Kahne Triumphs in New Hampshire
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on July 15, 2012 | 4:00 P.M. EST
Kahne celebrates his 14th career win. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne took over the lead in the wild card standings when he captured his second win of the season in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver scored his first victory at New Hampshire and the 14th of his Sprint Cup career holding off a hard charging Denny Hamlin at the finish.
“To be able to win two races now, and have a shot at the Chase, we're still definitely not in it, but we have a better shot now than we did," said Kahne in Victory Lane.
“Kenny Francis (crew chief) did a great job. We ran in the top five the whole race, but Denny was obviously the best car.”
Hamlin led 150 laps and appeared to have things in control for a third win of the season. But a late race miscommunication between Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb to take four tires rather than two cost the team several spots and dropped the No. 11 FedEx Toyota to 13th place.
Although Hamlin put on a furious charge to get back to the front of the field, he eventually ran out of laps trying to rundown Kahne.
“I was definitely focused on the lapped cars,” Kahne said. “I was getting pretty loose. Denny was coming on four. I was paying attention to where he was. I felt pretty good with the lead we had.”
Hamlin was disappointed but took the turn of events in stride.
“It was just a miscommunication,” said Hamlin. “We still had a shot to win. If we’re not wrecking, it seems like we’re in contention every single week. That’s all I can ask for. I’m very, very pleased with where we’re at right now.” (Read More on Hamlin)
Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman completed the first ten finishers.
Gordon, who needs wins in order to make the Chase as a wild card, and crew chief Alan Gustafson, tried some early strategy when they didn’t pit with the leaders under caution. While it gained the No. 24 car some track position, Gordon eventually fell back in the field but did come home with a sixth place finish.
Gordon accepted the gamble by his crew chief but was less than pleased with the tire situation at New Hampshire.
“It was a risk,” said Gordon. “That is the position that we are in right now we’ve got to take those kinds of risks. It didn’t work out, but it wasn’t that bad. I think we feel back to third or fourth. We were still about where we were prior to that. I don’t know we just really didn’t keep up with the track.
"This tire, I tell you, Goodyear has got to go back to the drawing board. They came here with a new tire and it is not a very good tire. I think they know it. I’m hoping that they that they can come up with something a little bit better than this.”
Kahne and Kyle Busch, who started from the pole Sunday but finished 16th, lead the wild card standings with seven races remaining in the regular season.
Busch led the first 66 laps of the race but then suffered some pit road issues of his own with a miscue and a speeding penalty adding to his day of frustration.
Matt Kenseth’s point lead is 16th over Earnhardt Jr. with Biffle, Johnson and Hamlin the top five.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes its final weekend off before returning to action on July 29th with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.