Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Kasey Kahne relieved to qualify for Chase

HAMPTON, Ga. — There is pressure that comes with being part of the powerful Hendrick Motorsports team with NASCAR superstars Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

For Kasey Kahne, the pressure grew as he feared he would be the only driver on the team left out of the Sprint Cup's 10-race, season-ending Chase for the Championship.

That changed when Kahne earned his spot in the Chase on Sunday night by charging past Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin in a two-lap shootout to win the Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"That was just an unbelievable way to make the Chase," Kahne said.

After Atlanta, this weekend's race at Richmond would have been Kahne's final chance to earn a spot in the Chase.

"It was all I could think about," Kahne said. "I knew Atlanta was a better opportunity for myself than going out to Richmond. I just knew that tonight we needed it."

Rick Hendrick beamed after the race as he talked about his team's chances in the Chase. Gordon, who finished 17th, leads the points. Earnhardt, who was 11th, is second. Johnson, who finished fourth, is sixth. All have clinched Chase spots.

Johnson, Earnhardt and Gordon celebrated with Kahne in Victory Lane.

"I looked up and saw them all standing there, and I was really proud of the organization when I saw that happen," Hendrick said.

It was Kahne's first win of the season and his third career victory in Atlanta.

Kenseth, who finished second, also qualified for the Chase on points. He began the second restart in first place but couldn't stop the charge from Kahne.

Hamlin was third, followed by Johnson, Carl Edwards and Danica Patrick.

Patrick's sixth-place finish was the best of her career, the highest for a woman at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the second-highest for a female driver in NASCAR history. Sarah Christian finished fifth in a Sprint Cup race in 1949 at Heidelberg (Pa.) Raceway.

With two laps left, Martin Truex and Kyle Busch collided, forcing a caution flag and the first shootout. Kevin Harvick, who led 195 laps, had contact with Joey Logano in heavy traffic and hit the wall on the restart, bringing another caution flag and a second shootout.

NHRA: Alexis DeJoria raced past John Force to win the Funny Car division at the U.S. Nationals in Clermont, Ind. DeJoria had a run of 4.038 seconds at 310.34 mph to deny the 16-time Funny Car champ and become the fourth woman at the U.S. Nationals and the first to win three Funny Car races in one season. Richie Crampton (Top Fuel), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were first-time winners at the event.

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