CONCORD, N.C. – Kasey Kahne made it a Charlotte sweep Saturday night, backing up his Coca-Cola 600 victory in May with a win in the Bank of America 500.
Kahne passed Jimmie Johnson just after a restart on Lap 307 and pulled away from there to score his Nextel Cup Series-leading sixth victory of the season on a night when Jeff Burton fought his way to a third-place finish to give him a little bit of breathing room atop the Chase for the Nextel Cup standings.
Johnson had won four straight races at this track before finishing second behind Kahne in the Coca-Cola 600 this May, and his pit crew got him the lead on their final stop after a caution for Jeff Gordon’s blown engine.
But Kahne swept past Johnson just more than a lap after the green and was in command the rest of the way.
“We just had a great car,” Kahne said. “It was unbelievable all night. The engine was awesome. It’s hard to win a race Ray Evernham hasn’t won as a car owner or crew chief, and we got one tonight.”
Johnson finished second, meaning he has finished in the top three in eight straight points races at this 1.5-mile track.
“We got down a lap and got back in the middle of it,” Johnson said. “We’re going in the right direction.”
Burton had several moments of near panic in his No. 31 Chevrolet, falling a lap down after stalling his car on pit road and then fearing he had a loose wheel after the last restart. But the vibration in Burton’s car didn’t get any worse, and he managed to pass Dale Earnhardt Jr. to wind up third as Chase drivers swept the top four spots and five of the top six, with Kyle Busch finishing behind fifth-place Bobby Labonte.
Matt Kenseth, who came into the race six points back in the Chase, never made it all the way back from losing a lap early in the race and finished 14th. Mark Martin, 10 points behind Burton when the race started, was running well until he collided with J.J. Yeley on Lap 240 and slammed the wall, dooming him to a 30th-place finish.
That leaves Burton with a 45-point lead over Kenseth, with Kevin Harvick, who finished 18th, 89 points back. Martin fell to 102 points behind, with Earnhardt Jr. 106 back.
“We did a good job tonight,” Burton said. “I cost us a chance to win leaving the pits, but we fought back from that. I am little frustrated with myself right now. It’s great to be leading, we’re halfway through. We did a nice job recovering tonight.”
Things started shaking early. The leaders were just starting Lap 2 when Robby Gordon’s No. 7 Chevrolet got loose in the middle of the pack, sending cars sliding and slashing into each other all around him.
Rookie Denny Hamlin, fifth in the Chase when the night began, got heavy damage in that incident and came to the garage for repairs.
All told, there were 14 cars involved to some degree, but Hamlin was the only Chase driver to get a piece of it.