LONG POND - If you had to bet on who was going to win Sunday's GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway, the sure bet would have been to take five-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson showed in practice and in qualifying that he was the man to beat. He took the pole in qualifying on Friday and also dominated the Pocono race in June, winning for the third time in his career at "The Tricky Triangle."
The old adage "there's no such thing as a sure thing" definitely proved to be true on Sunday. Johnson, who was once again dominating the race like he did back in June, cut a tire, hitting the wall, knocking him out of contention for the win.
The man who took advantage of Johnson's misfortune was fellow Hendrick teammate Kasey Kahne. Kahne did some dominating of his own after Johnson was no longer a threat to win. Kahne led a race-high 66 laps, passing Jeff Gordon on a green, white, checkered finish to pick up his second victory of the season.
Gordon, who had passed Kahne on the previous restart after a spin from Matt Kenseth, brought out the yellow chose the inside line for the green, white, checkered restart. Gordon's car wasn't sticking well on the outside of turn one, so he chose the inside in order to try and block Kahne from passing him low in turn one and also because that's where his car was working the best.
Unfortunately, for Gordon his plan did not work as Kahne got a huge run on the outside with a little help from Kurt Busch, gaining the advantage heading into the tunnel turn, staying out in front for the win.
"Kahne was super fast all day," said Gordon. "We had them though. I'm just disappointed that I let him get such a good run on me on the outside of one like that. That's the advantage you have though starting second sometimes. I got a great restart and I thought sticking to the bottom in one was the way to go, but he just got a killer run on the outside and he blasted by me. I was a little surprised actually when I saw him shoot by me, but those guys work hard and they were fast all day and definitely deserve the win."
Kahne was happy to see that Gordon chose the inside on the final restart because he thought that his best chance to pass Gordon would be from the outside lane. Things didn't look good for Kahne at the immediate start as he spun his tires, allowing Gordon to get a substantial lead going into one, However, as the cars bunched up, third place driver Kurt Busch had no choice but to push Kahne on the front stretch catapulting him to the outside of Gordon.
"I felt like we had the best car here all day," said Kahne. "I knew Jeff was going to be tough, he's a great driver and I've been struggling on restarts this season. I knew on that last restart that whoever got to the lead, that was the guy who was probably going to win the race because there was only two laps left. I got some help from Kurt Busch and I drove it into turn one as hard as I could and we beat Jeff to turn two and that was kinda the race at that point. From there it was all about not making a mistake and we just tried to run a quick lap on that last one and we got the win."
With the victory Kahne all but cemented himself in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship as he now sits in the eighth spot in the standings with two victories.
Runner up Jeff Gordon advanced from 10th to ninth after his second place performance. A win for Gordon at Watkins Glen this upcoming Sunday would also sure things up for his Chase hopes.
Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five on the day. Busch and Newman currently sit in 13th and 15th place in the standings.
Jimmie Johnson, who had damaged his car after cutting a tire and hitting the wall battled back to finish 13th. He still holds a sizeable 77-point lead over Clint Bowyer.