Jeff Gordon had the inside line, the lead and his first win of the season in sight, usually a sure thing for Pocono’s top winner.
Kasey Kahne was about out of time to pass his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
“It was either to go for it and make it work,” Kahne said. “Or not.”
Cruising from the outside, the Enumclaw driver got the jump he needed, zipped past Gordon and pulled away with two laps remaining Sunday to win NASCAR’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.
“I about gave it away when Jeff got by me,” Kahne said.
Kahne recovered in the No. 5 Chevrolet for his second victory of the season, all but securing his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He had the car to beat for the final half of the 400-mile race until a late caution bunched up the field.
Gordon nudged past Kahne after some thrilling two-wide racing and seemed poised to win at Pocono for the seventh time.
After the final caution, Kahne was simply too fast, too strong to be denied his first win at Pocono since 2008.
So close to the checkered, this loss stung Gordon. Even worse, his runner-up finish came on his 42nd birthday in his 42nd career Pocono start.
“I thought all I needed to do was get in here and got to the bottom and I’d be good,” Gordon said. “He got a killer run and blasted by on the outside of me. Caught me by surprise. It just kills your momentum.”
Kurt Busch, who also celebrated a birthday, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five.
Busch helped out Kahne with one final push down the front stretch to find some needed speed.
“That was kind of the race at that point,” Kahne said. “Once I cleared (Gordon) getting into two, from there it was just, don’t make a mistake and try to run the quick lap on the last one.”
Series points leader Jimmie Johnson was 13th after a blown tire knocked him out of the lead.
Kahne also won this season at Bristol, Tenn. He jumped a spot to eighth in the standings. Kahne was third last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and seems to be heating up with five races to go until the Chase field is set. With two wins, he’d also be closer to Johnson and Kenseth once the points are reset for the Chase field.
Kahne’s 16th career win should make him a Chase lock.
“The Chase is what it’s all about in NASCAR,” Kahne said. “You need to make it.”
Danica Patrick lost control of her car, triggered a four-car crash and finished 35th.
Racing in a backup car after wrecking in practice Saturday, Charlie Kimball beat Simon Pagenaud to the finish line by more than 5 seconds to win the Indy 200 in Lexington, Ohio, for his first career IndyCar victory.
Dario Franchitti was third, followed by Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay.