Kasey Kahne had to win. With two races left before the Chase for the Championship, the number 5 team’s only realistic chance of making the Chase was to win a race. Despite the fact Kevin Harvick lead a dominating 195 laps, a late pit stop put Kahne out front and he didn’t let go of his chance at the Chase.
“It was just an unbelievable way to make The Chase,” said Kahne. “And to win at Atlanta, it's a tough track, a track that I love coming to. And so, it feels really good to get a victory here tonight.”
Nothing about the win was easy, not only did Kahne have to overcome Harvick’s dominance, he also had to hold off the field, on a green white checkered finish.
“I felt confident. I stayed with it all night. We were good and we were bad and we were back to good,” said Kahne.” I just kept telling myself, do not spin the tires. Whatever you do, coming up second and third gear, don't spin the tires, just take your time on the throttle. And if you do that, you're going to have a great opportunity here because I knew that everybody was going to spin a little bit.”
With the win Kahne secured his spot in the Chase, as did Matt Kenseth, whose second place finish was good enough to make him the first driver without a win to lock up a spot in NASCAR’s post-season.
“That was the goal, to have all three JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars in the Chase and we were able to accomplish that,” said Kenseth. “The ultimate goal is for one of us to be able to win the championship. I feel like we’re gaining on it. I’m not a huge believer in momentum, but yet I feel like everyone is really clicking together and working well together and the stops are good. I feel like we’re doing everything right right now, we just need a little more speed to be able to start getting those wins.”
Heading into next week’s race at Richmond, 14 of the 16 Chase spots are now secured.
Kansas native Clint Bowyer came into Sunday night’s race in Atlanta 15th on the Chase grid, with a comfortable 38 point lead on 17th place Kyle Larson. Bowyer had a disastrous race on Sunday. The 15 car broke a shifter early in the race and Bowyer spent several laps behind the wall, he would finish the night 38th. As a result Bowyer is now 17th on the Chase grid, 23 points behind 16th place Greg Biffle heading into the final race before the Chase.
Tony Stewart finished 41 after blowing a tire in his return to the track after three weeks away.
In his 750th NASCAR start Jeff Gordon finished 17th.