"Kahne Kruisin"; Blows The Doors Off The Field at Pocono
Unstoppable. On a roll. Lucky. Call it whatever you want, but Kasey Kahne is on top of NASCAR right now and Sunday's race at Pocono proved it. Kahne had the dominant car all day and cruised to a relatively easy victory.
The start of the race was entirely uneventful, as drivers were feeling out their cars and seeing how the track was going to handle. The field got strung out and right as the first round of green-flag pit stops were about to begin, NASCAR threw one of their famed "phantom" debris cautions to bunch the field back up.
After the restart, Kurt Busch self-spun through the infield grass, bringing out the second caution of the day. Busch broke almost all the support rods for the front splitter, but his crew made repairs and had the Blue Duece back under way.
On lap 46, points leader Kyle Busch found big trouble coming off turn 4. Struggling to make his way through the field after starting the race at the back due to crashing his primary car in practice, Busch tangled with the #26 of Jamie McMurray. Busch thought he was clear of the 26, but caught the 26's front bumper as he was pulling in front of him, sending Busch into the outside wall. A frustrated Kyle Busch would end the day in 43rd position, taking a major hit in his points lead.
Apparently attempting to become a human pinball, Sam Hornish Jr. would find trouble all day. A part in not one, not two, but three seperate cautions, Hornish brought out the fourth caution of the day after tagging the #10 of Patrick Carpentier in turn 1. The very next caution would find those same two drivers involved again, as this time the tables were turned and Carpentier spun out Hornish in turn 1, this time taking David Gilliland with them. All three cars suffered damage, but not enough to end their days. On the ensuing pit stop, Kasey Kahne's pit crew had a miscue, as crew chief Kenny Francis called for a two-tire pit stop while pitting. The tire changers already had taken two lugnuts off the left front tire, so Kahne had to come back down pit road and change left sides as well.
After the melee in one, NASCAR would red-flag the race on lap 71 for rain with Jimmie Johnson in the lead. The short delay allowed drivers to catch their breath, and get refreshments before NASCAR lifted the red flag after about 15 minutes.
Following this red flag, the most violent crash of the day occurred on the frontstretch, involving Clint Bowyer and Juan Pablo Montoya. After spinning off turn 4, Bowyer was hit by Montoya, whose car burst into flame after the impact. Montoya quickly exited the car, and both driver's days were done.
On lap 106, Michael Waltrip would test the strength of the turn 1 wall and bring out the seventh caution of the day. Pit strategy would start coming into play, with several drivers including Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jeff Gordon pitting off-sequence from the main group of leaders, which included Kasey Kahne.
In his first race back in the Sprint Cup series since an injury in a Nationwide Series race at Talladega in the spring, Dario Franchetti would find trouble in turn 3 on lap 123. During pit stops, Greg Biffle, who had been having a fantastic run, had trouble on pit road. Biffle made contact with a pit crew member while exiting his pit stall, causing the crew member to slide across the hood. As if that wasn't enough, Michael McDowell added insult to injury as Biffle immediately hit him in the left side trying to merge into pit road traffic.
Franchetti would not stay out of trouble for long. Sam Hornish Jr, in his third accident of the day, took out the #40 in turn 1, and ironically, take David Gilliland with him yet again.
Once the green flag waved, pit strategy would unfold as both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon among others vowed to stay out and try to make it all the way on fuel. As long as the caution didn't wave, the Hendrick drivers looked to be in good shape as one by one the leaders hit pit road for their final stops of the day.
Carl Edwards would get nabbed for speeding on pit road, resulting in Edwards going from fighting for the lead to fighting to stay on the lead lap. Edwards would rebound nicely to finish in ninth position. Kasey Kahne, who had made his pit stop, was running down the leaders, but found himself way behind on the track.
The caution that the Hendrick boys didn't need came on lap 177 when Kyle Busch self-spun coming out of turn 2. Busch, who was driving a heavily repaired car, retired from the race afterwards.
This caution set up a 19-lap dash to the finish, with Team Red Bull driver Brian Vickers in 1st, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2nd, followed by Kasey Kahne with 10 lap fresher tires than both Vickers and Earnhardt. Kahne, who had the dominant car all day, made quick work of the leaders and pulled away to his second victory in the last three races. Vickers would finish second, Denny Hamlin 3rd, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 4th, and Jeff Burton in 5th. Rounding out the top 10 were Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, and Mark Martin.
Thanks to Kyle Busch's misfortune, Jeff Burton climbed to within 21 points of the Sprint Cup points lead. Dale Jr. is 145 out in third.
Next week the boys head to Michigan, where Ford usually has a strong showing. Kasey Kahne will be looking to continue his hot streak, and from his past performances at Michigan, it looks to be a great place to be.
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