Kahne, Johnson and Earnhardt finish in top seven at Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS - Kasey Kahne rebounded from a late-race stall on pit road to chase down leader Matt Kenseth, but was unable to complete the pass and scored his third career runner-up result at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS led a race-high 114 laps in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 and edged Kenseth’s lead to a fraction of a second on the final lap before the race concluded.
Kahne was joined in the top 10 by teammates Jimmie Johnson (sixth) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (seventh). Jeff Gordon crossed the line 25th.
Here is how each team fared on Sunday:
Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS
Race finish: Second.
Recap: Kasey Kahne lined up fourth for Sunday’s race after Friday’s qualifying session was canceled due to rainfall, and the starting lineup was determined by the 2012 owner points. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet was contesting for the lead within the first eight laps and used a move to the bottom to win the top spot from Brad Keselowski on Lap 10. Kahne led the next 34 laps before pitting under green-flag conditions and returning to the track to climb back into the No. 1 spot on Lap 49. Kahne led twice for another 25 laps before teammate Jimmie Johnson slipped by to claim the top spot on Lap 75. At Lap 100, Kahne was running second when he reported to his team the No. 5 Chevy was experiencing a loose-handling condition in Turns 3 and 4. He slipped to third, but the issue resolved itself and Kahne was leading the field again on Lap 138. He reported the car felt balanced as he hit pit road with 106 laps to go. Kahne exited pit road just seconds behind Johnson, and the Hendrick Motorsports teammates lined up on the front row for the restart. When the green-flag dropped, third-place Kyle Busch dove to the apron and slipped by Kahne, who was lined up on the inside. Once again, Kahne dropped to third, but he steered the No. 5 Chevy back into the lead. Kahne held the top spot until the caution flag was waved on Lap 223. During his ensuing pit stop, Kahne was stalled slightly when he was trying to leave pit road at the same time Tony Stewart was entering his pit stall. The delay put previous leader Kahne in sixth for the restart. Kahne sustained contact on the restart after the front-running cars stalled slightly. Undaunted, Kahne climbed his way through the field and lined up fourth for a restart with 26 laps to go. Kahne drove the No. 5 Chevy into second within the next lap and was challenging then-leader Matt Kenseth for the top spot. Kahne ultimately crossed the finish line second.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 25th.
Recap: Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS, rolled off the grid 10th after qualifying was washed out and the lineup determined by 2012 owner points. Within 12 circuits, Gordon reported to crew chief Alan Gustafson that his No. 24 Chevy lacked grip. He said it wasn’t a loose-handling condition; it was a lack of grip. Chassis adjustments during a green-flag pit stop on Lap 46 didn’t appear to help, and back on the track, Gordon stressed that he now was experiencing a loose-handling condition. While other competitors were finding speed on the higher lines, Gordon reported that he was too loose to approach the top of the track. “Just feels like the car is leaning over,” Gordon told Gustafson over the radio. Adjustments throughout the race offered minimal support, and Gordon said the No. 24 Chevy would handle well for three laps and then fade away. Gordon, Gustafson and the No. 24 team continued to work on the Drive to End Hunger Chevy and Gordon ultimately crossed the finish line 25th.
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS
Race finish: Sixth.
Recap: Jimmie Johnson started third in his No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS after Sunday’s lineup was determined by 2012 owner points. Johnson held steady in the third position after the green flag dropped, working his way into second to chase then-leader and teammate Kasey Kahne. A debris caution on Lap 66 gave the No. 48 team a chance to hit pit road for four tires, fuel and slight adjustments. After the Lap 71 restart, Johnson was racing Kahne for the lead within three laps and moved into the top spot on Lap 74. Johnson reported to crew chief Chad Knaus that the No. 48 Chevy was “tight getting into (Turn) 1, landing and getting on the throttle.” Still, speed wasn’t an issue, and Johnson paced the field for 43 laps before green-flag pit stops began. He took four tires, fuel and reclaimed the lead one lap later to lead for another 19 circuits before fading to second on Lap 138. Swift pit work by the No. 48 team during an ensuing stop under caution put Johnson back in the lead on Lap 162. Johnson held steady inside the top three as the race wound down, taking right-side tires only during late-race caution periods. With 27 laps to go, Johnson lined up third for the restart next to teammate Kahne and ahead of Earnhardt. Johnson held his position inside the top 10 and crossed the finish line sixth to record his third top-10 result of the season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy Orange Chevrolet SS
Race finish: Seventh.
Recap: Driving the No. 88 AMP Energy Orange Chevrolet SS, Dale Earnhardt Jr. lined up 12th for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The third race of the Cup season was determined by 2012 owner points after Friday’s qualifying session was rained out. Within the first 23 laps, crew chief Steve Letarte called Earnhardt’s speeds spectacular, and the driver of the No. 88 Chevy was running ninth. On Lap 45, Earnhardt came down pit road for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Five laps later, he had improved to fifth. As the race unfolded, Letarte told a sixth-place running Earnhardt he was posting faster times on the top groove. Earnhardt hovered around the top six and let Letarte make the appropriate calls based upon Earnhardt’s feedback. At one point, after entering and exiting pit road in fifth, Earnhardt joked with Letarte, “If you changed anything, I don’t want to know.” With 27 laps to go, Earnhardt lined up for the restart running fifth behind teammates Johnson (third) and Kahne (fourth). Earnhardt crossed the finish line seventh to record his third top-10 result of the season.