Kahne cruises to first win with Hendrick at Charlotte

Kasey Kahne won a Sprint Cup Series race for the first time as a Hendrick Motorsports driver on Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Kahne put on a dominating performance in the late-stages of NASCAR's longest race of the season -- the Coca Cola 600. He passed Denny Hamlin and took the lead for good with 68 laps remaining. Kahne finished 4.3 seconds ahead of Hamlin to claim his 13th win in his 300th career series start.

His most recent Sprint Cup victory came at Phoenix International Raceway last November when he drove for the now-defunct Red Bull Racing team. He has now won at Charlotte four times, including three in the 600-miler here.

Kahne became the 16th different driver from Rick Hendrick's team to win a Cup race. He joined the racing organization to replace Mark Martin in the No. 5 Chevrolet at the start of this season. Martin moved over to Michael Waltrip Racing to run a limited schedule this year.

"It feels really good," Kahne said. "It's so special and awesome to drive for Rick and [wife] Linda Hendrick. For them to make me a part of their company, it's unbelievable to drive for Hendrick Motorsports and be a part of everything they do. Our Hendrick engine was awesome tonight, and we had a brand new car that so many people put a lot of effort into."

Hamlin also finished second in Saturday's 300-mile Nationwide Series race at Charlotte.

Kyle Busch, who is Hamlin's teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, placed third, while Greg Biffle, the current points leader, took the fourth spot. Biffle led a race-high 204 laps but faded in the late-going.

"We were pretty dang good, but as the speeds picked up [as the racetrack cooled down], our car was down a little bit harder on the nose," Biffle said. "It just slid the front end up the racetrack, and I was driving for all I was worth...Kasey got good as the night fell, and we seemed to struggle a little bit."

Brad Keselowski bounced back from an early-race pit-road speeding penalty to finish fifth, while Kahne's teammates, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon placed sixth and seventh, respectively. Kevin Harvick, last year's Coca-Cola 600 winner, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth completed the top-10.

Jimmie Johnson, who gave Hendrick Motorsports its 200th win earlier this month at Darlington Raceway, finished one lap down in 11th after a pit-road penalty late in the race cost him a shot to win it. The five-time series champion was penalized when he left his pit stall with the gas can still attached to his car. He also won last weekend's non-points all-star race at Charlotte.

"We had couple of mistakes on pit road tonight, and that last one took us out of a chance for a top-three there," Johnson said. "It happens. Last week [in the all-star race], things couldn't have gone any better. Darlington went amazing, and this week, we had a few little issues."

Danica Patrick, who missed the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in seven years to compete in her third Sprint Cup race, finished five laps behind in 30th.

The 600-mile event at Charlotte, which ran at a record pace of 155.687 mph and completed in 3 hours, 51 minutes and 14 seconds, put an end to auto racing's biggest day of the year. Earlier in the day, Australian Mark Webber won the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix, and Scotsman Dario Franchitti claimed his third victory in the Indianapolis 500.

Franchitti's team owner, Chip Ganassi, arrived at Charlotte just past the halfway point in this race. His Sprint Cup drivers, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray, finished 20th and 21st in that order.

"The moment I walked into the [Sprint Cup] garage, people were high-fiving me," Ganassi said. "It's great to come down here and feel welcomed I tell you."

Biffle now holds a 10-point lead over his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Kenseth. Hamlin moved to within 16 points of Biffle, while Earnhardt Jr. fell 18 markers behind.

Kahne has steadily climbed up in the championship rankings. He sat 31st in points after the April 1 race at Martinsville Speedway but has rolled off six straight top-10 finishes since then, including the win at Charlotte, to move him up to 15th.

"We're gaining. We're making big strides," he said.

Fourteen races remain before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins.