While the NASCAR calendar contains many great races throughout the year, many fans circle the Coca-Cola 600 on their calendars well in advance. The race always falls on Memorial Day Weekend and the fact that the Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race on the schedule just adds to the uniqueness.
It's sure to be a race Kasey Kahne will remember as well. Although Kahne has shown his penchant for long duels by winning the Coca-Cola 600 twice before, he had never done so for Hendrick Motorsports. In fact, since moving to the team, he hasn't been victorious in any races.
Kahne's victory came just two weeks after Jimmie Johnson picked up Hendrick's 200th win. At the celebration for Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson presented team owner Rick Hendrick with a helmet signed by all of the drivers who had earned a victory with the team over the years. Yet Kahne's name wasn't on it. The racer's losing streak has caused frustration for his team, as the rider is used to being near the top of the standings and the front of the pack. However, he simply hasn't found the same success thus far with Hendrick.
That all changed when Kahne crossed the checkered flag nearly four seconds ahead of second-place finisher Denny Hamlin Sunday night, picking up his first win for the legendary racing outfit.
"I was excited to be part of the 200th celebration," Kahne told The Orlando Sentinel. "Being there Tuesday night and thinking about the history that lies at Hendrick Motorsports and how much Linda and Rick have done is pretty awesome. It’s great to win a race tonight and get the 201st win."
For much of the race, it didn't look like Kahne would get his chance at glory. Greg Biffle clearly had the strongest car out of the pack, turning in a dominant performance that saw him lead for more than half of the nearly four-hour race. Yet as NASCAR fans know, it really only matters who is ahead when the checkered flag is flown.
Unfortunately for Biffle, that wasn't him. After appearing to build up an unassailable lead, his car began to lag in the second half of the race and didn't look nearly as strong. Ultimately, the rider had to settle for fourth as Kahne battled it out with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch in third.
Temperature and weather may have played a big role in the ultimate results, as it seemed his car gave up some performance as day turned to night at the track. After the race, Biffle admitted that Kahne had the better vehicle at night. Still, it wasn't all bad news for the driver, as he holds command of the point standings and earned plenty of points for leading so many laps, not to mention his top five finish.
It's a different story for Kahne, who will hope to build on his recent success and string together more top performances. The rider is currently 15th in the overall point standings, which means he would finish outside the automatic qualifying spots for the end-of-season Chase for the Sprint Cup.
"We're gaining," said Kahne of his position in the overall standings. "I think that's like seven top 10s in a row counting the All-Star race, so we're making big strides."