Kahne outduels Gordon for the win at Pocono

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When Jimmie Johnson fell down, the rest of Hendrick Motorsports stood up on Sunday at Pocono Raceway.

Johnson had been a force in the first half of the race until he cut a right-front tire and slammed the Turn 2 wall just after the halfway point. But his HMS teammates picked up where he left off, with Kasey Kahne leading Jeff Gordon to the checkered flag at the GoBowling.com 400.

Kahne notched his second victory of the season, but was forced to battle for it. He was leading by 7.6 seconds over Gordon before the yellow flag came out for debris in Turn 2 with 12 laps remaining.

On the restart with eight laps to go, Gordon and Kahne went side-by-side for the lead through Turns 2 and 3 before Gordon was able to make the pass coming down the front-stretch.

But contact between Bobby Labonte and Matt Kenseth with five laps to go sent the latter into a spin and triggered the final restart of the day with two laps left, with Gordon, Kahne, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski as the Top 5.

Kahne proceeded to get a big run on the outside of Gordon in Turn 1 and went side by side with the four-time Sprint Cup champion down the Long Pond straightaway before finishing the pass on the outside of Pocono’s treacherous “tunnel” turn. He would go on to win by 1.4 seconds over Gordon, with Kurt Busch, Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. following.

“I about gave it away – Jeff got by me and then on that final restart, I spun my tires a little bit and he got a great jump,” Kahne told ESPN in Victory Lane. “But Kurt pushed me all the way to Turn 1, which really helped and then I just went off of Turn 2 and it was ‘Go for it and make it work or not’.

“As good as our [car] was all day long, I thought we could make that work on the outside, I just needed to clear him. When we got to Turn 2, I was able to do that.”

Gordon was happy to be able to come from 22nd starting position and contend for the win, but disappointed that he couldn’t pull it out in the end.

“I got a perfect restart on that last one, probably jumped [Kahne] a little bit,” he said. “I moved out in front of him and it looked like I’d need to block the inside, so I tried to protect the inside and he blasted up on the outside. He flat out-drove me through [Turn] 1.”

Johnson, who likely would’ve played a role in the outcome if not for his incident at the halfway point, battled back to finish 13th. The Top 10 was completed by Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)