Kasey Kahne out drove and out thought his rivals through 15 caution flags and just as many pitstops to take his third win of the season in Sunday's four and a half hour Coca Cola 600 at the Lowe's Motor Speedway.
The combination of hard tyres and a small fuel cell coupled with the usual Lowe's hazards made for a disjointed race in which the lead changed hands nearly 40 times among 16 drivers and the entire lead lap order seemed to shuffle every 30 laps as drivers discovered that while their tyres would easily last more than 35-40 laps, their fuel tanks couldn't.
The result was a race dominated by pit strategy for while overtaking was possible, and plentiful in the pack, the leader at the head of the train always seemed to have an advantage in clean air, forcing crews to decide between four, two or no tyres at nearly every pit stop.
Through all this one team appeared to have an advantage over the rest, Evernham Motorsports, which saw all three of its entries run competitively for the first time this year.
Pole sitter Scott Riggs led many laps and only dropped out of the fight for victory when he left his pit box with equipment still attached to the car during the final round of stops with 40 laps remaining. Jeremy Mayfield had his best run of what has been a dismal season but could only manage a 15th place finish in the end while Kahne, who started ninth but quickly proved that he had one of the few cars able to make passes and go from the middle of the pack to the leaders, led 158 of 400 laps to take his fourth career Cup Series win and his first from any starting position other than pole.
Although Kahne had been the dominant driver on the night he still had to deal with recent Lowe's Motor Speedway King Jimmie Johnson and Roush Racing's Carl Edwards in the final 33 lap green flag run to the chequered flag. On lap 369 Kahne used his preferred high line to wrest second away from Johnson in turn four and just one lap later and in true 'Days of Thunder' style he tricked Edwards into defending the high line into turns three and four before promptly grabbing the lead on the low line.
Johnson followed Kahne passed Edwards some five laps later, by which time Kahne was two seconds up the road and on his way to victory lane with a lead that even Johnson couldn't breach.
While Kahne's win moves him up to sixth in the championship, Johnson's runner up finish helps pad his points lead to 109 over Matt Kenseth, who lost fourth place to his Roush teammate Mark Martin in the final four laps as Jack Roush's team placed all five of its cars in the top eight finishing positions.
Jeff Burton was the best-placed Chevrolet finisher in sixth place with Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray completing the Roush runners in seventh and eighth places respectively.