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Banquet 400: Nemechek plays the fuel.

By Andrew Charman

On lap one of the Banquet 400 at Kansas pole sitter Joe Nemechek was passed by the Dodges of Kasey Kahne and Jeremy Mayfield, who then dominated much of the race. But Nemechek gambled, stayed out midway through the race when most others pitted, and then took full benefit of a string of late cautions to take the victory.

A threat of rain saw the green flag fly a few minutes early, and the drama started just as early for Sterling Marlin, his #40 Coors Light Dodge losing its clutch as it crossed the start line and sparking the first caution to clean up the bits. At the lap four restart poleman Joe Nemechek's #01 US Army Chevrolet got away in the lead but could not hold back the UAW/Dodge Dealers pairing of Jeremy Mayfield and Kasey Kahne.

Caution number two was out by lap 16 as the #99 Roush Ford of Carl Edwards went for a spin, and most of the field pitted. This proved disastrous for championship third-place holder and winner of two of the three previous Kansas races Jeff Gordon, forced to pit again after his crew left equipment on the car. The red Dodges then dominated the early going, closest challengers Jimmie Johnson's #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, Greg Biffle in the #16 Subway Ford and defending Kansas victor Ryan Newman's #12 ALLTEL Dodge. Title chase leader Kurt Busch ran 10th in his #97 Sharpie/Irwin Ford, four places ahead of his closest points challenger Dale Earnhardt Jr in the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet.

With 50 of the 267 laps down Biffle managed to split the lead Dodges, Kahne's failure to pit early on resulting in the rookie kicking off a series of green flag pit stops. Biffle then outsmarted Mayfield in traffic to become the race's fourth leader, the Dodge then heading for pit road followed by the rest of the field over the next 10 laps, Busch staying out as long as possible to earn a possibly vital five extra points for leading a lap.

By the time the stops had cycled through, Kahne held the lead two seconds clear of Biffle, Mayfield next up. Dodges were looking strong at this track, Casey Mears next up in the #41 Target car ahead of Newman. Busch had slipped back to 12th, but still maintained a three-place gap to Earnhardt.

Out front Kahne continued to hold sway, completing lap 100 with a 1.8 second advantage over Biffle, Mayfield now five seconds back. But now the Subway Ford started to close down the gap to the lead Dodge, and on lap 111 took the lead, quickly extending it. Kahne, out of sequence with everyone else, kicked off the second series of green flag stops on lap 121, and Biffle and Mayfield pitted at half distance, Newman taking a brief spell up front before he too peeled off. This promoted Dale Jarrett's #88 UPS Ford to the race's eighth leader before he made one of the last stops on lap 149. Clearly the Evernham Motorsports squad had their pit stop strategy sorted, Kahne emerging in the lead five seconds clear of team-mate Mayfield, Biffle down to third.

On lap 142 the third caution flew, Kyle Busch having brushed the wall in the #84 Carquest Chevrolet. With only 18 cars on the lead lap Kahne, Busch and Johnson headed back to pit road to top up with fuel, Kasey rejoining the pack in eighth and now on the same pit strategy as everyone else.

The green flew on lap 152 and as Mayfield led away Mears rounded both Biffle and Jarrett to snatch second, but already the caution had bred another, and one that could have had big implications in the chase for the Nextel Cup. Kurt Busch spun out, and caught up in the confusion was Johnson, the Lowe's Chevrolet turned around. But both were able to take the lap 157 restart, Busch in 20th and Johnson just behind.

Mayfield again led away but within a lap Mears forced his way to the front, while further back seasoned observers noted that now snapping at the tail of the top 10 were a certain Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. Mears' lead did not last long, Biffle's Ford moving ahead on lap 173, by which time Kahne had made his way back to sixth and was consistently the fastest man on the track. But up front, Biffle was making the most of his advantage, extending his lead to almost four seconds before heading to pit road for a scheduled stop on lap 198. Seconds later fourth-placed Casey Mears smacked the wall hard, sparking a yellow. Naturally everyone else pitted under the caution, but Biffle retained his lead, now with Mayfield, Jarrett, Kahne and Newman lined up behind.



Related Pictures

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Joe Nemechek won from pole position at Kansas.
Joe Nemechek won from pole position at Kansas in his Chevrolet.
Ricky Rudd was a close second at Kansas. (Photo Autostock/Ford Motor Co)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Johnson advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS races to win Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Gordon advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory with his daughter, Ella Sofia Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Gordon advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory win Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Gordon advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Cessna Chevrolet, races Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota, and Joe Nemechek, driver of the #66 Friedman Law Firm Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 6, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
David Ragan, driver of the #98 Carroll Shelby Engine Ford, and Elliott Sadler, driver of the #11 SportClips Toyota, spin out during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Coatings Chevrolet SS won Saturday, May 10, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. Teammates Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance/Thankamillonteachers.Com Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. Gordon continues to lead the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevrolet)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Coatings Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, May 10, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. Teammates Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance/Thankamillonteachers.Com Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. Gordon continues to lead the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevrolet)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Coatings Chevrolet SS crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas Saturday, May 10, 2014. Teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS finished 2nd. Gordon continues to lead the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevrolet)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Coatings Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, May 10, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. Teammates Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance/Thankamillonteachers.Com Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. Gordon continues to lead the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 10, 2014 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Coatings Chevrolet, races Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 10, 2014 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo Credit: Kyle Rivas/NASCAR via Getty Images)
David Gilliland, driver of the #38 Long John Silver`s Ford, spins out during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 10, 2014 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald`s Chevrolet, drives down the apron after catching fire during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 10, 2014 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Justin Allgaier, driver of the #51 Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet, AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kingsford Charcoal Chevrolet, and Casey Mears, driver of the #13 GEICO Chevrolet, spin out during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 10, 2014 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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