Jeff Gordon had the inside line, a lead and his first win of the season in sight, usually a sure thing for Pocono’s top winner.
Kasey Kahne was about out of time to pass his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
“It was either to go for it and make it work,” Kahne said. “Or not.”
Cruising from the outside, Kahne got the jump he needed, zipped past Gordon and pulled away with two laps left Sunday to win at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.
“I about gave it away when Jeff got by me,” Kahne said.
Kahne recovered in the No. 5 Chevrolet for his second victory of the season, all but securing his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He had the car to beat for the final half of the 400-mile race until a late caution bunched up the field.
Gordon nudged past Kahne after some thrilling two-wide racing and seemed poised to win at Pocono for the seventh time. After the final caution, Kahne was simply too fast, too strong to be denied his first win at Pocono since 2008.
So close to the checkered, this loss stung Gordon. Even worse, his runner-up finish came on his 42nd birthday in his 42nd career Pocono start.
“I thought all I needed to do was get in here and get to the bottom and I’d be good,” Gordon said. “He got a killer run and blasted by on the outside of me. Caught me by surprise. It just kills your momentum.”
Kurt Busch, who also celebrated a birthday, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five. The top five cars were Chevrolets.
Busch helped out Kahne with one final push down the frontstretch for some needed speed.
“That was kind of the race at that point,” Kahne said. “Once I cleared (Gordon) getting into two, from there it was just, don’t make a mistake and try to run the quick lap on the last one.”
Kahne, Gordon and Earnhardt made it an outstanding race for Hendrick. Teammate and series points leader Jimmie Johnson was 13th after a blown tire knocked him out of the lead.
Charlie Kimball slipped by Simon Pagenaud with 18 laps remaining and pulled away to win the Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Raceway in Lexington, Ohio.
Racing in a backup car after wrecking in practice Saturday morning, Kimball beat Pagenaud to the finish line by more than 5 seconds for his first career IndyCar victory.
Pagenaud held on for second. Dario Franchitti was third, followed by Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Points leader Helio Castroneves rallied from 15th to sixth. Scott Dixon’s bid to win a fourth straight race never materialized. He finished seventh.
Kimball, a diabetic in his third season with Chip Ganassi Racing, had only led 15 laps in his IndyCar career before dominating after taking the lead from Hunter-Reay a third of the way through the 90-lap event.