Sunday, September 26, 2021

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Kasey Kahne seizes opportunity on restart, clinches Chase spot

Kasey Kahne will be one of the drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup as he sealed his chase birth by scoring the victory in the Oral-B USA 500. It marks the 17th victory of Kahne’s career and his first of the 2014 season.

“It took a lot,” he noted. “We were kind of all over the place throughout the race but the guys stayed with me, worked hard. I kept getting good restarts and it worked out well tonight. We’re in the Chase and get to race now.”

On a late race caution for Keselowski getting into the outside wall after contact from Denny Hamlin. Kahne would come off pit road in third behind Hamlin and Harvick.

“Just hate to say it, but one of those racing deals,” Keselowski said afterwards. “You have slow cars pitting, fast cars pitting and unfortunately rather than follow the slow car on to pit road, the 11 decided to try and take the middle lane to pit road and we made contact.”

Kahne would follow Hamlin through on the bottom of the track on the restart, before getting alongside him and passing him with 23 laps to go. Kahne looked to have victory in sight when the caution flew with two laps to go when Kyle Busch would dump Martin Truex Jr. in turn one; the pair would discuss their contact post-race. The leaders would head down pit road, with Kenseth and Menard taking two tires while Hamlin, Harvick, Kahne and the rest took four tires.

The first attempt at a green-white-checkered brought forth contact as Menard didn’t get going on the outside, so Harvick gave him a bump to get him going. Things would jam up with Harvick and Menard getting four-wide with Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch. Menard would keep sliding up the track, getting into Harvick, resulting in Harvick making contact with the outside wall.

“I mean the 20 (Kenseth) and the 27 (Menard) had two tires and you knew they weren’t going to get a good restart,” Harvick noted. “I got to the outside as soon as I can but the 22 got up there and the 27 kept coming up till there was no room. At that point, nobody is going to give.”

The second attempt at a green-white-checkered would work out successfully for Kahne as he split through Kenseth and Hamlin before clearing Kenseth coming to the white flag. Kahen then led the final lap en route to victory lane.

“I think our car started really bad, really loose and then we adjusted it and got it at the end,” Kahne commented. “It was all adjustments – all what we did, communicated and Kenny made the right call at the end with the strategy. It was a team effort. The guys did everything they needed to do tonight.”

Matt Kenseth would finish second to lock his Chase birth based on points as he is more than 48 points ahead of the last driver.

“I had a really good restart the first time because Paul (Menard) was in there and the 5 (Kahne) and 4 (Harvick) were stuck on the top,” Kenseth said. “The second one was okay, spun the left rear a little bit and the 5 got up the middle. I had him cleared, but someone how he had the momentum to get back by me.”

Denny Hamlin would finish third after leading 37 laps of the night and having the strongest pit crew on pit road.

“We couldn’t accelerate with those guys, but we still missed a little on the setup halfway,” Hamlin said. “We lost the handle a little once it got dark and cooled off. The pit crew kept knocking it off and giving me the opportunity, but I couldn’t capitalize. We tried to get up there but just couldn’t stay with the 5 when he went.”

Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards would round out the top-five, while Danica Patrick would score her career-best finish with a sixth.

“Man, that race felt like it was 700 miles and because of when you’re running well, you hope you don’t lose it,” she commented post-race. “We lost it a little at the end – but were able to gain it back at the end and get up there. we had a good line for that restart on the inside so we didn’t get caught up on the outside. Really happy for the team as we’ve had good cars but haven’t had the finishes to show for it.”

Ryan Newman finished seventh, followed by Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano. Points leader Jeff Gordon finished 17th after getting into the wall early in the race due to a flat left front tire. Gordon now leads Earnhardt by 21 points.

Tony Stewart was making his first start since the tragic events near the beginning of August and would see his night end early, finishing 41st. Stewart got involved in an incident at lap 122 when Kyle Busch would run him up into the fence, before blowing a tire and hitting the wall to end his night at lap 173. Aric Almirola also suffered a short night following a blown motor early in the night.

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