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Kahne captures Bristol in Sprint Cup

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kasey Kahne's bumper-banging battle with Brad Keselowski was just the warmup act in Sunday's action-packed Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Former teammates Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano exchanged words after the race — in person and on Twitter — after Hamlin spun Logano as Logano was racing for the lead.

A flat tire knocked Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth out of the race while they were running 1-2.

Typical Bristol, right?

It looked that way as Kahne and Keselowski staged a spectacular battle for the lead in the Food City 500, before a caution flag put them side-by-side for a restart with 40 laps to go.

Keselowski either spun his tires or the Hamlin-Logano feud disrupted his start, and Kahne sailed away for his first career victory at Bristol.

"Feels really good to win at this place," Kahne said. "Such a tough track over the years. This is a big race for me. When you race in the Sprint Cup series, Bristol is a race you want to win."

Tempers flared after the race when Logano leaned inside Hamlin's window to confront him. Hamlin had spun Logano as the latter tried to pass Gordon for the lead.

Logano was pulled away from Hamlin's car by crew members for both drivers in a classic post-Bristol clash that delighted the crowd. "They're fighting! It's Bristol!" yelled Clint Bowyer, who saw the action on the infield big screen — and probably hasn't forgotten the melee late last season when his crew and Jeff Gordon's fought after a wreck at Phoenix.

Logano indicated there's no love lost between the former Joe Gibbs Racing teammates.

"Probably the worst teammate I've ever had," Logano said of Hamlin. "I have a scorecard and I'm not putting up with that. … I had to put up with him for years, so whatever."

Hamlin shrugged it all off.

"He said he was coming for me," Hamlin said. "I usually don't see him, so it's usually not a factor."

The two sparred briefly on Twitter after the Daytona 500, when Hamlin complained Logano ruined the closing laps. But he said Sunday's flap was not a carryover.

"It didn't have anything to do with that," Hamlin said. "You've really got to control your car and he slipped up into me. Really, he would have been in the garage with no radiator in it if I had not checked up twice. I meant to run into him. I didn't mean to spin him out, but his day was fine. We finished bad and he finished bad. It's even."

But they continued sniping on Twitter. Logano, who finished 17th, posted: "Hey @dennyhamlin great job protecting that genius brain of yours by keeping your helmet on." To which Hamlin responded: "Why's that. What would u do?"

Their feuding might have played a role in the outcome of the race, too.

Keselowski led on the final restart as he lined up next to Kahne. Hamlin was behind Keselowski, with Logano behind Hamlin. When the flag waved, Keselowski didn't go and Kahne rocketed to the lead and never looked back.

Though it appeared Keselowski spun his tires, he was adamant after the race about what happened — "I got ran over!" — and that prevented him from breaking away on the restart.

Hamlin, who finished 23rd, backed up Keselowski's account.

"The (No.) 22 (Logano) ran into me and shoved me into (Keselowski)," Hamlin said. "Sorry to the (No.) 2, but I was the pinball in the sandwich. Once he throttled up, the 22 lifted me up and just flat out pinned me up against the 2."

Logano seemed to think Keselowski spun his tires, but Keselowski believed he had help from behind.

"I haven't seen the replay, I just know my rear tires were off the ground before I got to the restart zone," he said.

Meanwhile, Kahne drove his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to the win by 1.7 seconds over Kyle Busch.

Keselowski took the Sprint Cup points lead by coming in third; he's the only driver to open with four top-five finishes. Kurt Busch finished fourth, followed by Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The race changed dramatically with 110 laps to go in a crash between Gordon and Kenseth. Gordon was leading when he suddenly lost a tire and his car darted up the track into the wall. Kenseth, running second, could not avoid him, causing heavy damage to both cars.

Neither returned; Gordon finished 34th, Kenseth 35th.

"I hate that for Matt Kenseth," Gordon said. "He was coming, and it was just a matter of time before he caught us."

Tampa's Aric Almirola fell out after an accident and finished 37th, falling from 10th to 20th in points. David Reutimann of Zephyrhills was 39th. Danica Patrick finished five laps down in 28th.

Kahne captures Bristol in Sprint Cup 03/17/13 [Last modified: Sunday, March 17, 2013 10:57pm]
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