KASEY KAHNE CRUISES IN CHARLOTTE
Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle led the most laps and finished fourth to retain his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points lead over Denny Hamlin (photo courtesy: John Harrelson, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)
After the last set of green flag pit stops cycled through, Kahne took the lead for the sixth time and led the final 44 laps en route to becoming the 16th different driver to win a Sprint Cup Series race for team owner Rick Hendrick.
“It feels really good," Kahne said. "It’s so special and awesome to drive for Rick and Linda Hendrick. For them to make me part of their company, this is an unbelievable to drive for Hendrick Motorsports and be part of everything they do there."
After a rough start to the season, Kahne has rebounded in the last several weeks - scoring six straight top 10s - and was finally able to put it all together to grab his third career win in NASCAR’s longest race and the 13th of his career.
"We are making big strides," said Kahne who led 65 of the final 68 laps. "I have the greatest teammates to work with. Which is something that I have really looked forward to coming to Hendrick Motorsports and being able to learn from Jimmie (Johnson), Jeff (Gordon) and Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) and see how they do things as well as Chad Knaus and all their crew chiefs (Alan) Gustafson and (Steve) Letarte they are all awesome guys and to learn from those guys, work with those guys is all I really wanted to do.”
The race was the fastest in the event’s history and completed in 3 hours, 51 minutes and 17 seconds.
Denny Hamlin, who did not pit on the last caution on Lap 325, led twice for 13 laps and finished 4.3 seconds behind Kahne.
"When we didn't take tires, we stayed out right there, Kasey got around us with tires," Hamlin said. "I knew I had to stay close to him, then try to short pit to minimize the distance for the last run. But ultimately we were going to short-pit them, but they short-pitted us."
Hamlin was driving one of the new cars in the Joe Gibbs Racing stable that crew chief Darian Grubb had input in building.
"We're going to hold our heads high today," Hamlin said. "We have a lot of stuff that we learned with our racecars. We're definitely making strides in the right direction."
Kyle Busch led 55 laps en route to a third-place finish to give JGR two cars in the top three.
"Overall, strong night, continues our running of good, strong finishes," Busch said. "To solidify yourself in the Chase, it's easier to get wins. We'd certainly love that. We'll take this. It's a learning day. Good car for notes that we can transfer into the fall here."
Greg Biffle led a race-high 204 laps and came home fourth.
“The same thing happened to us in the All-Star Race. It seemed like when the speeds picked up and it was cool out, our car just started sliding the tires a little bit," Biffle said. "We were super-good early. I can’t believe how fast we were, but the guys did a great job. We gained a little in points, but we really wanted to win.”
Brad Keselowski, who rebounded from a pit road speeding penalty as well as contact with Tony Stewart during an earlier stop, rounded out the top-five finishers.
“He (Tony Stewart) took the blame for it but I thought it was my fault," Keselowski said. "It’s one of those deals where you’re coming in and going out, it’s like being in a Wal-Mart parking lot and you’re both going for the same parking spot and sometimes things happen. We had a decent night. We didn’t make it easy on ourselves."
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, defending race winner Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth completed the top 10.
Jimmie Johnson finished 11th but had a chance to be in contention for the win wiped out when he was penalized for taking equipment (fuel can) out of his pit stall on the final stop of the race.
"Late in the race you just can’t recover," Johnson said. "So that’s lethal for your chances at a good finish. We had some little things happen earlier and I was able to rebound and work my way back up through there. But the last pit stop has got to be mistake-free.”
Biffle stills leads the points by 10 over Kenseth with Hamlin, Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson the first five. The Top 12 drivers in points after Race 26 qualify to contend for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, to be crowned in Miami on Nov. 18. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
Next up for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers is Dover on Sunday, June 3 (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX) en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 16-18). Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
--story provided by Motor Racing Network