LONG POND, Pa. — Jeff Gordon had the inside line, a lead and his first win of the season in sight, usually a sure thing for Pocono’s top winner.
Kasey Kahne was about out of time to pass his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
“It was either to go for it and make it work,” Kahne said. “Or not.”
Cruising from the outside, Kahne got the jump he needed, zipped past Gordon and pulled away with two laps left Sunday to win at Pocono Raceway.
“I about gave it away when Jeff got by me,” Kahne said.
Kahne recovered in the No. 5 Chevrolet for his second victory of the season, all but securing his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He had the car to beat for the final half of the 400-mile race until a late caution bunched up the field.
Gordon nudged past Kahne after some thrilling two-wide racing and seemed poised to win at Pocono for the seventh time. But after the final caution, Kahne was simply too fast and too strong to be denied his first win at Pocono since 2008.
So close to the checkered, this loss stung Gordon. Even worse, his runner-up finish came on his 42nd birthday in his 42nd career Pocono start.
“I thought all I needed to do was get in here and got to the bottom and I’d be good,” Gordon said. “He got a killer run and blasted by on the outside of me. Caught me by surprise. It just kills your momentum.”
Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five — all Chevrolets. Busch helped Kahne with one final push down.
“That was kind of the race at that point,” Kahne said. “Once I cleared (Gordon), from there it was just, ‘Don’t make a mistake, and try to run the quick lap on the last one.’ ”
Kahne, Gordon and Earnhardt made it an outstanding race for Hendrick. Teammate and series points leader Jimmie Johnson was 13th after a blown tire knocked him out of the lead.
Kahne had stretched his lead to almost 8 seconds when a caution for debris came out with 12 laps left. Gordon, who won at Pocono each of the past two years, was strong in the No. 24 and had the lead as he tried to extend his record for career wins at Pocono.
Matt Kenseth spun with four laps left to erase Gordon’s lead and set up the thrilling finish. Gordon led again until Kahne ran him down with a hard, sweeping run past his teammate for the win.
“We had them. We certainly had the position,” Gordon said. “I’m pretty disappointed I let him get inside of me.”
Kahne also won this season at Bristol. He jumped a spot to eighth in the points standings and needed a win to make sure he’d at least qualify for a wild-card spot should he fall below 10th place. Kahne was third last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and seems to be heating up with five races left until the Chase field is set. With two wins, he’d also be closer to Johnson and Kenseth once the points are reset when Chase field is set.
KIMBALL WINS AT MID-OHIO: In Lexington, Ohio, Charlie Kimball slipped by Simon Pagenaud with 18 laps remaining and pulled away to win the Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Racing in a backup car after wrecking in practice Saturday morning, Kimball beat Pagenaud to the finish line by more than 5 seconds for his first IndyCar victory.
Pagenaud held on for second. Dario Franchitti was third, followed by Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Points leader Helio Castroneves rallied from 15th to sixth. Scott Dixon’s bid to win a fourth straight race never materialized. He finished seventh.
Kimball, a diabetic in his third season with Chip Ganassi Racing, had only led 15 laps in his IndyCar career before dominating after taking the lead from Hunter-Reay a third of the way through the 90-lap event. Kimball led a race-high 46 laps in all, including the final 18 after he roared by Pagenaud.
IndyCar extended the length of the annual visit to the technically demanding 2.258-circuit by an additional five laps this year, hoping it wouldn’t turn into a parade where the winner is determined by who massages the best fuel mileage out of their cars.
Copyright © 2014, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved