INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kasey Kahne held the inside line, a lead and a shot at winning the Brickyard 400.
By the end, his No. 5 car limped to finish out of fuel, and with Kahne running out of time to pick up a sorely needed victory.
Jeff Gordon powered his way past his Hendrick Motorsports teammate with 17 laps remaining Sunday for his NASCAR-best fifth victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The fun 1-2 restart at the Brickyard didn’t translate into a 1-2 finish for Hendrick.
Kahne never recovered — he tumbled to fifth after the restart, though it was a moot point once he ran out of fuel and finished sixth.
“Either way, I think sixth was the best we were going to do today,” Kahne said.
Kahne led 70 laps and seemed to have the car to beat as he chased his first win of the season. Kahne needed the win to become the fourth Hendrick driver locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Without a win, Kahne does not have enough points to qualify for the Chase. And with only six more races left until the Chase field is set, he’s in danger of missing out of NASCAR’s version of the playoff. Up next could be a big one for him, Pocono where he won last year.
“We’ve got five more good tracks for us and six more races,” Kahne said.
Kahne wished he could have stretched his fuel — he gamely tried shutting the engine to conserve, only to be pushed by Gordon under yellow. Kahne said his restart was fine.
“I took off and Jeff was in front of me,” he said. “NASCAR just let Jeff control the start. The leader should be able to have a little control over something.”
Team owner Rick Hendrick worried his two cars might wreck as they battled for the lead.
“I know Kasey needed a win. He ran awful good today,” Hendrick said. “But Jeff had the dominant car so it all worked out.”
Still, Kahne’s No. 5 team easily had its top overall performance of the season, and he would have liked to fight for the win just a little harder down the stretch.
“I feel like I should have beat him on the restart,” Kahne said. “I finish dead last if I do, so I feel like that’s actually a good thing for once. Something worked out in our favor.”
Here are five things from the Brickyard 400:
JGR RUN: Jeff Gordon took the top spot, then Joe Gibbs Racing took it from there. JGR drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth finished 2-3-4 in a strong day for the organization. “It’s just a small victory, we’re still just inching our way there,” Hamlin said. “Even though we competed for a race win, we’ve got do it on a consistent basis.” Hamlin had a strong shot to win until his crew failed to give him all his fuel on a late pit stop. Hamlin, who surrendered the lead, had to return to pit road. He had fuel concerns when he radioed to crew chief Darrian Grubb earlier in the race, asking how many gallons he was short. “Too many, buddy. Just do what you can do to save a little,” Grubb said. Hamlin has three straight top 10s in the same season since 2011. There might not be much reason to celebrate. His No. 11 Toyota was found to have possible issues with the rear firewall blockoff plates. The parts were confiscated and being sent back to the NASCAR R & D center. “If we have to do anything further, we will,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said.
CHECKERED CHEVY: Make it another win for Chevrolet at the Brickyard. Jeff Gordon’s run in the No. 24 led the manufacturer to its 12th straight win at the track and 16th overall in 21 career races. “That was an awesome Axalta Chevy SS,” Gordon said. Chevy won all four races this weekend at the Brickyard.
BROKEN PATRICK: Danica Patrick hoped to have the first solid outing of her NASCAR career at the Brickyard after a decent 14th-place start. Patrick has No. 10 Chevrolet as high as 12th early in the race until she broke an axle on lap 67. Her car started smoking from behind the rear wheels and she could not get off pit road. She made an early pit, then hit the garage. She would eventually return and finished next-to-last in 42nd. “Hendrick gave me great horsepower. We were the fastest car out there at times,” he said. “We qualified better and had a good car for the race, it just didn’t end the way we wanted it too. The good thing is, I get to come back to Indy and that makes me happy.” Patrick had six top-10 finishes in the Indianapolis 500.
FOUR MORE: Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano all qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field, as long as they attempt to qualify for each of the final six races. They join Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as driver with a spot essentially secured. Logano finished fifth to earn his spot. “We didn’t unload very well, Logano said. “We kept trying to make up speed and (crew chief) Todd Gordon called a perfect race and got us the track position we needed to, but it’s just so hard to pass out there.” So far, 11 drivers have won the first 20 races, and they should all have spots in the final 16-car field.
LARSON’S RUN: Kyle Larson was the top rookie in the field once again with a seventh-place finish and is holding on to 15th in the standings. He could make the Chase field on points. But he’d rather secure a spot with a win. Larson was hardly an intimidated rookie in his first Brickyard start. “It was kind of just like any other race,” Larson said.
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