SPEEDWAY, Ind. – With 11 laps to go in Sunday’s Brickyard 400, Kasey Kahne and the No. 5 team gave up third place to head to pit road for four tires and fuel.
It proved to make all the difference.
A caution flag flew just as Kahne made it off of pit road, and when the leaders all headed in to pit, Kahne was able to take over the race lead for the ensuing restart.
“Sometimes you make your own luck, sometimes things happen that are completely out of your control,” No. 5 team crew chief Keith Rodden said. “Today was one of those things where we made a decision to alter our pit strategy a little bit. When everyone pitted in front of us, we took the lead and were able to control the series of the restarts that started happening.”
To put Kahne in that position in the first place, the No. 5 team elected to stay on the track during a cycle of green-flag pit stops to jump from outside of the top 15 to inside of the top three.
Then, once he took over the race lead, Kahne made it count.
“To win at this track is unreal,” Kahne said. “We used to always be really close. We lost to Jeff (Gordon) and we lost to Tony (Stewart); just some fast cars back then. Today, the strategy got us here. The Farmers Insurance Chevrolet was great once I got out front, I just had to get there.”
He also had to maintain that lead through multiple high-stress restarts, including two in overtime – the final of which saw him lined up second.
“I think it's going to be a big momentum boost for everyone on our team. They get to see all their hard work realized."No. 5 team crew chief Keith Rodden
He narrowly lost the lead on the first restart of overtime, but a quick caution gave the team one more chance to find Victory Lane.
"This place is so special," Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said before the final restart. "I'd love to see Kasey and these guys pull it off."
They did just that.
“Well, the one before just didn’t work. Everything went wrong,” Kahne said. “On the final one, everything went right. And once I got to Turn 1, I had good power and was able to clear him.”
He held the lead through the overtime line, and when another caution flag was waved, it secured the victory for Kahne – his first of the season and Hendrick Motorsports’ 10th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“A race like this, you don't know till the checkered flag,” Hendrick said. “It kind of hits you when you're celebrating with all the guys out there, because to win the Brickyard is a big deal.”
Rodden couldn’t overstate what the trip to Victory Lane and the opportunity to kiss the bricks meant.
“Obviously it's a huge, huge win for us,” he said. “I think it's going to be a big momentum boost for everyone on our team. They get to see all their hard work realized.
“Today, we finished the deal. So it's really special.”