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Kahne takes exciting victory at Bristol

Kasey Kahne took victory in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which saw a number of tyres and drivers blow under the pressure.
Hendrick Motorsports' Kasey Kahne kept a cool head and a full set of tyres on his car through to the chequered flag of the Sunday afternoon Food City 500 race at Bristol Motor Speedway despite intense pressure from Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and his brother Kurt right through to the finish line.

The claustrophobic half-mile concrete oval once again proved to be a pressure cooker environment pushing all the competitors to their limits, resulted in tyre blow-outs affecting several of the leading championship contenders together with flaring tempers that resulted in one simmering feud between former team mates erupting into open warfare. All in all, it was certainly the most fast and furious and downright entertaining and eventful race yet run by the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Generation-6 cars.

The early leader had been polesitter Kyle Busch who led for the first 56 laps of the 500-lap event. That included a six-lap caution caused by the first of the day's tyre blow-outs caused by melted beads, a result of the rubber overstressing and overheating on the super-tight corners at Bristol. The first victim of the day was Tony Stewart, who took out Michael McDowell in the process: despite considerable damage to the left rear of his own car, Stewart was able to resume after a lengthy visit to pit lane that left him running over 30 laps down.

"I felt the tyre going down, and I just could not get down to the inside to get to pit road," said Stewart. "I was caught up on the top, and I couldn't hold on to it any longer. It made for a long day, but we got what we could of out it," he added after slogging away well off the pace to a finish in 31st place.

Busch's run at the front continued until the field pitted under the next caution, which was sparked by Jeff Burton slamming the wall at turn 1 and subsequently also getting collected by Carl Edwards. Busch dropped out of the lead by opting for a four tyre change while many others went for two, but more seriously he was slapped with a pit lane speeding penalty that dropped him down to 35th position, giving him a lot of catch-up work to do - not that he was any stranger to dealing with that situation.

"We're trying to take too much on pit road, and it's not working for us, so we just need to back off and make some adjustments there," Busch said later of his second pit speeding penalty in two weeks.

His place at point was taken by Kasey Kahne, but Denny Hamlin got the better restart and leapt in front to reclaim the lead for the Joe Gibbs Racing squad. He kept it for 82 laps, which included six under yellow for a spin by Jamie McMurray on the frontstretch while running in third place on lap 72. His team mate Juan Pablo Montoya also hit bad luck at the same point of the race, needing to head to the garage to switch out a problematic fuel cell before returning to the race.

While Hamlin continued to lead with seeming ease, there was a fierce battle behind him for second place between Kahne, Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon. Kahne won that one and on lap 145 he also passed Hamlin for the top spot shortly before the fourth caution of the afternoon for David Gilliland hitting the wall in turn 4 on lap 153, which allowed drivers to come in for their next pit stop under yellow.

Hamlin took the lead again, but it was a close-fought race off pit road with his JGR team mate Kyle Busch, who had completed his recovery from the speeding penalty by a two-tyre pit stop while most of the others had gone for four - a reversal on the first round of stops and a case of motorsport karma. Busch couldn't get past Hamlin at the restart, however, after the #11 got a terrific launch at the green flag to scamper safely away from the pack.




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Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, and Michael McDowell, driver of the #98 Ford, spin out after an incident in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17, 2013 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, lead the field to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17, 2013 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, lead the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17, 2013 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Gary Eller - Pool/Getty Images)
Tony Stewart drives the wrecked #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet after cutting a tire early during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17, 2013 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17, 2013 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17, 2013 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, holds his daughter, Lydia Sunday, November 22, 2015 before final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Johnson and other Jeff Gordon teammates at Hendrick Motorsports wore tribute hats to honor the retiring Chevy driver prior to the start of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to a sixth place finish Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Gordon finishes third in the Chase for the Cup Championship. This was Gordon`s last race as a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. He has made 796 consecutive Cup Series starts, earned 93 wins, and 81 poles - all behind the wheel of Chevrolets. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick finishes as the runner-up in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Team battled back from a bad re-start after the first caution of the race to finish 17th in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo Credit: Campbell Marketing)
Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Former racing driver Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton pose during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
A general view as cars pit during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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