|SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums|
The finish, which occurred in Kahne’s 426th series start, is his second of the season and first since the August race at Pocono, nine rounds ago.
Following his sudden exit from the Pocono race, Kahne has continued to struggle through his worst season since 2007. The crash dropped him from 13th to 15th in points, and another crash during a restart the next week at Watkins Glen left him 42nd, dropping him to 17th and out of the Chase. In the four races through the Richmond cutoff, Kahne bounced back with four-straight finishes between 12th and 18th, but the efforts fell short of a Chase berth. Coming into Charlotte, where Kahne had scored four series victories, he’d earned two-straight top tens at Loudon and Dover, finishing 9th and 6th, respectively.
Kahne came to the track once again running the 1984 “throwback” scheme he debuted at Darlington. The car showed speed early, putting up the 5th-fastest time in Thursday’s opening session before settling for 20th in qualifying with a speed of 190.436 mph. Kahne’s speeds cooled on Friday with a 12th-best lap in the second session and a 19th in Happy Hour, but the team prepared to make a run on Saturday night.
Persistent rain pushed the race to Sunday morning, where the 40th starting spot belonged to the #33 Little Joe’s Auto Chevrolet of Alex Kennedy. Kennedy, making his 12th start of the season and second in a row, was locked into the field on points, besting the only two DNQs of Josh Wise in the #32 Rimrock-Devlin Development Ford - the fifth DNQ of the year for Go Green Racing - and the #62 ChampionMachinery.com Chevrolet of Timmy Hill. Premium Motorsports’ #62 has now missed 17 races and qualified for only 13. Teammate Reed Sorenson made the show one spot in front of Kennedy in 42nd driving the #98 VIPRacingExperience.com Ford.
The moment the green flag flew on Sunday morning, however, the rear of the field checked-up as the slowing leaders took advantage of NASCAR’s newly-expanded restart zone entering the quad-oval. Several cars narrowly avoided contact before 41st-place starter Jeb Burton’s #23 Dr. Pepper / Breast Cancer Awareness Toyota rear-ended 39th-place Cole Whitt’s #35 Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters Ford. The caution fell immediately as Burton’s car dropped debris on the track from its destroyed left-front fender. Although the crew did manage to keep Burton on the lead lap for the Lap 5 restart, the leaders blew by him on Lap 8. As Burton struggled to keep pace, BK Racing decided to bring his ride behind the wall around Lap 31.
Meanwhile, on Lap 41, Kahne had worked his way to 12th when his #5 cut a right-front tire and made hard contact with the wall in Turn 1. No caution fell for the incident, and the resulting green-flag stop dropped him two laps down to the field in the 40th spot. Between Kahne and Burton were Whitt, his car damaged in the first-lap caution, and Burton’s teammate J.J. Yeley, who lost four laps after NASCAR penalized him for the crew allegedly manipulating the right-rear sheet metal during a pit stop. Kahne was still 40th on Lap 61 when another right-front let go, sending him even harder into the Turn 1 wall. This time, the caution did fly and the #5 went behind the wall with heavy damage. He would not return to the race.
Burton, meanwhile, came back out with a large patch sealing shut his damaged left-front fender. He retained the 43rd spot until around Lap 146, when he finally passed the retired Kahne. With Burton and the 41 remaining competitors still running, however, this created the potential for a bad day for a Chase driver to turn out much worse. That victim was polesitter Matt Kenseth, who after leading 72 laps in his #20 Dollar General Toyota found himself in the middle of the pack after pit stops. Two separate collisions with Ryan Newman’s #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet later, Kenseth’s car had similar damage to Kahne and was struggling to keep pace. The second wreck brought out a caution on Lap 178, and while the Joe Gibbs Racing crew had time to make repairs, their efforts fell short. On Lap 241, Kenseth’s Toyota slammed the Turn 3 wall hard enough to knock him out of the race. Just two laps later, Kenseth had plummeted all the way to 40th - and out of the race.
By the time Kenseth withdrew, Burton’s lapped machine was joined by Justin Allgaier, whose #51 Brandt Chevrolet was also heavily damaged in a restart pileup on Lap 183. The crew managed to change radiators and get the car back on track on Lap 261 - just in time for Jimmie Johnson to suffer his second-straight catastrophic mechanical failure. This time, the oil cooler broke on the #48 Lowe’s Red Vest Chevrolet, and after an unscheduled stop, Johnson’s car was pushed behind the wall just as Allgaier left the garage. Allgaier’s car was still smoking on the apron when he returned, but he managed to keep pace, just seven laps behind Burton in 42nd.
No other cautions fell in the final 88 laps on Sunday, and both Burton and Allgaier were in position to gain spots in the closing stages. With just 15 laps to go, Allgaier passed Kenseth, and Burton followed suit with just 8 circuits remaining, dropping the #20 all the way to 42nd - tied for his worst finish of the year with the engine failure two months ago in Bristol. Both lapped cars of Allgaier and Burton were not quite able to catch 39th-place Jimmie Johnson, who beat them both by five and 13 laps, respectively. Three of the race’s only five DNFs made the Bottom Five.
In the LASTCAR Cup Series Champonship, co-leaders Alex Bowman (finished 32nd) and Landon Cassill (finished 23rd) not only did not finish last, but both finished outside the Bottom Ten. Thus, Cassill still leads the title on the bottom-ten tiebreaker, 12-9.
*This marks the first time the #5 has finished last in a Cup race at Charlotte since October 10, 1971, when Jim Vandiver’s Doc Faustina-owned 1970 Plymouth crashed after 10 laps of the National 500. It was the second of five career last-place runs for Vandiver, the Huntersville, North Carolina native who also edged polesitter Buddy Baker for last by 11 laps in the historic 1979 Daytona 500. Vandiver’s best finish in 85 Cup races from 1968 through 1983 was a 2nd to Richard Brickhouse in the inaugural Cup race at Talladega in 1969 - just his second series start. He passed away this past June at age 76.
*Chevrolet sweeps both Cup Series lasts at Charlotte for the first time since 2004, when Joe Auer’s #51 Chevrolet overheated with Kevin Lepage after 56 laps in May, then crashed with Tony Raines after 2 laps in the fall.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #5-Kasey Kahne / 58 laps / crash
42) #20-Matt Kenseth / 236 laps / crash / led 72 laps
41) #23-Jeb Burton / 244 laps / runing
40) #51-Justin Allgaier / 251 laps / running
39) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 257 laps / engine / led 2 laps
2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Alex Bowman, Landon Cassill (3)
2nd) Aric Almirola, Michael Annett, Kasey Kahne, J.J. Yeley (2)
3rd) Justin Allgaier, A.J. Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne, Jeb Burton, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Gase, David Gilliland, Timmy Hill, Sam Hornish, Jr., Bobby Labonte, Brian Scott, Tony Stewart, Cole Whitt, Josh Wise (1)
2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) BK Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Hillman Smith Motorsports, HScott Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports, Tommy Baldwin Racing (3)
2nd) Go FAS Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Phil Parsons Racing / Premium Motorsports (2)
3rd) Joe Gibbs Racing, JTG-Daugherty Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Childress Racing / Circle Sport, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)
2015 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (17)
2nd) Ford (9)
3rd) Toyota (4)