CONCORD, N.C. – Kasey Kahne pulled the Lowe’s Motor Speedway sweep, winning the Bank of America 500 over Jimmie Johnson. That’s no mean feat considering Johnson has seemed nearly unbeatable at the track named for his sponsor, sweeping both races in both 2004 and 2005. It was Kahne’s sixth win of the season and further stakes his claim as master of the intermediate tracks.
“There are so many things that can happen,” said Kahne. “I’ve crashed here with a great car. I never think I have the race won. We just kept focusing on not making mistakes and keeping our lead.”
With several of those tracks coming up in the remainder of the Chase for the Nextel Cup, you’d have to wonder if Kahne might still have a chance at the big trophy. “Things happen and you’re mad and you say your out, but we’re just as much in it as anybody,” said Kahne. “I haven’t ever thought of us as out of it. We have a good enough team to do it.” He currently sits in eighth, 160 points behind leader Jeff Burton, who had an up and down night but managed to salvage a third-place finish to come out leading the Chase standings by 45 over Matt Kenseth.
Burton’s performance prompted rivals like Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to wonder what they will need to do to catch up to him in the Chase. Neither driver was able to gain ground on Burton despite his problems during the race. “We didn’t get to gain on the Iceman Jeff Burton,” said Earnhardt. “They are there every week doing a great job.”
Earnhardt finished fourth followed by Bobby Labonte to round out the top-five finishers. Kyle Busch in sixth was the last of the Chasers to really have a good night. Tony Raines, Carl Edwards, Joe Nemechek and Brian Vickers completed the top 10.
As for the rest of the Chasers, Kenseth brought home a lackluster 14th-place result while Kevin Harvick nursed a broken transmission home in 18th. Jeff Gordon blew an engine while running fourth with just 33 laps to go and ended up 24th, while Denny Hamlin and Mark Martin were involved in accidents and finished 28th and 30th respectively.
Hamlin’s accident occurred on the first lap of the race, but the No. 11 FedEx team was able to make repairs and return Hamlin to the track. Thanks to a high attrition rate due to a number of incidents, Hamlin minimized the damage and dropped only one spot in the standings. Martin’s accident on lap 239 was particularly brutal. Martin was trying to pass JJ Yeley on the inside just as Yeley headed for pit road. The contact launched the No. 6 AAA Ford head first into the outside wall.
“I want to thank Humpy and Bruton Smith and God for soft walls. I’m having fun. The championship is not really something that was meant for me ever, probably isn’t this year and it’s not going to get me down. I’m having a good time, having a blast,” said the notoriously pessimistic Martin. He dropped one spot to fourth in points, 102 behind Burton.
More coverage of the Bank of America 500 can be found here on Frontstretch with our Nextel Cup Breakdown on Monday.
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