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Pocono: Kasey Kahne proves too tricky for Jeff Gordon

Kasey Kahne led for 66 laps at Pocono, but when it came down to the final restart it looked as though he was going to be one trick short of the hand he needed to beat team mate Jeff Gordon.
Was it an accident and a fluke, or was is a spectacularly effective piece of brilliant, unorthodox strategy that won it for Kasey Kahne in the last restart of the afternoon at Pocono Raceway on Sunday?

When the green flag came out for the final time, Kahne was on the front row alongside his Hendrick Motorsport team mate Jeff Gordon but he appeared to struggle to get up to speed while in the meantime Gordon surged ahead into what looked to be an unassailable lead with two laps remaining in the GoBowling.com 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. The media were already crafting their post-race pieces detailing how Kahne had blown it at the last minute after having led for 64 of the 158 laps up to that point of the race.

And then a funny thing happened: Kahne got his second wind, with a helpful boost from Kurt Busch who had restarted from fourth place immediately behind him and who was himself strongly motivated to get going after Gordon as soon as possible. That ended up giving Kahne a huge run down the outside into turn one and the momentum just kept on giving: by the time the leaders hit the second of Pocono's three corners, Gordon hadn't just been caught but was already in Kahne's rear view mirrors. By the time the chequered flag came out, Kahne had pulled ahead by almost 1.4 seconds to claim the win.

"Jeff was getting great restarts and he was fast once we got going," said Kahne afterwards. "I about gave it away when Jeff got by me, and then I spun the tyres a little bit and he got a great jump ... That final one he beat me to turn one. Kurt Busch gave me a great push all the way down the front stretch which helped a ton. Once we got there I just had one shot. It was either make it stick on the outside or go home in second."

“It's funny how our emotions to go up and down in this sport. Before the race, if you told me that I'd finish second, I'd say that was a great birthday gift," said Gordon, who turned 42 on Sunday. "But when you're leading, and take the lead from Kasey the way we did you know, on that restart, I thought we had him. He was better than us but I thought getting out in front I could hold him off.

"I got a perfect restart that last one and probably jumped him a little bit and I moved up front of him and it looked like I needed to block the inside," he continued. "I tried to protect the inside and he got out the outside and flat outdrove me through 1.

"I'm disappointed that we didn't get this win," he admitted. "This team has worked so hard to put ourselves in position ... I'm a little disappointed, but also excited. It was a good point's day for us and we needed that," he added, referring to the points situation in the Cup championship with just five races remaining in the regular season before the Chase cut-off and both Hendrick drivers having to work hard to keep themselves in the all-important top ten.

No such problems for Jimmie Johnson, whose lead in the points is now such that he can afford to take a race off should he need to in order to attend the birth of his second child with wife Chandra due soon. Even hitting the wall on lap 76 this weekend at Pocono after a tyre failed on the #48 did little to hinder his serene progress to that end: the crew got to work, applied industrial quantities of duct tape, accepted a penalty for having too many people working on the car, and still managed to put Johnson back out in a position where he could drive his way back to 13th place by the end, one spot ahead of his closest rival in the points, Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer.

"I really felt like we had a shot to win, unfortunately blew a tyre off of turn 1 and ended those hopes there," he said. "I hit the wall so hard that it knocked a spark plug wire off the spark plug. They were able to find the right plug and get everything hooked back up and the engine took off. Off we went and salvaged a very nice finish."




Related Pictures

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Kasey Kahne, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Sunday, August 4, 2013 at Pocono Raceway in the GoBowling 400 in Pocono, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett for Chevrolet)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 4, 2013 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 4, 2013 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 4, 2013 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS who finished in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a fifth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Elliott takes over the #24 car from retired driver Jeff Gordon.  (Photo by Ashley R Dickerson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, races to a fourth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 as Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage (L) and John Godwin of Duck Commander (R) look on at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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