You can’t always bet that the most dominant car is going to win any race. Kasey Kahne proved that Sunday night in the Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kevin Harvick had the car to beat but Kahne got the better of him at the end.
A caution came out with about 30 laps to go when Brad Keselowski got into the back of Josh Wise. Denny Hamlin was about ready to pit and couldn’t get to pit lane as another car was slowing to let Hamlin go by which caused a bottleneck in that area. Wise slowed and Keselowski couldn’t avoid the collision.
On the restart, Hamlin and Harvick where on the front row, but Kasey Kahne started third and was able to get by Hamlin and Harvick on the restart for the race lead. He continued to lead until Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. had a scuffle on the racetrack. Busch got into the back of Truex which put them both into the outside wall. Busch then pushed Truex along the track with Truex hard on the brakes.
This set up the first green-white-checkered finish on the day. Matt Kenseth and Paul Menard would pit and each take two tires which put them at the front of the field. Hamlin, Harvick and Kahne each took four tires and Kahne would line up fifth. Menard didn’t get a good restart and Harvick attempted to get by him on the outside but Menard pushed him up the racetrack and caused damage to Harvick’s car along with Logano and another caution was thrown. That set up the second green-white-checkered finish with Kenseth and Hamlin on the front row and Kahne restarting third.
Kahne took it three-wide going into the first turn with Kenseth on the inside and Hamlin on the outside. There was a little bit of contact but Kahne was able to power through and got the lead and the win.
This was Kahne’s first win of the season and the fourth and final Hendrick Motorsports car to get into the Chase.
Kevin Harvick had a dominant day leading 195 of the 335 laps in the race. He would lose track position after every pit stop but would regain the lead when the field would get a few laps on the track.
Not even a squirrel on the track would slow down Harvick. Yes, a squirrel. It entered the track early in the race and Harvick nearly missed it. It would hang around for a few more laps but didn’t cause any more trouble for the drivers.
After getting caught up in a end-of-the-race accident, Harvick finished 19th.
Danica Patrick had the best race of her NASCAR career with a sixth place finish. She was in the top half of the running order for much of the contest.
Tony Stewart returned to racing on Sunday, but it didn’t turn out the way that he would have wanted. He was running in the top five for the beginning circuits of the race, but by lap 123 Kyle Busch got loose and traveled up the track and got into Stewart and both got into the outside wall. Stewart’s team tried to get the damage fixed to the right front wheel well but a tire would go down a few laps later and he would hit the wall hard which ended his night. Stewart finished 41st.
The top ten: Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Danica Patrick, Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola, and Greg Biffle.
The next race will be Saturday, Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Richmond International Raceway for the Federated Auto Parts 400 which will be the last regular season race before the Chase begins the following Sunday.