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Kahne Clinches Chase Berth With Win In Atlanta

Kahne Clinches Chase Berth With Win In Atlanta

by September 1, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Wayne Thomas

HAMPTON, Ga. – Kasey Kahne is now locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup after winning the Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night.

With only two more opportunities to make the Chase, Atlanta Motor Speedway’s final Labor Day event was building up to be not only an exciting weekend, but a historic one that featured many headlines.

Tony Stewart made his return to competition for the first time since the accident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park that took the life of sprint car driver, Kevin Ward Jr. Just before the start of the Oral-B USA 500, Stewart and his team joined arms as one big family, prayed and prepared for the long night ahead. After starting 12th, Stewart quickly made his way into the top-five. On lap 121, Kyle Busch made contact with Stewart, putting him into the wall in the exit of turn two, and then on lap 173, the caution flew for Stewart who blew a right front tire. The damage ended Stewart’s night.

“The Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet was pretty fast today,” Tony Stewart’s crew chief, Chad Johnston said. “We made some pretty good progress there at the start, starting 12th. Drove up into the top five and thought we had a pretty good chance. We were just kind of biding our time and taking care of our stuff and got into an incident there off of (turn) two and knocked the tow out of it and had some pretty heavy right side damage. We ended up blowing a right-front (tire) because of it. Not the end of the day that we wanted. We thought we had a shot at winning and with two races to go to get into the Chase this was one of the two chances obviously left to get it done and to get into the Chase. We will just have to lick our wounds and go onto Richmond and see if we can’t do it there and if so it will be pretty exciting.”

After eight cautions, the race appeared as if Kasey Kahne was going to cruise to victory, but the caution came out just before the white flag when Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. tangled in turn one. Busch got into the back of Truex Jr., sending both of them hard into the outside wall.

“We had handling issues all night — couldn’t drive off the corners,” Truex Jr. said. “But we hung in there, fighting for every possible position until Kyle (Busch), for whatever reason, ran into the back of me, causing pretty good damage to our car. I passed him clean earlier and then he comes back and hits me from behind. It was totally uncalled for and hard to figure out why he did what he did. We were in the top-15 when that happened and had a chance of picking off a few more positions.”

During pit stops, Matt Kenseth and Paul Menard took two tires. On the green-white-checkered restart, Paul Menard was slow to take off and his Richard Childress Racing teammate, Kevin Harvick got a huge jump on the outside. Before the two drivers exited the tri-oval, Joey Logano was on the outside of Harvick, making it a tight situation. Eventually out room, the three drivers collided, sending everyone scrambling and bringing out the caution, once again.

“We all probably could have given each other more room,” Harvick said. “I knew the No. 27 (Paul Menard) was going to get a bad restart and I tried to time it to where I could get on the outside of him. I got on the outside of him and he just kept coming up and I wasn’t going to let off the gas; I knew the No. 22 (Joey Logano) was up there. The No. 27 kept coming up and just came up until we all wrecked.”

On the second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin led the field down for the green flag. Kasey Kahne quickly jumped to the race lead and was able to hold off Matt Kenseth. The victory marked Kahne’s first win and 10th top-10 finish of the 2014. Kasey Kahne has now made the Chase all three years since he has been with Hendrick Motorsports.

“Yeah, we are locked in and I hate it comes down to this Atlanta or Richmond just about every year for me,” Kahne said. “Sometimes we are in, sometimes we are out. But thankful that now at HMS (Hendrick Motorsports) I have been in all three years now. We have the pressure all the way to Richmond, but we made it again, thankful for that. Thankful for Mr. H (Hendrick), Kenny Francis, Chris Spaulding (engineer), the guys did a nice job. Friday we started terrible, came back Saturday and ran really good, and then raced pretty well tonight at times. Glad we got those restarts because those were tough and that is where it paid off for sure.”

Matt Kenseth, who has yet to win this season, clinched a Chase berth following the runner-up finish. It was his 16th top-10 finish so far this season. Kenseth jumps two spots to third in the point standings.

“That was the goal, to have all three JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars in the Chase and we were able to accomplish that,” Kenseth said. “The ultimate goal is for one of us to be able to win the championship. I feel like we’re gaining on it. I’m not a huge believer in momentum, but yet I feel like everyone is really clicking together and working well together and the stops are good. I feel like we’re doing everything right right now, we just need a little more speed to be able to start getting those wins.”

Finishing behind Kahne and Kenseth, followed Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards, who rounded out the top-five.

Danica Patrick fought hard all night and posted her highest career finish after crossing the line in the sixth position.

“It was a long night. Man, that race felt like it was 700 miles,” Patrick said. “Sometimes when you are running well they feel like that because you are hoping it stays there, keeps going well, and you keep improving and don’t lose it. There were definitely a couple of times late in the race when we fell back. In the middle of the race the car was very good. We took a little step back, and then it came back in the end. Tony Gibson just reset everything to where we were when we were running well. Obviously the pit stop at the end that was 11 seconds was so good.”

The final race before the Chase will take place on Saturday, September 6th at Richmond International Raceway. Coverage of the Federated Auto Parts 400 begins at 7:30 p.m. on ABC and the Motor Racing Network (MRN).

Oral-B USA 500 Results:
1.) #5 Kasey Kahne
2.) #20 Matt Kenseth
3.) #11 Denny Hamlin
4.) #48 Jimmie Johnson
5.) #99 Carl Edwards
6.) #10 Danica Patrick
7.) #31 Ryan Newman
8.) #42 Kyle Larson
9.) #43 Aric Almirola
10.) #16 Greg Biffle
11.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12.) #1 Jamie McMurray
13.) #41 Kurt Busch
14.) #22 Joey Logano
15.) #55 Brian Vickers
16.) #18 Kyle Busch
17.) #24 Jeff Gordon
18.) #27 Paul Menard
19.) #4 Kevin Harvick
20.) #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
21.) #7 Michael Annett
22.) #13 Casey Mears
23.) #78 Martin Truex Jr.
24.) #3 Austin Dillon
25.) #33 Ty Dillon
26.) #51 Justin Allgaier
27.) #34 David Ragan
28.) #38 David Gilliland
30.) #26 Cole Whitt
31.) #40 Landon Cassill
32.) #32 JJ Yeley
33.) #98 Josh Wise
34.) #66 Brett Moffitt
35.) #23 Alex Bowman
36.) #83 Ryan Truex
37.) #77 Joe Nemechek
38.) #15 Clint Bowyer
39.) #2 Brad Keselowski
40.) #47 AJ Allmendinger
41.) #14 Tony Stewart
43.) #37 Mike Bliss

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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