Driver Kasey Kahne signs autographs before practice for the Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., Friday, Oct. 19, 2012.
YAHOO SPORTS__A week after finishing second, Kasey Kahne found himself in second place once again late in the race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday. But this week, Kahne sprinted away on a late race restart and drove away from the field over the last 40 laps to collect his first win at the half-mile bullring.
Kahne started on the inside of leader Brad Keselowski, and given the race's pattern of restarts, it looked like he'd be at a disadvantage as for most of the day, the leader of the field had jumped out to a large lead rather quickly. However, with fourth place Denny Hamlin on Keselowski's bumper, Keselowski spun the tires and couldn't get going, opening the door for Kahne to be the one to dash out to the lead into turns one and two.
"This whole team was flawless again today," Kahne said. "Last week, today, this whole season so far, it's been a lot of fun."
During the final laps of last week's race, Kahne closed in on the back bumper of eventual race-winner Matt Kenseth, but never was able to complete the pass. This week, he never had to worry about anyone getting close to his bumper in the waning laps.
And the first four races of 2013 have been quite different than the first four of 2012 for Kahne as well. After crashing in this race a year ago and finishing 134 laps off the pace, Kahne left Tennessee 32nd in the points standings. Now he's seventh in the standings.
After Kahne said sayonara to the field, the best racing of the closing laps was for second place between polesitter Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. Busch had also gotten by Keselowski on that restart and staved off numerous challenges from the defending champion by sticking to the outside line, a maneuver Keselowski had used to hold off Kahne before the race's final caution flag.
With nowhere to go but the bottom lane, Keselowski was able to pull up alongside Busch in the middle of the corners, but Busch's momentum off the turns carried him down the straightaways. Their battle, instead of Kahne's relatively large margin of victory, was indicative of the quality of racing throughout the field the entire day. While tire falloff wasn't a factor, drivers were able to make and complete passes and drive both the bottom and middle grooves. Kahne's final charge was the only time the leader was able to escape the rest of the pack quite comfortably.
Keselowski's third place finish vaulted him to the points lead over Jimmie Johnson, who caused the race's final caution flag when he hit the wall after losing a right front tire. Keselowski leads by nine points over Dale Earnhardt Jr. and 15 over Johnson.