Kahne ends vic­tory drought at marathon Brick­yard 400

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - MICHAEL MAROT

Kasey Kahne sur­vived a crash-marred Brick­yard 400 on Sun­day for his first NASCAR Cup vic­tory in nearly three years.

The Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports driver won un­der cau­tion in the race that took more than six hours to com­plete, fi­nally fin­ish­ing in fad­ing light af­ter 167 laps and dou­ble over­time. Brad Ke­selowski was sec­ond. It was a wild day at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way with Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. — driv­ing the two fastest cars — go­ing out in a crash with 49 laps to go.

That was only a prelude the nutty fi­nal 20 laps that in­cluded five crashes, two of which brought out red flags.

Busch looked as if he would make his­tory as the first driver to win three con­sec­u­tive Brick­yards when he led the first 71 laps — and 87 over­all. But when Truex’s car slid up the track, both cars hit the wall.

That opened the door for Kahne, who had strug­gled all sea­son. And as the crashes hap­pened be­hind, Kahne over­came mus­cle cramps to hold on for his 18th ca­reer vic­tory and first since At­lanta in Au­gust 2014.

The race was red-flagged with 10 laps to go af­ter Kurt Busch, Erik Jones and Clint Bowyer col­lided com­ing out of the fourth turn.

On the en­su­ing restart, Kyle Lar­son hit the wall on the front straight­away to bring out an­other cau­tion.

Things went awry once more when Jim­mie John­son, Ke­selowski and Kahne tried to go three-wide through the third turn on what was sup­posed to be the sec­ond-to-last lap. But John­son’s smok­ing car spun and slammed into the wall, forc­ing over­time.

“I wouldn’t call it an ab­sur­dity, I just think it was a crazy race,” Ke­selowski said. “There was some crazy strat­egy.”

And af­ter Trevor Bayne’s car got side­ways with two laps left in the first over­time, an­other red flag came out and an­other over­time be­gan. But the race still wasn’t over. With the sun set­ting and no lights at the track, Kahne barely made it to the over­time line as an­other mul­ticar pileup oc­curred be­hind him to bring out the last of the 14 cau­tions to seal the win.

The race had a lit­tle of ev­ery­thing — a one-hour, 47-minute rain de­lay, 55 C tem­per­a­tures in­side the cars and plenty of crashes.

None seemed like they would be big­ger than the took out the two race lead­ers, Trues and Busch — the de facto Joe Gibbs Rac­ing team­mates.

For the first two-thirds of the race, it looked as if Busch would make his­tory with his third straight vic­tory at the track.

But when Truex’s car started to spin on Lap 111, ev­ery­thing changed. Truex tapped Busch’s No. 18 car, send­ing both into the wall and flames shoot­ing out of the bot­tom of Truex’s car.

Nei­ther driver was se­ri­ously hurt, but nei­ther ap­pre­ci­ated with the re­sult — es­pe­cially since they are de facto team­mates with Joe Gibbs Rac­ing.

“That’s the way it goes,” Busch said. “Just chalk it up to an­other one we found a way to lose.”

For Busch, it was a dev­as­tat­ing blow.

Af­ter be­com­ing the first Cup driver to cap­ture back-to-back Brick­yard poles since Ernie Ir­van in 1997 and ’98 and ex­tend­ing his streak from last year to 181 con­sec­u­tive laps led at Indy, he couldn’t snap the 12-month win­less streak.

The only rac­ers with three straight wins at Indy are for­mer For­mula One star Michael Schu­macher, who won the U.S. Grand Prix four con­sec­u­tive times.

TIM BRAD­BURY, GETTY IM­AGES

Kasey Kahne crosses the fin­ish line to win the Mon­ster En­ergy NASCAR Cup Series Brick­yard 400 at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor­speed­way on Sun­day.

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