch had led from pole position for the first 66 laps of the 301-lap race, with Hamlin starting from third and soon taking over second place from Kasey Kahne on lap 9. Michael Waltrip Racing duo Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. were initially running in fourth and fifth, until Kahne's Hendrick Motorsports team mates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson and eased past them into the top five over the course of the first 35 laps.
Hamlin had lost momentum behind lapped traffic while pressing Busch for the lead and Kahne took over the second seat again on lap 28, closing right up on the #18's bumper as they worked their way through slower cars but unable to get past Busch as the first round of pit stops loomed under green flag conditions.
Busch did finally surrender the lead to Hamlin for his pit stop on lap 67, a sluggish stop for the #18 with problems on the right rear compounded by getting slapped with a drive-thru pit lane speeding penalty dropping him to 23rd with 26 cars on the lead lap, meaning that his time in front was well and truly over.
By the time the cycle of stops was complete, Hamlin was confirmed in the top spot a second ahead of all four of the Hendrick cars that were now running in the remainder of the top five - Kahne ahead of Gordon and Johnson and now joined by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fifth, with Brad Keselowski having moved up into sixth spot from 22nd on the grid.
The race was 45 minutes and 89 laps old when the first caution of the day came out for debris in turn 3. With not much mileage since the previous stop, many cars were happy going for two tyres this time around and some like Kyle Busch gained placed on a fuel-only gambit with an eye to making it all the way home on just two more stops. Jeff Gordon opted to stay out altogether and assumed the lead ahead of Hamlin, but was warned by his pit crew that this left him 10 laps shy of being able to make it home without an an additional splash-and-dash later in the race as things stood: he was hoping for a caution, or perhaps for the rain on the fringes of the radar to make an appearance.
Hamlin confirmed what many had suspected - that he had by far the best car of the day - by swiping the lead from Gordon at the restart on lap 94 and pulling away into a lead over over 2s as Gordon started to complain about the #24 feeling increasingly loose and finally ended up dropping second to Jimmie Johnson on lap 109, and third to Kahne on lap 136 as his next pit stop neared without any sign of the caution he needed materialising.
Sure enough, Gordon was in on lap 146 just before the halfway point with the rest of the field still some time away from their own next visits to pit lane. In the meantime that put Gordon a lap down in 22nd place, and then gradually he bubbled up through the placings as the cars started to peel off onto pit road for their own stops over the next dozen laps. Kyle Busch even returned for a brief encore in the lead before his own stop, which promptly put him back in ninth behind Truex with whom he'd grown increasingly frustrated at the perceived lack of any help or consideration as he sought to recover from the earlier pit lane miscue.