Kasey Kahne took victory at the Food City 500 as tyre troubles hampered his team-mates races.
Both Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson suffered right-front tyre blow-outs while running high, with Gordon’s accident coming as the #24 Chevrolet led the field, taking out the second placed running Matt Kenseth.
“This whole team was flawless.” said Kahne. “It’s been a good week, everyone has done a great job. Racing with Denny was tough, and Matt and Jeff raced well too. This is a big win, we’re really happy. It’s a big accomplishment to win here, Bristol’s a very tough race. We prepared pretty hard this year and it paid off.”
After the race there was an off-track altercation between former team-mates Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, with Logano angry after being taken out of the race following contact with the #11 car. Logano declined to comment on the post-race incident, while Hamlin said that Logano warned he was “coming for Hamlin.”
The first caution of the day flew on lap 9 when Tony Stewart‘s left rear tyre blew out, sending the #14 Chevrolet into a spin and into the Turn 2 wall. Stewart noticed the tyre had cut a lap prior, but was unable to get to the low line and pit before it blew. While on pit road, Stewart’s mechanics noticed a cut brake line, sending him behind the wall.
Kyle Busch continued to defend his lead back under green flag conditions, facing stiff competition from the #5 Chevrolet of Kasey Kahne. The race leader benefited from the short nature of Bristol, with Kahne unable to find a way past the Toyota thanks to lapped traffic.
The second caution of the day came on lap 55 as Jeff Burton went hard into the wall in the #31 Chevrolet. The accident came when Juan Pablo Montoya checked up due to a slide from the car in front, causing Burton to go into the rear of Montoya while also getting tagged from behind by the #99 of Carl Edwards.
The majority of the field pitted under caution, with Kasey Kahne winning the race off pit road as Kyle Busch dropped down the order to eighth position, before having to drop to the tail end of the longest line after speeding on pit road. “We’re trying to get too much on pit road, we need to back off a little bit.” Busch said after the race.
Kahne led the field back to green flag ahead of the #11 of Denny Hamlin, who took the lead off of Kahne within two laps before the third caution flag came on lap 70. This time the cause was Jamie McMurray, who lost the rear end after running too high through turn 4.
As the caution flag flew for the spin, McMurray’s Chip Ganassi team-mate, Juan-Pablo Montoya, was taken behind the wall following a fuel pressure issue.
The restart came on lap 77, with Hamlin first position from Kahne, who had dropped to third behind Kurt Busch after stuttering on the restart. Further down the field, Kyle Busch was carving his way up through the field following his pit penalty, battling with the #17 of Ricky Stenhouse for 18th position. The highest mover of the race so far, however, was Dale Earnhardt, Jr in the #88 Chevrolet, who had moved up to 9th place having started from the outside of the 16th row.
A relatively long green flag period followed, with Denny Hamlin consolidating his lead ahead of Kahne and Kurt Busch at the quarter distance. Elsewhere, the Hendrick Motorsport cars were running well, with the #24 of Jeff Gordon holding fourth position and Jimmie Johnson‘s #48 car in fifth.
Hamlin lost the lead back to Kahne on lap 147, followed by Jeff Gordon as the top 6 were all battling for room on the tight circuit. The battle ended early, however, as lap 152 saw the fourth caution of the day, with David Gilliland finding the wall out of turn 2.
Once again the entire field came in under caution, the race off pit road being won by Hamlin. Kyle Busch recovered back to second in the pits, taking just two tyres in a bid to get back up the front end of the field.
Hamlin stormed away at the restart, leading his team-mate Kyle Busch and the Hendrick cars of Kahne, Johnson and Gordon. As the laps ticked off Hamlin and Kahne began to pull out a large lead, the battle for third raged on between the Busch brothers and the Hendrick team-mates.
Lap 190 saw Hamlin radio in to his pit crew complaining of a loose right-rear wheel, just as Kahne retook the lead from the #11 car. Despite the vibration, Hamlin was reluctant to come in and lose not only his front-running spot, but fall off the lead lap and out of sequence. Kurt Busch, however, was unable to decide to stay out, having to pit on lap 226 owing to a flat right-rear tyre.
