The Coca-Cola 600 is a race Kasey Kahne knew he let slip away. It should have been him in Victory Lane Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway instead of Kevin Harvick. But a decisive call under caution to forgo pit road with 14 laps remaining turned a certain win into a bitter runner-up finish.
"It was definitely our race to lose, especially those last hundred laps," Kahne said. "We just thought that some of the guys would stay out. ... Didn't happen."
As soon as Kahne saw all the lead-lap cars behind him hit pit road he knew he was in trouble and that his lead was in jeopardy. At that moment he was on an island.
He radioed his team asking if he should duck into the pits to get fresh tires and try to claw his way to a respectable finish. All his longtime crew chief Kenny Francis could tell him was stay out and "do what you can with it."
As expected, Kahne with worn tires was no match for Kevin Harvick, who restarted second and was able to drive underneath the No. 5 car off of Turn 2.
"Sorry about that," Francis told his driver when the 600 had concluded. "Good job tonight. Damn, I can't believe at least four-five guys didn't try and steal one there. I can't believe it. Sorry, man."
NASCAR's longest race was a strange affair, beginning with a TV cable landing on the track and in the frontstretch grandstand, injuring ten spectators. This was followed by numerous other calamities befalling other contenders from wrecks to blown motors.
However, for Kahne, it had been a rather uneventful night. He started sixth and wasted little time getting to the front, taking the lead away from Matt Kenseth on Lap 24. On the night, he led eight times for a race-high 161 laps.
But it was the laps that he didn't lead that left Kahne lamenting what might have been.
"The whole field pitted and we were in a tough spot," Kahne said. "We raced all day and thought we were in a really good position at the end. We just didn't get it done."
Fresh tires proved to be the difference as Kevin Harvick passed Kasey Kahne with 11 laps remaining to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.