CONCORD, N.C. - Kasey Kahne dominated Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Charlotte Motor Speedway and forwent a late-race pit stop to line up on the outside of the front row for the Lap 389 restart. When the green flag dropped, Kahne slipped behind the drivers on fresher tires and settled into second as the race wound down. The defending race winner, Kahne chased leader Kevin Harvick, but was unable to make up the 1.5-second deficit.
Kahne recorded runner-up honors ahead of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates who were involved in incidents. Jimmie Johnson finished 23rd. Jeff Gordon was scored 35th, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. took 39th
Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet SS
Race finish: Second.
Recap: Kasey Kahne consistently was a threat during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Driving a patriotic No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet SS, Kahne lined up sixth and improved to third by the sixth lap. He moved into second three laps later and captured the lead on Lap 24. Kahne, the defending winner of the 600-mile event, led four times during the next 84 laps. A quarter into the race, Kahne and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates were running inside the top 10. Kahne struggled some on restarts, but maintained his running position inside the top five as the race unfolded. He fortuitously missed being collected in a bizarre incident on the frontstretch when a cable on the CamCat camera system used by FOX Sports failed. The interrupted resulted in a 10 minute, 41 second red-flag period during which teams were allowed to repair damage that resulted from the failure. With no damage, Kahne returned to the track and continued to run strong, barely wavering from the top three even as the track transitioned from day to night conditions. At Lap 202, Kahne reported to crew chief Kenny Francis that his No. 5 Chevy SS was rotating better, and by Lap 274 he moved into the lead once more. Eyeing a record-tying fourth victory in the 600-mile event, Kahne continued to pace the field. With 95 laps to go, he hit pit road during yellow-flag conditions for a four-tire stop. Kahne and Francis opted against changes during the stop because they anticipated they’d be making at least one more. Kahne slipped to run third after starting second for the Lap 324 restart and wasn’t involved in a caution period one lap later that sidelined teammate Jeff Gordon. The incident prompted a second red-flag period for the season’s longest race. Back on the track, Kahne maintained his position inside the top four and opted to stay out during a Lap 333 caution involving teammate Jimmie Johnson. On the Lap 339 restart, Kahne improved from fourth to second to first with 60 laps left in the race. With 36 laps to go, Kahne made a green-flag stop and returned to race behind two drivers who pushed their pit window as far as possible. The fresh tires and fuel put Kahne in position to take the lead with 19 laps to go. The caution flag was waved three laps later for debris, and Kahne opted to stay on track. On the restart, Kahne was unable to get the jump and settled for a runner-up finish, despite leading a race-high 161 laps.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 35th.
Recap: Jeff Gordon started Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Charlotte Motor Speedway 14th and improved to 12th by Lap 10. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS climbed to eighth by Lap 100 and was running inside the top 10 with his Hendrick Motorsports teammates. As the race unfolded, Gordon worked with crew chief Alan Gustafson to find the right treatment for the No. 24 Chevy that initially had a tight-handling condition. Gordon was running inside the top five when he slightly brushed the wall on Lap 155. The yellow flag was waved one lap later when his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. sustained an engine issue, and the No. 24 team was able to address the damage. Gordon remained inside the top five and raced as high as third before trash on the grille affected his run. As the green-flag run unfolded, Gordon made a pit stop just prior to the Lap 303 caution flag. The No. 24 team hustled through a right-side tire stop, and Gordon beat leader Kasey Kahne back onto the track. But the driver of the patriotic-themed No. 24 Chevy SS used another pit stop and returned to line up 15th and still one lap down for the Lap 309 restart. With 75 laps to go, Gordon was trying to make up ground when he was collected in a race-ending, multi-car incident on the front straightaway. “I just hate we were even back there,” Gordon told the media afterward. “We had an awesome Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS. I loved the patriotic colors on our car this weekend, and it’s just a shame we were even back there. We couldn’t win – Kasey Kahne is unbelievable. But we had a top-five car.”
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 22nd.
Recap: Jimmie Johnson opened Sunday’s 600-mile event at Charlotte Motor Speedway from the 12th position, and by Lap 25, crew chief Chad Knaus reported the No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet SS was the second-fastest car on the track. The only car faster, Knaus said, was then-leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne. Johnson continued his climb, reaching 10th by Lap 31. By Lap 100, Johnson was running sixth with his Hendrick Motorsports teammates inside the top 10. Twenty-two laps later, FOX Sports experienced issues with its CamCat after a cable failed. Johnson thought his No. 48 Chevy sustained some right-rear damage, and the No. 48 team was permitted along with other NASCAR competitors to address related issues during a 15-minute period under the red flag. Back on the track, Johnson remained inside the top six by Lap 200. A loose-handling condition arose for Johnson around Lap 219 and persisted throughout the middle stages of the race. During a yellow-flag stop on Lap 243, Johnson told Knaus that his first battery was dead, but his second one appeared to be working. He made it to another caution period 15 laps later, when running eighth, he asked Knaus for more stability. Knaus ordered up right-side tires and sent Johnson back onto the track in the top five. The caution flag waved on Lap 303 in the middle of green-flag stops, and Johnson was awarded the Lucky Dog pass. Back on the lead lap, the No. 48 team opted to use the ensuing yellow-flag period to replace the battery, a process that took roughly 20 seconds but came with a penalty after Johnson was clocked too fast leaving pit road. Johnson struggled to catch a break and was involved in an incident on Lap 333. "Hold onto it,” spotter Earl Barban coached Johnson, who locked up the brakes trying to save the No. 48 Chevy SS. “Hold onto it.” But contact from another competitor caused damage to the rear of the No. 48 Chevy SS. Knaus and Johnson started to plan for multiple stops so he could remain on the lead lap. The damage didn’t end his night, although a subsequent flat tire knocked him off the lead lap. He returned to finish 22nd.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 39th.
Recap: Dale Earnhardt Jr. lined up 11th for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Charlotte Motor Speedway and improved to join his Hendrick Motorsports teammates inside the top 10 by Lap 78. The driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS immediately reported a tight-handling condition that affected his ability to get through the turns. Crew chief Steve Letarte formulated a plan, while reminding his driver to continually hydrate for the season’s longest race. Solid stops by the No. 88 team helped Earnhardt pick up spots on pit road, but as the race progressed, a loose-handling condition developed and he slipped to 17th, one lap down on Lap 193. Around Lap 255, Earnhardt started to notice smoke in the cockpit. His fears were confirmed several laps later when the No. 88 Chevy SS sustained an engine issue. Earnhardt made contact with the wall, triggering the caution period. Sidelined in the garage for the remainder of the event, Earnhardt talked with members of the media. “We know we can go back and rebound from this as far as being more competitive,” Earnhardt said during a television interview in the Cup garage. “I just hope everybody’s OK from the accident in the stands, and I wish everybody a Happy Memorial Day weekend. I take a lot of pride in representing the National Guard, and I hope everybody shakes a soldier’s hand this weekend and thanks them for what they do.”