Sunday, May 27, 2012

Kasey Kahne Breaks Out

Kasey Kahne moved over to Hendrick Motorsports at the start of the 2012 season, after spending 2011 at Red Bull Racing and was hoping to have a breakout season.  Unfortunately, he did not get off to the start that he had hoped for, and found himself 16th in points coming into the Coca-Cola 600.  In his 300th career start, Kasey Kahne was able to finally break through, and win his first race with Hendrick Motorsports.

Kasey Kahne finally won with Hendrick Motorsports (Courtesy Getty Images)
Aric Almirola won the pole for the Coca-Cola 600, and led the field to the green flag.  His teammate Marcos Ambrose got around him after starting on the outside, however, and led the first lap.  On lap three, Almirola was able to get around his teammate to lead his first laps of the night.  Ambrose got back around Almirola, but then Greg Biffle got around Ambrose to take the lead on lap 9.  On lap 15, Ambrose got back around Biffle, but Biffle pulled right up to Ambrose's back bumper because he had some debris on his grille.  Biffle then got back around the No. 9 car to retake the lead. 

AJ Allmendinger hit pit road on lap 41, kicking off a round of green-flag pit stops.  By lap 48, the stops had cycled through and Greg Biffle was the leader once again, followed by Marcos Ambrose, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, and Mark Martin.  Biffle began to lap a lot of the field, including Tony Stewart, Joey Logano, and Trevor Bayne.  Green flag stops began once again on lap 88, when Kevin Harvick and Juan Pablo Montoya came in to make their stops.  Greg Biffle was able to hold onto the lead after pit stops.

On lap 111, the night's first caution flew for debris on the track, and the field came back down pit road.  Marcos Ambrose won the race off pit road, followed by Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, and Kasey Kahne.  The race restarted on lap 118, and Marcos Ambrose was able to clear McMurray, and Kyle Busch was able to get around McMurray for second place.  On lap 121, Kyle Busch was able to clear Ambrose to take the lead.  Biffle was able to get to Ambrose's back bumper, and was able to make the pass on lap 123.  On lap 125, Biffle was able to get around Busch to retake the lead. 

A familiar scene early in the race; Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne racing for the lead (Courtesy Getty Images)
On lap 133, the second caution of the night came out, once again for debris.  The field came in to make pit stops, and Kyle Busch won the race off pit road.  Jeff Gordon, however, didn't pit, and inherited the lead.  Kyle Busch restarted on the outside, and blew by Gordon on the restart.  Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson went 3-wide and passed Gordon going down the backstretch to drop him to fourth.  On lap 149, Carl Edwards came into the pits to fix what he believed to be a loose wheel. 

Jeff Gordon, who didn't pit under caution with the rest of field, hit pit road on lap 168.  Just two laps later, on lap 170, Travis Kvapil got into the wall and brought out the third caution of the night.  The leaders came into pit road, and Kyle Busch beat Kasey Kahne off pit road.  Busch led the field to the green on lap 175, and led until the caution came out again on lap 178 for debris.  The Lucky Dog for the caution was Carl Edwards, who got his lap back after he had to pit with a loose wheel. 

The race restarted on lap 182, and Kyle Busch was able to jump out in front of Greg Biffle, who was being hounded by Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson.  Kasey Kahne was able to get alongside Biffle, but could not complete the pass.  On lap 192, Biffle got a great run off Turn 4, and, heading into Turn 1, was able to take the lead away from Busch. 

On lap 217, Marcos Ambrose slowed and radioed in that he had a problem.  The team thought it was a broken track bar, and they pulled the No. 9 car behind the wall.  At the same time, Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. began another round of green-flag pit stops.  Before the leaders made their pit stops, Kasey Kahne was able to get around Greg Biffle for the lead.  Following the stops, however, Biffle found himself back in the lead. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a patriotic National Guard scheme this weekend (Courtesy Getty Images)
On lap 265, green-flag pit stops began again, and Tony Stewart went for a spin trying to get into his pit; he was clipped by Brad Keselowski, who was trying to get out of his pit stall.  Greg Biffle came into the pits first with a large lead over Kasey Kahne, but when they left Kahne was right on his bumper.  On lap 278, Greg Biffle got extremely loose, and two laps later Kasey Kahne was able to get around him for the lead. 

With 100 laps to go, another round of green-flag pit stops began.  Kasey Kahne was leading when pit stops began, but after coming in about a lap after Greg Biffle, Biffle found himself .5 seconds ahead of Kahne.  With 83 laps to go, Biffle and Kahne started racing side-by-side for the lead, and Biffle would not allow Kahne to get around him.  The fifth caution flag flew on lap 318 for debris.  The field came in to pit, and Denny Hamlin, who was running third, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was running seventh, stayed out and inherited the lead.  Biffle and Kyle Busch led the race off pit road, while Kasey Kahne was the fourth car to come off pit road. 

The restart came on lap 325, and Dale Jr. had a big run going into the first corner, but Hamlin was able to hold him off.  Kasey Kahne found a line he could run well in, and he began to pick off the drivers ahead of him, and quickly moved into second.  On lap 333, Kahne was finally able to get around Hamlin to take the lead.  On lap 338, Mark Martin, who had been hanging around the top 10 all night, took the car to the garage.  Before he lost power, Martin had told the team that the water temperature gauge was "pegged."

Mark Martin was driving a patriotic scheme this weekend (Courtesy Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. began falling back, being passed by Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle to fall to fifth.  Earnhardt Jr. had some debris on his grille, and he could not get it off as his engine temperature climbed higher and higher.  With 47 laps to go, the final green-flag pit stops began, with Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch coming in to make stops.  During pit stops, Jimmie Johnson left his pit box with the fuel can still in his car, and he had to come in for a stop-and-go penalty.  Dale Jr. was able to come in for fuel and tires, and he was able to get his grille cleaned off.  When the stops cycled around, Kasey Kahne still led Denny Hamlin by about 2.5 seconds. 

With about 28 laps to go, Kasey Kahne began to complain that his car's handling was starting to go away, and Denny Hamlin was beginning to close in on him.  By lap 380, however, Kahne had started to pull back away from Hamlin, and was able to cruise to his first victory with Hendrick Motorsports by a margin of over 4 seconds.  Denny Hamlin finished second, Kyle Busch was third, Greg Biffle fourth, and Brad Keselowski was fifth.  Positions 6-10 were: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, and Matt Kenseth.  Jimmie Johnson finished 11th after his pit miscue, while pole-sitter Aric Almirola finished 16th.  Tony Stewart had a rough night, and finished 25th.  Danica Patrick, making another start in the Sprint Cup Series, finished 30th, five laps down.  Mark Martin blew an engine with about 100 miles to go, and finished 34th. 

The Coca-Cola 600 was not as interesting as many had hoped, but there was some exciting racing for the lead throughout the race.  Kasey Kahne was finally able to break through to get his first win for Hendrick Motorsports, and I'm sure it isn't the last win this season for that team.  Next week, the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Dover International Speedway for the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks.  The race will be the final race for FOX's NASCAR coverage, and can be seen on Sunday at 12:30.

Courtesy Getty Images

No comments:

Post a Comment