Enumclaw, Wash. native Kasey Kahne may have locked himself into the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup 2009 with a win on Sunday night in Atlanta.
Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations
HAMPTON, GA -- Kasey Kahne saved his best for last Sunday night and won the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
A huge crowd, well over 100,000 and what most were calling the biggest crowd in many years at this track, was treated to great racing on a Labor Day Weekend.
In the last 50 laps alone, Juan Pablo Montoya led as did Kevin Harvick. A caution with less than 20 laps remaining set the stage for a final shootout.
Kahne, who figured he had a faster car on short runs, took the lead when the race was restarted with 11 laps to go and ran away from Harvick, who was second, and Montoya, who finished third. It was Kahne's second win this season. He put the Petty Enterprises/Gillette Budweiser Dodge in Victory Lane this summer at Infineon Raceway.
Rounding out the top 15 spots were David Reutimann, Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, David Stremme, Paul Menard and Robbie Gordon. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was 17th.
This race started with some of the drivers a little more nervous than normal for the start of the race. Just two races stood between them and the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup,auto racing's 10-race playoff for the championship.
The top 12 drivers qualify for The Chase after 26 races, and points are recalibrated amongst the qualifiers to separate them from the rest of the starting fields.
Martin, Vickers, Montoya, Kahne, Kenseth and Biffle were a few of the drivers who had to finish well to stay in the running for one of the 12 spots.
Pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr., streaked ahead throwing caution to the wind as he was not a contender for The Chase. Truex just wanted a win.
While Truex had a comfortable lead, others were racing hard, side-by-side and bumper-to-bumper back in the field. Waltrip slid against the third turn wall racing for position and Montoya was squeezing in and out of traffic like he was late for work.
At 20 laps, Truex held a one-and-a-half-second lead over Kahne. Gordon was third, Johnson fourth and Kyle Busch fifth.
They were followed by Hamlin, Vickers, Kurt Busch, Martin and Montoya in 10th, after starting back in 22nd spot.
Sam Hornish brought out the night's first caution when he spun off turn four on the 37th lap. He did not make contact with anybody or anything and was able to continue.
On the double-file shootout-style restart at lap 41, Kahne was out front in lieu of his pit crew's stellar work. Truex was second, followed by Gordon, Johnson, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Vickers, Martin, Kurt Busch and Montoya in 10th. Truex quickly regained the lead, and Gordon moved into second. Kahne, however, dusted Gordon for second one lap later.
Hornish went two for two in the caution category when a tire flew off his car on lap 61 in the tri-oval bringing out another caution.
Gordon probably welcomed this caution as his Chevy had dropped from third to 22nd during this run.
Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart this time with Truex and Johnson in tow.
Max Pappis punched the wall on lap 105 bringing out the caution again. After the restart on lap
Kyle Busch still had the lead on the restart at lap 108. Another caution on lap 131 for debris slowed the field once again.
Gordon took the lead on the 135th lap restart, trailed by Hamlin, Johnson, Kyle Busch, Montoya, Stewart, Logano, Kurt Busch, Martin and Vickers.
At the halfway point, Gordon was leading. Hamlin was second, followed by Harvick, Vickers, Earnhardt, Johnson, Martin, Montoya, Kahne and Reutimann. Stremme was was 11th and Kyle Busch 12th.