Kasey Kahne (5) leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 on Sunday in Bristol, Tenn. (AP Photo)
Food City 500 results
BRISTOL, Tenn. — On a day when front-runners were unable to avoid trouble at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kahne was able.
Kasey Kahne broke away from Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski on the final restart with 40 laps remaining in Sunday's Food City 500 and cruised to victory from there. Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five.
“Feels really good to win at this place, such a tough track for me over the years,” Kahne said. “This is a big race for me. I just feel like when you’re racing in the Sprint Cup Series, Bristol is a track that you feel like you have to win at.
“There are just so many things that are thrown at you, it’s such a big confidence builder to win at Bristol Motor Speedway.”
The win was Kahne’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup win in Bristol and the 15th of his career, and it came after several close calls over the years. He has routinely run up front at BMS only to see his bid for a victory ended by some sort of misfortune.
But on St. Patrick’s Day, Kahne seemed to have the luck of the Irish in his corner as contenders fell by the wayside while the race unfolded, leaving him cruising comfortably out front as the final laps ticked away.
Kahne caught his last and most significant break on the final restart when leader Keselowski was nudged from behind as he tried to get up to speed, which caused the driver of the No. 2 Dodge to spin his tires.
“I just know my rear tires were off the ground before I got to the restart zone,” said Keselowski, who left Bristol as the points leader with his third-place finish. “Eventually I got hit so hard it pushed my foot in the gas pedal, made myself look like an ass. That was the deal, never got another chance."
With Keselowski and Kyle Busch locked into a battle for second, Kahne drove off into the sunset.
“I felt like we had a good restart that last restart, and I got the lead,” Kahne said. “From there it was just getting momentum and trying to get away.”
Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth all dominated different stages of Sunday’s race, but none of them could seal the deal. Hamlin led 117 laps, the most of anyone, but mechanical problems eventually doomed the No. 11 team from Joe Gibbs Racing.
Hamlin battled with a loose wheel just before the 200-lap mark, forcing him to surrender the lead to Kahne. Hamlin stayed near the front for most of the day, even after an incident that sent former JGR teammate Joey Logano spinning into the wall in turn two on lap 349.
But in the final laps, Hamlin faded when an apparent suspension problem slowed his car and sent him spiraling to a 23rd-place result. Logano found Hamlin in the pits following the race, and a physical altercation ensued between Logano and Hamlin’s crew after Logano stuck his head into Hamlin’s car to have some words.
“He said he was coming for me,” Hamlin said. “I usually don’t see him (on the track), so it’s usually not a factor.”
Hamlin blamed Logano for a lack of car control and added that the recent round of exchanges the two drivers have had on Twitter didn’t have anything to do with what happened in turn two on Sunday.
“You’ve really got to control your car and he slipped up into me,” Hamlin said. “I meant to run into him, I didn’t mean to spin him out. We finished bad and he finished bad. It’s even.”
“It’s Bristol, but it’s ridiculous,” Logano said after finishing 17th. “I understand the way he races me now that he’s not my teammate, and I’m going to race him the same way.”
Runner-up Kyle Busch is a teammate to Hamlin and a former teammate of Logano’s, but he didn’t seem eager to weigh in on the spat after the race.
“I love Joey. I think he’s a good little racer. He works really hard, too, but I have no comment on it because I didn't see any of the first incident and I didn't see anything afterward,” Busch said. “It’s just a little disheartening that we can’t all get along.”
During the middle stages of Sunday's race, Gordon and Kenseth appeared to be among the favorites to win. Kenseth led 85 consecutive laps at one point before Gordon used a gamble on pit road to take the lead for 66 straight laps. As it turned out, however, Gordon’s gamble ended up costing both drivers.
Gordon opted to change only his left-side tires on a pit stop under caution on lap 323, leaving the right-side tires on his car in exchange for good track position.
The move appeared to pay off. The No. 24 Chevy stayed up front in the lead, but when Gordon went low into turn three to pass a lapped car on lap 390, his right-front tire blew, and he crashed into the outside wall. Gordon’s car also collected Kenseth, who was racing Gordon for the lead and had nowhere to go but into the back of the 24.
“We were setting sail,” Gordon said. "The right fronts never blow out when you are up against the wall, but I drove down to the bottom to pass the No. 32 car and as soon as I got into the banking, I felt the right front go.
“I really hate that we collected Matt Kenseth into that. He had a great car.”comments powered by Disqus