After leading most laps, Kahne comes up just shy

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Kasey Kahne gave it a good shot in the closing circuits, but had to settle for runner-up to Matt Kenseth today at Las Vegas after leading the most laps out of any driver.

Kahne was a force in the race’s first half and stayed toward the front up to his final pit stop of the day under yellow. He entered pit road first but was momentarily held up by an oncoming Tony Stewart that was going into his pit box, and as a result, he found himself sixth on the restart with 37 laps to go.

Five laps later, Ryan Newman blew up his motor to bring back the caution and after what would be the last restart of the day, Kahne made his way up into second position and battled Kenseth for the win. But while it appeared that his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet had an edge over Kenseth in Turns 1 and 2, Kenseth’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was faster in Turns 3 and 4.

The outcome: Close, but no cigar.

“Matt did everything right,” said Kahne, who led 114 of 267 laps. “When I caught him, I was like, ‘Man, this is not the guy you want to have to race with at 10 [laps] to go.’ He’s gonna do everything right and you’re gonna have to figure out how to squeeze by him.”

Kahne said he briefly considered utilizing the apron in an attempt to pass Kenseth — a move that eventual fourth-place finisher Kyle Busch used on Kahne to grab the lead on a Lap 165 restart — but couldn’t since Kenseth was running that same line.

“I could follow him and stay in his draft a little bit, and stick with him about the same amount, then when I didn’t do that, he’d pull away,” Kahne said.  “It was definitely faster down there if you got a good run off of Turn 4 to do that down the front straightaway.

“I would’ve had to go through the grass, and I don’t think that would’ve been good.”

How Hamilton, Mercedes can clinch F1 titles at the United States GP

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Sunday’s United States Grand Prix could go down as a memorable race in Formula 1 history as both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes bid to clinch their fourth world championships (live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET).

Hamilton gave his chances of wrapping up the drivers’ title and re-claiming the crown he lost to Nico Rosberg in 2016 a world of good by charging to pole position on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas.

However, with chief rival Sebastian Vettel starting second for Ferrari and a 16-point swing required, it seems likely that the title race could continue to next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Nevertheless, here are the permutations for Lewis Hamilton to win his fourth F1 world title on Sunday in Austin, Texas.

  • If Lewis Hamilton wins the race (25 points) and Sebastian Vettel finishes sixth or lower (maximum eight points), he is world champion.
  • If Hamilton finishes second (18 points), Sebastian Vettel finishes ninth or lower (maximum two points), and Valtteri Bottas does not win the race, he is world champion.

While Hamilton’s coronation seems likely to be postponed until the next race in Mexico, Mercedes looks nailed-on to wrap up its fourth consecutive constructors’ championship in Sunday’s USGP.

The German marque currently leads Ferrari by 145 points in the teams’ standings, and requires a lead of 129 after the race to clinch the crown.

As a result, a double top-four finish from Hamilton and Bottas would be enough for Mercedes to wrap up the title, regardless of how Ferrari fares.

The success would see Mercedes become just the fourth team in F1 history take four straight constructors’ titles, following Red Bull (2010 to 2013), Ferrari (1999 to 2004) and McLaren (1988 to 1991).

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.