Kasey Kahne and the entire Hendrick Motorsports posse have had a robust first half in tonight’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Pole sitter Jeff Gordon led the first 26 laps of the night and went to pit road as the leader following an early yellow. But a decision to go with four tires caused him to drop back to eighth for the restart, while Kasey Kahne was able to ascend to the front for the Lap 30 restart.
However, Gordon didn’t falter as badly as Kyle Busch, who was forced to make a second stop under the caution because of loose lug nuts on his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He was forced to restart from 35th spot, but quickly began made up ground when the race went back to green.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. quickly took the point from his teammate Kahne, but a piece of trash on the grille triggered a rise in temperatures for Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevy. On Lap 44, Kahne re-took the lead, giving Earnhardt a chance to draft him in an attempt to knock the debris off.
But he wasn’t quite able to do the job until he had conceded both second and third to Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson respectively before the Lap 50 mark; Earnhardt finally got rid of the debris after running up toward Johnson’s rear bumper.
Truex’s stop on Lap 69 began a cycle of green flag service for the field, which ended with Kahne getting the lead back, Truex in second, Earnhardt in third, Johnson in fourth and Gordon in fifth.
An engine failure for Mark Martin brought the yellow out again shortly after Lap 80, triggering stops for drivers such as Truex, Kevin Harvick, Kyle and Kurt Busch, and Brad Keselowski – who was forced to return after he left with the jack still attached to his car.
Earnhardt once again popped ahead of Kahne off the restart at Lap 91. Also taking advantage was Kyle Busch, who had already climbed back up to 14th after his ill-fated first stop but then vaulted an additional eight positions off the restart to sixth.
Kahne, though, would not be shook off by Earnhardt, and on Lap 96, he passed him again for P1. The Hendrick foursome of Kahne, Johnson, Earnhardt and Gordon stayed up front, running 1-2-3-4 up to Lap 126 when Kyle Busch passed Gordon for fourth as the latter was slowing down to get to the pits.
Another round of stops under green flag conditions were beginning at that point, and Kahne would give up the lead to pit on Lap 130 – only to get it back on Lap 135 at the end of the cycle. Kyle Busch rose to second behind Kahne and ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.