Long Pond, PA – Kasey Kahne fortified his hopes of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship after winning Sunday's 400-mile race at Pocono Raceway.
Kahne claimed his second win of the season after he passed his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, on a restart with just two laps to go. He crossed the finish line 1.4 seconds ahead of Gordon, who celebrated his 42nd birthday and was the defending race winner.
With 12 laps remaining, Kahne held a comfortable lead over Gordon, but a caution came for debris. After the restart with eight laps left, Gordon moved ahead of Kahne to take over the top spot. He began to pull away from Kahne before Matt Kenseth wrecked in turn 2, which forced the ninth and final caution and setup the two-lap shootout to the finish at this unique 2.5-mile triangular racetrack.
"I just knew it was two laps to go and whoever gets the lead and whoever gets clear is going to win the race," Kahne said. "I had some help from Kurt Busch. He pushed me down the frontstretch, and I just drove into (turn) 1 as far as I felt I could. I got some speed and momentum down the back and beat Jeff to turn 2.
"That was kind of the race at that point. Once I cleared him getting into 2, from there it was just don't make a mistake and try to run the quick lap on that last one."
Kahne earned his 16th career Sprint Cup victory. His first win this season came in March at Bristol. Kahne moved up to eighth in the point standings, as five races remain before the Chase begins.
"We needed this one to get into the Chase, and it feels really good," he said. "We have a strong team, and they're doing a great job."
Gordon also climbed one spot in the standings to ninth following his second- place run. The four-time series champion and six-time Pocono race winner has yet to score a victory this season.
"(Kahne) was super fast all day," Gordon said. "Those guys (Kahne's No. 5 team) deserved and earned that win today. We had them though. We certainly had the position. We got a good restart. I'm pretty disappointed that I allowed them to get to the outside of me down in (turn) 1. That is the advantage you have of being second. Just like the restart before that. I had a little bit of an advantage by being in second to get position on him."
Kurt Busch, who also had a birthday on Sunday, his 35th, finished third, while Ryan Newman, last weekend's race winner at Indianapolis, took the fourth spot. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fifth. Chevrolet swept the top-five positions, with Hendrick taking three of them.
Brad Keselowski, the defending Sprint Cup champion, finished sixth after winning Saturday night's Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway. Keselowski was the only driver who did the Pocono/Iowa combo this weekend.
Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle completed the top-10.
Jimmie Johnson started on the pole and dominated the first half of this race by leading 43 laps, but Johnson cut his right-front tire and slapped the wall on lap 77. The five-time series champion and current points leader made numerous pit stops for repairs and then rebounded nicely for a 13th-place finish. He had won at Pocono in June.
"I guess I hit the wall so hard that it knocked one of the wires off of the spark plugs, and I was running on seven cylinders," Johnson said. "We finally figured that out and got a new wire on it. Then the car ran good again.
"I don't know how with a damaged race car and all of the trouble that we went through today that we salvaged a 13th-place finish."
Kahne took command of the race after Johnson's incident, leading the most laps with 66.
Danica Patrick finished 35th after she was involved in an accident with Richard Childress Racing drivers Jeff Burton and Paul Menard. Patrick got loose and made contact with Travis Kvapil, which triggered the wreck. She was running 18th at the time of the incident.
"When someone is on the outside of you, it always makes you a little bit looser," Patrick said. "We were better off today than we have been a lot of other days."
Burton showed his frustration by slamming his fist on the hood of his damaged car when he climbed out of it. He finished 36th one week after he placed 43rd at Indianapolis.
"This is kind of how our year is going," Burton said. "We had a good car today, but we just kept getting into trouble and kept getting ourselves out of track position. When you're in the back like that, you're more likely to have things happen."
Patrick's boyfriend and fellow rookie competitor, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished one spot ahead of her in 34th after he was involved in a wreck with Juan Pablo Montoya and Kenseth on the opening lap.