Kasey Kahne grabs first NASCAR Sprint Cup win of 2013
After leading the most laps last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway only to run second to Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne felt he had something to prove on Sunday. And with Bristol Motor Speedway being the next stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, all the better, as Kahne had yet to win on the tough half-mile racetrack in East Tennessee.
And prove it he did. Kahne got the jump on Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin during the final restart of the Food City 500 and cruised, leading the final 40 laps to notch his first Cup victory on Bristolâs high banks.
âThis is a big race (win) for me,â Kahne said. âI just feel like when youâre racing in the Sprint Cup Series, Bristolâs one of those tracks that as a driver you really feel like you need to win at, you want to win at. There's so many things that are thrown at you when you come to this place.
âWe've been trying (to win at Bristol for) a long time. So to pull it off, I felt like it was a big accomplishment for our guys and myself. Just feel really good about it.â
Kahne, who led 109 laps, dueled with Hamlin at the front of the field throughout the afternoon. Keselowski joined the fray with less than 100 laps remaining and the trio swapped the point until Jimmie Johnson blew a tire to bring out the caution with 46 laps to go.
The nine cars at the front of the pack â led by Keselowski and Kahne â elected not to pit. When the green flag waved, Keselowski was bumped from behind by Hamlin, causing his No. 2 Ford to bobble. That momentary loss of traction was all Kahneâs Hendrick Motorsports Chevy needed.
Kahne held off the aggressive trio of Kyle Busch, Keselowski and Clint Bowyer for five laps, then pulled away to a 1.7-second victory. Busch, Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Bowyer rounded out the top 5.
âI just know my rear tires were off the ground before I got to the restart zone,â Keselowski said of the deciding restart. âEventually I got hit so hard it pushed my foot in the gas pedal. That was the deal. Never had another chance.â
The win was Kahneâs first of 2013 after stumbling out of the gate to 36th- and 19th-place finishes. Keselowskiâs third-place run was his fourth top 5 in four races this year. He leads in the point standings by nine over Dale Earnhardt Jr., who logged a sixth at Bristol.
As is typical in Bristolâs tight confines, it was a physical 500-mile affair. The race was slowed 10 times for cautions. The most notable came on lap 391, when Jeff Gordon blew a right front tire while leading. He collected second-place Kenseth in the process, ending each driverâs day.
Post-race fireworks erupted when Joey Logano had to be restrained from Hamlinâs parked No. 11 Toyota. Logano had been spun by his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate while the former ran second on lap 349.
âThatâs a freaking genius behind the wheel of the 11 car â probably the worst teammate I ever had, so I learned that now,â Logano said. âHe decided to run into the back of me â¦ I have a scorecard and Iâm not putting up with that. What goes around comes around.â
âHe said he was cominâ for me,â Hamlin stated, when asked what Logano said upon confronting him. âI usually donât see him (on the track), so itâs usually not a factor.
âItâs Bristol racing and everyone is fighting for the top. He knew he had to get to the top (groove) as soon as he could, but I was up there. I did mean to (hit him), but I didnât mean to wreck him. That was a mistake.â
Logano wasnât buying it.
âOh, OK, sure,â Logano said. âIf he didnât mean to wreck me he would have said he was sorry, but he didnât say that. Itâs just frustrating.â
The two drivers engaged in a war of words on Twitter following the Daytona 500, when Hamlin tweeted to Logano's Penske Racing teammate, Keselowski, that he was âsorry I couldnât get close to you (to draft) cuz your genius teammate was too busy messing up the inside lane 1 move at a time.â
The events at Bristol spilled over to the popular social media site once again.
Logano started the string of tweets, saying about their confrontation: âHey @dennyhamlin great job of protecting that genius brain of yours by keeping your helmet on.â
âWhyâs that â¦ what would you do?â replied Hamlin.
âShow you some love and appreciation.â
âLast time I checked he had my cell and direct message button to choose from if heâs got a problem,â Hamlin concluded. âOtherwise, hush little child.â