Kasey Kahne may have lost the pole in today's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 to Kyle Busch by three thousandths of a second, but he made sure to be in the top spot when it really mattered.
Kahne held off a late charge from Denny Hamlin to take his first career win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, picking up his second Sprint Cup Series win of the season, as well.
With the victory, Kahne now holds the first wild-card spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, a full rebound from nearly falling out of the top 35 in owners' points at the beginning of the season. In a post-race interview, Kahne acknowledged that the weekend was a strong one for him and his crew:
"(Crew chief) Kenny Francis did a great job. We ran in the top five the whole race, but Denny was obviously the best car...We just had to battle hard throughout the whole race...We had good pit strategy, got the track position, and we were able to lead those final laps there.” (via speedwaymedia.com)
Kahne had spent the majority of the race between second and fourth. After winning the race off of pit road during the third and final caution, he managed to lead the final 66 laps of the event, 62 of which came under green flag conditions.
According to Pete Pistone of cbssports.com, Kahne acknowledged his good fortune: "Track position was pretty big...When we got two tires I was feeling pretty good about where we were at...If (Hamlin) was to keep the track position I would have never passed him."
Hamlin had been dominant for the majority of the race, inheriting the point when Kyle Busch took an early speeding penalty on pit road and remaining there for 150 of the race's 301 laps.
But due to a miscommunication with crew chief Darian Grubb, Hamlin took four tires on his final pit stop and fell to 13th in the running order.
Despite shaving the interval to under a second in the race's final laps, Hamlin wasn't fast enough to regain the point. He overdrove the car into the fourth turn on the penultimate lap, ending his mad dash for the victory.
"We made our bed by taking those four tires," Hamlin lamented. "Darian wanted to take two. I told him I just needed tires and that was it. He took it that I needed four tires. It was just a little miscommunication (via The Telegraph at www.macon.com).
Kahne now ranks 12th in the Sprint Cup standings, holding the primary wild-card spot by virtue of his pair of victories. Hamlin, meanwhile, jumped from seventh in points to fifth, gaining 13 points on championship leader Matt Kenseth.
Kenseth now leads second place Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the overall standings by 16 points.
The Sprint Cup Series will take next weekend off before starting a 17-weekend run of events with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 29.