Kasey Kahne was a force on Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway — until the final restart.
Kahne led 161 of 400 laps in the Coca-Cola 600 but his Hendrick Motorsports team’s decision to not pit during the 11th and final caution cost him a shot at his second NASCAR Sprint Cup win in 2013.
“We thought a couple of guys would stay out and that would be enough to get away,” Kahne said. “But the whole field pitted. We didn’t expect that.”
When Kahne didn’t see the leaders in his rearview mirror as he stayed on the track on Lap 386, he asked crew chief Kenny Francis, “Did everybody come (down pit road)?”
“Yes, everybody came,” Francis replied.
“Oh boy,” Kahne responded, “We’ll see what happens.”
Kevin Harvick lined up alongside Kahne for the restart on Lap 389 and Harvick barreled past him before the field hit the backstretch. Harvick was able to extend his lead and win while Kahne battled Kurt Busch for second place.
“Harvick started with two (fresh tires), he held it flat,” Kahne said. “I got a little free, had to back off the gas. When I went back down, he was in front of me. That was the end of our race. Just made sure we got second from there.”
For Kahne, it was his third runner-up finish of the season. He finished second to Matt Kenseth at Las Vegas and Kansas speedways earlier this year. Kahne’s performances have him fifth in the standings, 75 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
“We thought a couple of guys would stay out and that would be enough to get away but the whole field pitted,” Kahne said. “We didn’t expect that.
“We were in the hunt from the drop of the green so it was a solid night,” Kahne said. “Wish we could have won it. I thought we were the car to beat the last 100 or 200 laps even — maybe the whole race at times. But it was solid. It was a great performance by the whole team. The pit stops were solid. We just didn’t get the win.”
Busch finished third, followed by polesitter Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.
Despite entering the 600-mile marathon under the weather, Kahne gutted it out for his 11th top-10 finish in 19 races at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kahne benefited from two early cautions when NASCAR red-flagged the race for 27 minutes due to a TV cable snapping on Lap 121.
“I actually felt pretty good the whole race,” Kahne said. “As soon as I got in the car, was the best I felt all day. Took some IV packs before the driver’s meetings. Once they kicked in, it was the best I felt. That break wasn’t a bad thing for me.”