Kasey Kahne is in the Chase.
Entering the Oral-B USA 500 directly on the bubble of the Chase for Sprint Cup on Sunday night, the 34-year-old was able to enter Victory Lane after an absolutely wild finish, effectively booking his spot in the top 16 and saving his season.
NASCAR's Twitter feed provided a look at the celebration:
Winner! https://t.co/Ni82demQqI— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 1, 2014
It has been a mostly disappointing year for Kahne, who started the night with zero wins and just two top-five finishes, but this will ease any of that pain.
He talked about the win afterward, via NASCAR on ESPN:
Kasey: "We were kind of all over the place during the race. The guys stayed with me and worked hard. ... Really happy."— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) September 1, 2014
Here's a look at the final leaderboard from Atlanta Motor Speedway:
|1||Kasey Kahne||Hendrick Motorsports|
|2||Matt Kenseth||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|3||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|4||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports|
|5||Carl Edwards||Roush Fenway Racing|
|6||Danica Patrick||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|7||Ryan Newman||Richard Childress Racing|
|8||Kyle Larson||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|9||Aric Almirola||Richard Petty Motorsports|
|10||Greg Biffle||Roush Fenway Racing|
Matt Kenseth finished second, but he won't mind too much, as he also clinched a spot in the Chase.
Here's a look at the updated standings:
|2||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||851||3|
NASCAR provided an update on the outlook of the Chase grid:
There are now 14 drivers locked into the Chase. Newman has a 42-point edge over 17th with Biffle 23 points ahead of Bowyer. Larson -24.— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) September 1, 2014
It was a fun 500 miles, but things got especially wild with 26 laps to go. Kevin Harvick led for a race-high 195 laps, but a wreck involving Brad Keselowski created a massive opportunity for Kahne, who took a stranglehold of the lead and appeared to be coasting to a victory that would have saved his year.
Of course, he only had that opportunity because of a mistake on pit road by Joey Logano's team. Fox Sports' NASCAR Twitter feed explained:
Kahne was cruising, but with just two laps remaining, heartbreak happened when Kyle Busch rammed Martin Truex Jr. to force another caution and another restart. Understandably, the latter wasn't exactly thrilled about how things went down, per ESPN and Fox Sports' NASCAR Twitter feeds:
Still, it was especially devastating for Kahne, who replaced four tires and came out of pit road in fifth place. Philip Jones provided his assessment:
If Kyle Busch found an entirely new way to screw Kasey Kahne, the pitchfork mob at JGR tomorrow... #NASCAR— Philip Jones (@philgoodstory) September 1, 2014
But there would be yet another change in the script, as a crash for Harvick forced another restart and another attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.
With a better position, Kahne took full advantage, passing Matt Kenseth for the crazy, bizarre and completely timely win.
Tony Stewart returned to the track for the first time since the tragic accident that took the life of driver Kevin Ward on August 9.
Stewart came out aggressive and ran as high as fourth place, but his night ended prematurely. He was forced into the wall by Busch on Lap 122, and later in the race, he blew a tire and went into the wall for a second time.
"I wish we could have had a better effort and a better finish for him," crew chief Chad Johnston told The Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "We'll go on to Richmond, and hope we can do better there."
Stewart completed just 170 laps on the night.
Drivers will now head to Richmond International Raceway for the Federated Auto Parts 400.
With one last opportunity to climb the standings or grab that all-important win to secure a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, there should be some incredibly captivating action in Virginia.
For Kahne, though, the pressure will be off.