UPS Game-Changing Moments: Pocono
August 04, 2013, Staff report, NASCAR.com
Moments that changed the course of the race at the Tricky Triangle
KAHNE MAKES WINNING PASS ON FINAL RESTART
Taking advantage of a late caution, Kasey Kahne buried his car into Turn 1 with two laps left and grabbed a win from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon in Sunday’s GoBowling.com NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway.
Kahne picked up his second victory of the season--all but assuring a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup--his second at Pocono and the 16th of his career.
Gordon ran second, 1.392 seconds behind, followed by Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano came home sixth and seventh, with Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle completing the top 10.
Kahne gained one position to eighth in the Cup standings, but, more than anything, the second victory gives him a substantial degree of comfort where the Chase is concerned, given that no driver in contention for a wild card spot currently has more than one win.
Kahne made the winning pass to the outside of Gordon through Turn 1 and cleared his teammate near the entry to the Tunnel Turn at the 2.5-mile triangular track.
“On that final restart, I spun my tires a little bit and he (Gordon) got a great jump, and Kurt pushed me all the way to Turn 1, which really helped,” Kahne said. “I had one opportunity to either go for it and make it work or not. As good as our (car) was all day long, I thought we could make that work on the outside. I just needed to clear him, and when we got to Turn 2, I was able to do that."
JOHNSON CRASHES OUT OF THE LEAD
Pole winner Jimmie Johnson was one of the speed horses in the field, but the series leader blew a right front tire on Lap 76 and pancaked the right side of his No. 48 Chevrolet SS against the outside wall near the exit from the Tunnel Turn.
The accident knocked Johnson, who had led 43 laps to that point, out of contention for the win, but it took a subsequent caution on Lap 95 -- after David Stremme sideswiped the Turn 1 wall -- to return all the lead-lap cars to the same pit stop cycle.
SLOW STOP CURTAILS KURT’S CHANCES
The field was bunched for a restart on Lap 116, but that was merely a momentary speed bump for Kahne, who pulled away from Kurt Busch to a lead of 4.851 seconds by Lap 125. The driver of the No. 5 Chevy extended his advantage through a cycle of green-flag stops and was more than seven seconds ahead of Gordon when NASCAR called the eighth caution on Lap 149 because of debris in Turn 2.
A slow, late pit-stop cost Kurt Busch time that prevented him from getting his first win with his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team.
“Yeah, I felt like our last pit stop wasn't ‑‑ it wasn't great, and maybe it was a little less than average, so it put us behind the 24 and the 39,” Busch said. “I was trying to hustle as much as I could on those fresh tires to get in front of those guys, and it didn't materialize. So when you're pushing hard early and then you get stuck behind guys, it just adds to some of the ill‑handling of the car.
“So, yeah, I mean, this is a game where you have to be perfect, and getting on and off pit road is my duty and the time that we spend in the box is the pit crew's, and we win as a team and we finish third as a team.”
Gordon and Kurt Busch finished second and third on their respective 42nd and 35th birthdays. Only three drivers -- Cale Yarborough (twice), Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth -- have won Sprint Cup races on their birthdays.
The NASCAR Wire Service contributed to this report.