|Kahne holds off Gordon to win at Pocono Raceway|
|Monday, August 05, 2013 12:00 AM|
LONG POND, Pa. — Jeff Gordon had the inside line, a 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, Kahne got the jump he needed, zipped past Gordon and pulled away with two laps left Sunday to win at Pocono Raceway.
“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 2-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. We had them; we certainly had the position. I’m pretty disappointed I let him get inside of me on (turn) one.”
Kurt Busch, who also celebrated a birthday, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five. The top five cars were Chevrolets.
Busch helped out Kahne with one final push down the frontstretch to find some needed speed.
Kahne, Gordon and Earnhardt made it an outstanding race for Hendrick. Teammate and series points leader Jimmie Johnson was 13th after a blown tire knocked him out of the lead.
Kahne had stretched his lead to almost 8 seconds when a caution for debris came out with 12 laps left. Gordon, who won at Pocono each of the last two years, was strong in the No. 24 and had the lead as he tried to extend his record for career wins at Pocono.
Matt Kenseth spun with four laps left to erase Gordon’s lead and set up the thrilling finish. Gordon led again until Kahne ran him down with a hard, sweeping run past his teammate for the win.
Kahne also won this season at Bristol. He jumped a spot to eighth in the points standings and need a win to make sure he’d at least qualify for a wild-card spot should he fall below 10th place. Kahne was third last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and seems to be heating up with five races left until the Chase field is set. With two wins, he’d also be closer to Johnson and Kenseth once the points are reset when the Chase field is set.
Kahne’s 16th career win should make him a Chase lock.
Gordon, who has six Pocono wins, finished second last week and has three straight top 10s to also position himself for a spot in the 12-driver field. He had won at Pocono each of the last two seasons. When Gordon leads late at Pocono, he usually wins. Just not this time.
Gordon hangs on to ninth in the standings but could be out of a Chase spot if he falls outside the top 10 without a win.
Johnson, who set a track record in qualifying, again had the dominant car for half the race until he blew a front tire. A week after a slow, final pit stop cost him a win at Indianapolis, Johnson was done in this time by a tire issue that ended his chance to win.
Johnson, who won the June race from the pole, stretched his points lead to 77 over Clint Bowyer.
Danica Patrick lost control of her car, triggered a 4-car crash and was 35th. Kenseth’s late spin knocked him to 22nd.
Kahne took a moment in Victory Lane to remember his friend, Jason Leffler. Leffler was killed in June on a dirt track in New Jersey only days after racing in the Pocono Cup race.
Kahne and Leffler were friends and traveled together on the way home from the June race.
“Just me and him,” Kahne added. “We spent a bunch of time together and then that happened that Wednesday. It was tough. There are so many people that are good friends with Jason and knew him really well. I just wanted to mention something about him.”
Kimball earns first career win at Indy 200
LEXINGTON — Charlie Kimball is a diabetic. A condition the IndyCar driver manages with a mixture of vigilance, discipline and perspective.
Kind of like the way he handles the horsepower at his fingertips.
Six years after the diagnosis that changed his life and 2-plus seasons into a career blossoming right under his feet, the guy who used to wonder if he’d get to do this for a living is now a race winner.
Kimball slipped by Simon Pagenaud with 18 laps remaining then pulled away to win the Indy 200 on Sunday at Mid-Ohio, his triumph validation that the plan team owner Chip Ganassi put in place when he hired Kimball as the third driver on his powerful team remains very much on schedule.
“The last couple years, we got the experience, we built the foundation,” Kimball said. “As a team, we’re ready to win.”
It certainly looked like it after Kimball’s crew decided to ditch the initial strategy that asked him to save as much fuel as he could with his No. 83 Honda, figuring two pit stops instead of three would be the quickest route to victory lane.
After a few trips around the tricky 2.258-mile circuit, Kimball knew the only way he could win would come if he punched it. While top qualifiers Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power and Scott Dixon eased off the gas to stretch their mileage, Kimball pressed his foot to the floor figuring he could make up whatever precious seconds he lost by pitting three times if he just kept the hammer down.
It worked better than he imagined, propelling the 28-year-old to the top of the podium and erasing any lingering doubts he had about whether he belonged in North America’s top open-wheel series.
The moment when the goal Ganassi set out when he brought in Kimball three years ago happened with less than 20 laps to go. Kimball surrendered the lead to Simon Pagenaud when he ducked into the pits for the last time, then tried to erase the deficit when Pagenaud went in for his final pit stop.
Pagenaud managed to exit pit lane with the lead then held off a hard-charging Kimball, sending Kimball briefly into the grass.
The triumph only proved temporary.
Kimball remained right in Pagenaud’s rearview and slipped by at the end of the long straightaway nearing Turn 4 then had little trouble the rest of the way, a move he called “50 percent momentum and 75 percent commitment.”
The remainder of the top five wasn’t in sight as Kimball zipped by the finish line to continue Ganassi Racing’s dominance at arguably the most difficult road course on the schedule. The team has now won each of the last five visits to the 13-turn test tucked in central Ohio.
Pagenaud held on for second while Dario Franchitti took third. Power was fourth followed by Hunter-Reay and series leader Helio Castroneves.
IndyCar lengthened the race this year, hoping to avoid the kind of boring fuel-mileage parades that have occasionally plagued the series.
Castroneves, a 3-time Indy 500 champion still searching for his first season title, managed to keep Scott Dixon behind him to slightly pad his lead in the standings. The Brazilian will take a 31-point lead over Dixon heading to Sonoma on Aug. 25. Defending champion Hunter-Reay is 65 points back in third.
As well, Gabby Chaves pulled away from Peter Dempsey on a late restart to win the Indy Lights race at Mid-Ohio on Sunday.
Chaves started from the pole and had little trouble navigating the tricky 2.258-mile course for his first victory in the top IndyCar feeder series. The 20-year-old from Colombia led all 40 laps, finally breaking through after posting three runner-up finishes earlier in the season.
Jack Hawksworth came in third, followed by points leader Carlos Munoz and Zach Veach.
Sprint Car driver injured in Pennsylvania crash
ABBOTTSTOWN, Pa. — Sprint Car driver Kramer Williamson is in surgery after crashing during a qualifying race at Lincoln Speedway.
Lincoln Speedway promoter Alan Kreitzer told The Associated Press that Williamson, the Palmyra driver inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2008, collided with another car and then rolled over Saturday night.
Williamson keeps his age a secret but has been racing for more than 40 years. He shared the 1971 rookie of the year title at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg.
A spokesman for the Eastern Adams Regional Police department in Abbottstown reported officers were dispatched to the track — a 3/8-mile, high-banked clay oval — at around 8:15 p.m.
Kreitzer said one of Williamson’s family members notified United Racing Company officials that he was in surgery at York Hospital. UCR officials then notified Kreitzer.
Kreitzer added Williamson was on the fourth lap of a 10-lap qualifying round when the accident occurred and emergency workers responded immediately; Williamson was transported by helicopter to the hospital.
In June, NASCAR driver Leffler died from injuries sustained in a Sprint Car crash at Bridgeport Speedway in Swedesboro, N.J.
About two weeks before Leffler’s death, a Josh Burton died of injuries sustained in a crash at Bloomington Speedway in Indiana. In late May at a dirt track in Nevada, two drivers were killed in a race. In March in California, two people were killed when a car careened off a dirt track and crashed on pit road.
Sprint car races can be more dangerous for drivers and spectators because the safety measures taken by series aren’t at the same level. Many facilities lack the SAFER barriers that are standard in NASCAR and IndyCar and the cars aren’t always adequately protected.