Monday, September 1, 2014

Kahne Clinches Chase Spot in Atlanta

Originally written for CLNS Radio.

Kasey Kahne won the Oral-B USA 500 from Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night to clinch a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Kahne had to survive a wild finish that included two green-white-checkered finishes, but he was able to get a good restart when it mattered.
Photo courtesy Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

“On those restarts, I didn’t know what would happen,” Kahne said.  “I had good restarts all night, and I struggle with restarts, so that’s big.”

Kahne said he started the weekend on the slow side, but that his team was able to adjust throughout the weekend to make his car faster.  Kahne also said he was excited to be in the Chase with his three Hendrick Motorsports teammates.

“We’ve had kind of a downer year at times…I’m pretty pumped to be here.”

Kevin Harvick started on the pole, and he dominated early and often throughout the race.  He led the first 83 laps, before Denny Hamlin took the lead during a round of pit stops under caution.

Hamlin led the field to the following restart, but Harvick worked his way back to the lead within 20 laps.  

Hamlin picked up the lead again following a caution on lap 117 for a spin by Ryan Truex.  

Hamlin led the field back to the green flag on lap 122, and he led until Marcos Ambrose blew an engine two laps later.

Under the lengthy caution, Matt Kenseth stayed out to take the lead. He led the field to the green flag on lap 135, but he could not hold off Kurt Busch, who took the lead on the next lap.

Kenseth took the lead again on lap 158, but gave the lead back to Harvick on lap 165.

Harvick pitted on lap 172, but the caution came out while he was on pit road.  Tony Stewart, making his return to racing following the death of Kevin Ward Jr. on August 9th, blew a right-front tire and hit the wall.

Kenseth and Harvick stayed out under the caution, and they led the field to the green flag on lap 180.  Three laps later, Harvick worked his way around Kenseth to take the lead.

The caution came out for debris on lap 209, and once again Harvick lost the lead on pit road.   Kenseth led the field to the green flag on lap 215.

Harvick took the lead again on lap 228, and he led until he pitted under green on lap 258.  While Harvick was on pit road, the caution came out for debris once again.

Harvick led the field to the green flag on lap 264, and he pulled away from the rest of the field.   When it looked like Harvick would run away with the victory, Brad Keselowski hit the wall while some drivers were making green flag pit stops.

Hamlin won the race off pit road, and he led the field back to the green flag.  Going through Turns 1 and 2, Kahne went high to take the lead, and Harvick followed.  

Kahne pulled away from Harvick, and it looked like he had wrapped up his Chase berth.  But with just two laps to go, Kyle Busch turned Martin Truex Jr. into the wall, sending the race into overtime.

Kenseth led the field to the green flag on the first green-white-checkered, and they only made it to Turn 1 before the caution came out once again.  Harvick was turned by Joey Logano and hit the outside wall.

Kenseth led the field back to the green flag on the second green-white checkered, and Kahne shot through the middle and raced Kenseth side-by-side for an entire lap.  Kahne finally cleared Kenseth and ran away to take the victory.

Unofficial results:

1. Kasey Kahne
2. Matt Kenseth
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Carl Edwards
6. Danica Patrick
7. Ryan Newman
8. Kyle Larson
9. Aric Almirola
10. Greg Biffle
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12. Jamie McMurray
13. Kurt Busch
14. Joey Logano
15. Brian Vickers
16. Kyle Busch
17. Jeff Gordon
18. Paul Menard
19. Kevin Harvick
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
21. Michael Annett
22. Casey Mears
23. Martin Truex Jr.
24. Austin Dillon
25. Ty Dillon
26. Justin Allgaier
27. David Ragan
28. David Gilliland
29. Reed Sorenson
30. Cole Whitt
31. Landon Cassill
32. J.J. Yeley
33. Josh Wise
34. Brett Moffitt
35. Alex Bowman
36. Ryan Truex
37. Joe Nemechek
38. Clint Bowyer
39. Brad Keselowski
40. AJ Allmendinger
41. Tony Stewart
42. Marcos Ambrose
43. Mike Bliss

It all comes down to next weekend when the Sprint Cup Series heads to Richmond International Raceway.  The Chase field will be set at the Federated Auto Parts 400 next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EST on ESPN.

Photo courtesy Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

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