The caution flew just a few laps after Busch’s unscheduled stop as Landon Cassill blew a tyre and hit the wall on lap 236. As the field descended upon pit road yet again, Kyle Busch radioed in with his take on the previous green flag run. “Wow that was like running qualifying laps the whole time. I was driving my guts out.”
Kenseth led the field back to green flag action on lap 241 ahead of Johnson’s #48. The action was short lived, though, as the caution came back on lap 250 after Aric Almirola spun in turn 3 and collected the wall.
Denny Hamlin lost out at the restart, dropping down to fourth place after not getting on the gas as Kenseth continued to lead. Second place now belonged to Kahne, and the two began to pull away from the rest of the field. Kenseth had pulled out a one second lead over Kahne until Dave Blaney cut a tyre and went straight into the wall on lap 321.
The race off pit road was won by Jeff Gordon, who was the only driver to take two tyres, leading his Hendrick team-mate Kasey Kahne around under caution. At the restart, Gordon pulled out a lead followed by Joey Logano in the #22 with Denny Hamlin hanging on in third place.
The battle for the lead began to hot up between Gordon and Logano, the two running side by side lap after lap, while Hamlin watched from the safety of third position. The battle ended on lap 347 as Logano ended up sideways on the back straight following contact from Denny Hamlin. Hamlin got into the rear of Logano’s car after the #22 checked up while trying to get past Gordon for the lead.
The leaders opted not to pit under caution, with Gordon leading Hamlin off the restart. Hamlin’s second position didn’t last long, though, as a massive slide coming off turn 2 dropped the #11 down to sixth. The slide handed second back to Matt Kenseth, with Kasey Kahne trailing in third. The two battled for second after Gordon pulled out a one and a half second lead.
Caution came out for the ninth time on lap 389 as Gordon’s right-front tyre blew, throwing him up the race track directly in front of Kenseth. The accident ended both drivers’ chances of a victory, with significant damage to the front of Gordon and the rear of Kenseth. Gordon’s first question to his team after the accident was if he took out Kenseth in the process. “That sucks.” was his response to the answer.
“We needed points, that’s definitely not the way to get them.” said Gordon, after the accident.
The majority of the field decided to pit under caution, but Brad Keselowski, Paul Menard and Ricky Stenhouse opted to stay out, handing them the top three places as the race went green with 98 to go.
Keselowski’s lead came under threat with 70 laps to go as Kasey Kahne closed up behind the reigning champion. While the two were battling for the top spot, Hamlin joined the party, with Kyle Busch only half a second back from the #11. The lead change came on lap 445, as Kahne drove round the outside of the #2 while passing lapped traffic. The lead was short lived, though as traffic then held up the #5 car, allowing Keselowski back through.
Every calmed down for the tenth time with 45 laps to go, with Jimmie Johnson colliding with the wall after a right-front tyre blow-out going in to turn 3. “I didn’t think anything was different than the other runs, everything felt fine” said Johnson to his pit crew.
Keselowski spun his tyres on the restart with 40 laps to go, dropping down to third place behind Kahne and Kyle Busch. Fourth place was held by the first of the pitters under caution, with four fresh tyres on the #15 of Clint Bowyer. Kahne pulled out a lead of over a second ahead of the battle for second involving Busch, Keselowski and Bowyer. Further back, Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Kurt Busch hunted down Denny Hamlin’s fifth position.
With just ten to go, Kurt Busch’s car was coming on strong, forcing his way up into fourth position and immediately latching on to the back of his brother Kyle and Keselowski. Denny Hamlin struggled within the last 5 laps, using the wall to get his car around the turns.
Hamlin was threatened with a black flag for not meeting the minimum race pace, but the chequered flag flew before the punishment could be given, as Kasey Kahne crossed the line to take the win.