Sunday, December 17, 2017
Sports

Kasey Kahne takes New Hampshire victory, solidifies Chase bid

LOUDON, N.H. — The best car was rolling toward victory — until its driver and crew chief couldn't agree on how many tires to change.

Kasey Kahne capitalized on that confusion between Denny Hamlin and Darian Grubb to take Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 for his second Sprint Cup victory of the year.

Kahne also made a leap toward one of the 12 spots in NASCAR's Chase for the Championship.

"For those guys to miscommunicate, that helped us a ton," Kahne said. "I'll take 'em any way we can."

Hamlin's Toyota led 150 of 301 laps at the 1-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

But Kahne, who was second to Brad Keselowski on June 30 at Kentucky, went ahead to stay during a restart on Lap 240 when Hamlin spent extra time in the pits as his crew changed all four tires.

Hamlin wanted just two.

"Darian asked me how much of the tires I felt I'd used up. I felt like I had used up a substantial amount," he said. "(I said) give me tires and no adjustments. He thought I meant four tires. Nothing's a given. Even though it looked like we had one in the bag if we took two tires, you never know."

Kahne, who took two tires on his final stop, doesn't feel he stole a victory.

"I wouldn't say 'stolen.' We ran in the top four the whole race," he said. "We were in pretty good shape, (but) if he was to keep the track position, I never would have passed him."

Hamlin's longer pit stop left him in 13th place, but he kept passing cars until only Kahne remained. Then he simply ran out of miles, and Kahne won by 2.738 seconds.

Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Keselowski rounded out the top five.

The victory enhanced Kahne's chances of making the season-ending 10-race Chase, involving the top 10 drivers in points through 26 races plus two wild cards earned by drivers from spots 11-20 with the most victories.

Kahne, in his first season with powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports, went from 16th to 12th in the standings, and his two wins are more than anyone in the second group of 10.

"We've been pretty tough all year, but we just haven't finished 'em off a lot of the times," Kahne said. "From here on out, we need some more top 10s and top fives the rest of the way."

The turning point came when a caution came out on Lap 234 for oil dropped on the track by David Reutimann. Hamlin told Grubb he wanted tires, and Grubb, who planned to change just two, interpreted that to mean four.

After the stop Grubb told him, "My bad, bud."

"You try to be optimistic, but you pretty much know your chance of winning has been pretty much taken away if there are no cautions," Hamlin said. "Darian has won me a couple of races this year, more than he's taken away from me."

Reutimann of Zephyrhills wound up 33rd after his engine issue. Tampa's Aric Almirola finished 28th, three laps down.

Penske backs Allmendinger

Team owner Roger Penske says AJ Allmendinger will drive in the next Sprint Cup race if NASCAR reinstates him.

Allmendinger was suspended just before the race July 7 at Daytona; a urine test (his "A" sample) taken the previous weekend at Kentucky came back positive for what his team identified only as a stimulant. Allmendinger will have a "B" sample tested with his toxicologist present.

"We're standing behind AJ," Penske said. "Hopefully, we'll know something in the next week to 10 days."

Sam Hornish finished 22nd at Loudon in the No. 22 Dodge in Allmendinger's place.

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