Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Sports

Kahne outduels Gordon for Sprint Cup win at Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. — Jeff Gordon had the inside line, a lead and his first win of the season in sight, usually a sure thing for Pocono's top winner.

Kasey Kahne was about out of time to pass his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.

"It was either to go for it and make it work," Kahne said. "Or not."

Cruising from the outside after a restart, Kahne got the jump he needed, zipped past Gordon and pulled away with two laps left Sunday to win the Gobowling.com400 at Pocono Raceway.

"I about gave it away when Jeff got by me," Kahne said.

Kahne recovered in the No. 5 Chevrolet for his second victory of the season, all but securing his spot in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship. He had the car to beat for the final half of the 400-mile race until a late caution bunched the field.

Gordon nudged past Kahne after some thrilling two-wide racing and seemed poised to win at Pocono for the seventh time. But after the final caution, Kahne was simply too strong.

So close to the checkered, this loss stung Gordon. Even worse, his runnerup finish came on his 42nd birthday in his 42nd career Pocono start.

"I thought all I needed to do was get in here and (get) to the bottom and I'd be good," Gordon said. "He got a killer run and blasted by on the outside of me. Caught me by surprise. It just kills your momentum."

Kurt Busch, who also celebrated a birthday, his 35th, finished third. Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five, all of whom drove Chevrolets. Tampa's Aric Almirola finished 20th and Zephyrhills' David Reutimann was 31st.

Busch helped Kahne with one final push down the frontstretch to find some needed speed.

"That was kind of the race at that point," Kahne said. "Once I cleared (Gordon) getting into (Turn) 2, from there it was just, don't make a mistake and try to run the quick lap on the last one."

Kahne, Gordon and Earnhardt made it an outstanding race for Hendrick. Teammate and series points leader Jimmie Johnson was 13th after a blown tire knocked him out of the lead and well back in the pack.

Kahne led by almost 8 seconds when a caution for debris came out with 12 laps left. Gordon, who won at Pocono each of the past two years, was strong in the No. 24 and had the lead as he tried to extend his record for career wins at Pocono.

Matt Kenseth spun with four laps left to erase Gordon's lead and set up the thrilling finish.

"We had them. We certainly had the position," Gordon said. "I'm pretty disappointed I let him get inside of me on (Turn) 1."

Danica Patrick lost control of her car, triggered a four-car crash and was 35th. Kenseth's late spin knocked him to 22nd.

Earnhardt fought an annoying vibration all weekend long but solidified his hold on fifth place in points.

"We changed every part in the car but the engine," Earnhardt said of the efforts of crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 crew to solve the vibration issue. "I think we helped it a little bit today."

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