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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)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, pits during 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, 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)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning 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)
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 SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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