Kasey Kahne and his team Kiss the Bricks after winning the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (SJ photo/William Gibson)
INDIANAPOLIS – In a race that kept fans on their feet during the tense, wild final laps, Kasey Kahne had to sit down after earning the biggest win of his career.
Kahne passed Brad Keselowski on the final restart in overtime to win the 24th annual Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The epic race started at 2:44 p.m. and finished at 8:58 p.m., just eight minutes before sundown. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race was halted three times for red flags for a total of two hours, 31 minutes, including a rain delay of one hour, 47 minutes after the first 12 laps were completed.
“The history here, winning at this track is unreal,” Kahne said. “This Farmers’ Insurance Chevrolet was great out front. I just had to get there. Man, I’m exhausted. To win at Indy is unbelievable.”
After being interviewed by NBC after the race, Kahne sat on the ground next to his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, dehydrated and cramping from a long, taxing day in the cockpit. The effort to win was so demanding that he needed intravenous fluids after the race.
Keselowski ended up second in the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. Indiana native Ryan Newman finished third in the No. 31 Velveeta Shells & Cheese Chevrolet.
Joey Logano finished fourth in the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five in the No. 20 Tide Pods Toyota.
Kahne’s decisive pass came on Lap 166, on the second attempt at overtime in the race scheduled for 160 laps. Leader Keselowski chose the outside lane on the restart on Lap 166, with Kahne in second on the inside.
Former USAC open-wheel star Kahne held his line under Keselowski in Turn 1 on the restart and started to pull away. Then an accident less than a mile later, involving Denny Hamlin, Ty Dillon and Paul Menard on the backstretch, triggered the last of a record 14 caution periods and ended the race, with Kahne out front. Kahne cruised under the yellow and checkered flags on Lap 167 as darkness encroached on the 2.5-mile oval, earning the biggest win of his career in his 14th Brickyard start.
“Kasey, he did a heck of a job today and drove a hell of a race,” Keselowski said. “I was happy for him. But of course with the Miller Lite Ford, I thought we were in the right spot. You could see all day, I think, where you could get somebody on your outside and in the corner you got real loose. But he drove in there and just stuck.
“I don’t know, I probably got the wrong lane there or made the wrong call. I’m not so sure.”
Kahne’s victory was an intense climax to a wild final 16 laps, which featured six yellow flags and a red flag.
The first major flashpoint during that stretch run came on a restart on Lap 159. Kahne and Keselowski were side by side in Turn 1, with Keselowski nosing ahead in Turn 2. Kahne got loose in Turn 2, which allowed four-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson to pull alongside Kahne.
The three NASCAR superstars then went three-wide down the backstraight, with Johnson inside, Kahne in the middle and Keselowski on the outside. They entered Turn 3 in that formation, and Johnson wiggled, made light contact with Kahne, who made light contact with Keselowski.
Johnson spun into the SAFER Barrier in Turn 3, ending his chance for a record-tying fifth Brickyard victory. Keselowski and Kahne held on to continue, under caution.
“I don’t know if I spun in my own oil or if it was an aero situation, but I was so close to having a fifth win here at the Brickyard,” Johnson said.
Overtime ensued. Leader Kahne chose the outside lane on the restart on Lap 163, with second-place Keselowski on the inside. But a six-car tangle was triggered on the frontstraight on the restart when Michael McDowell tapped Trevor Bayne from behind, sending Bayne into a spin that collected numerous cars. A red-flag period started on Lap 164 for clean-up.
Keselowski had slipped under Kahne just before the melee with the inside lane and was judged by NASCAR officials as the leader, setting up the final restart on Lap 166, during which Kahne prevailed.
“Everything went wrong,” Kahne said of the penultimate restart. “The final one, everything went right. Once I got to Turn 1, I had good power. It’s pretty crazy.”
Crazy was a perfect description of the final 56 laps of the race.
Pole sitter Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. dominated the first 110 laps of the race. Busch won the first two stages in the No. 18 Skittles Toyota and led 87 of the first 110 laps. Truex chased Busch in second for many of those laps and led eight circuits in his No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota.
But Truex got loose on a restart in Turn 1 on Lap 111, sliding up into Busch. Both cars made heavy contact with the SAFER Barrier, ending their races and Busch’s bid to become the first driver to win this event for three consecutive years.
“I was on his outside and got hit and got blindsided and ended up in the fence,” Busch said.
Said Truex: “I just got loose and wrecked him, I guess. I didn’t really realize he was going to drive it that deep. I’ve got to take the blame for that one. Obviously, it was my fault. I hate it for Kyle. He had a great car.”
The Busch-Truex melee wasn’t the only disappointing early departure of the race. Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. was eliminated from his final Brickyard 400 start in the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet after 76 laps due to an accident. Earnhardt, who is retiring after this season, placed 36th.
“I certainly want to come back here and enjoy this racetrack and maybe see the Indy 500 one day,” Earnhardt said. “Definitely not too upset with Indy. I wish I could have run a little better here several times.
“You don’t like how you finished, and you don’t like the result. But life’s bigger than this, goes on past what happened today. I definitely want the fans to know throughout the rest of the season how much we appreciate them. We’ll be giving lots of hats away and signing lots of autographs, I’ll promise you.”
Courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway