It was the first ever night race at Kansas Speedway for the running of the 5-Hour Energy 400 benefiting Special Operations Warrior Foundation and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' active all-time wins leader, Jeff Gordon, added to his total by grabbing a late lead on a round of pit stops from Kevin Harvick and then holding Harvick off to the line on the final lap. The win is the 89th of Gordon's Sprint Cup Series career.
Harvick led the most laps on the night with 119 of the 267 laps but Gordon was the only driver Saturday night that could keep pace with him. The race finally went into a long green flag run and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports' crew chief, Alan Gustafson, called Gordon into pit on lap 237 when he was about one second behind Harvick on track. Harvick pitted the next lap but was out of fuel on entrance which Harvick said cost him a little time. Couple that with Gordon having fresh tires for the extra lap and Harvick exited the pit just behind Gordon on track once they were up to speed. After the green flag stops finally cycled through on lap 259 Gordon inherited the lead and was able to hold off the efforts of Harvick to win his first race of the season and virtually lock him into the Chase Grid.
"We've been bringing fast race cars every single weekend and it's just given me so much confidence in the race cars and the race team," Gordon said in victory lane. "Kevin was tough he was so strong. I did not know if I could hold him off…the key was getting out front."
The race was scheduled to start at 6:45 p.m. CT but was delayed about 35 minutes due to a severe thunderstorm that was nearby. The rain stayed just away from the track though so no drying was necessary. It was Kevin Harvick on the pole and he would set sail early on. By lap 20 Harvick led over Joey Logano by 2.2 seconds and at lap 40 that lead had grown to 3.8 seconds when green flag pit stops began.
Harvick pitted on lap 42 and then Logano on lap 43. Carl Edwards led then pitted on lap 44 which gave Jeff Gordon the lead before he pitted on lap 45. Brad Keselowski was then in the lead and was the only car that had not pitted when the first caution came out on lap 47 when Clint Bowyer spun off Turn 2. Ryan Blaney, who was making his Sprint Cup Series debut, made a great maneuver in his No. 12 Team Penske Ford to barely miss hitting Bowyer's sideways car. Every car besides Keselowski was a lap down. So Harvick got the free pass and everyone else took the wave around to get a lap back when Keselowski pitted under the caution.
The running order for the lap 53 restart was Keselowski, Harvick, Logano, Edwards, and Jimmie Johnson in the top five. Between Harvick and Logano though were seven drivers that were caught a lap down. They were Austin Dillon, Marcos Ambrose, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Paul Menard, and AJ Allmendinger. Harvick wasted little time and led at the line to start lap 54 and completed the pass for good in Turn 4 of that lap.
The second caution came out for a big crash on lap 60. David Ragan lost control of his car off Turn 4 and spun right up the track into the path of Ryan Truex. Truex then came down into the path of Landon Cassill and all three cars ended up with massive crash damage. Michael Annett also spun through the infield grass but did not have severe damage. Ragan finished 38th after running some laps after repairs and Landon Cassill was 42nd and Ryan Truex 43rd.
The top five drivers of Harvick, Logano, Johnson, Edwards, and Gordon stayed out for the lap 67 restart while others made pit stops. The caution would come out for the third time on lap 71 when Denny Hamlin spun off Turn 2. This caution Johnson pitted but all the other lead cars stayed out. The race restarted on lap 75 and on lap 79 Gordon passed Edwards to move into second and only trailed Harvick.
At lap 100 Harvick's lead over Gordon was 0.90 seconds as Gordon showed he could keep pace over the long haul. At the end of lap 100 Gordon pitted and then on lap 102 Harvick gave up the lead for his scheduled stop for fuel and tires. Edwards pitted on lap 103 from the lead and then Logano was back in front.
The caution came out for the fourth time on lap 110 when Marcos Ambrose spun off Turn 4 into the infield. Harvick was caught a lap down as was Gordon. Harvick though was the first car a lap down in 19th so he got the free pass and Gordon used the wave around to also get back on the lead lap. Dale Earnhardt Jr took his first lead of the race when his team put two tires on during the pit stops and got him off first ahead of Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart Logano, and Jamie McMurray in the top five. Some extra pace laps were run due to the lights on the outside of the backstretch going out but the drivers said the lights on the inside of the track made racing still possible even though it looked dark on TV. The race did go back green on lap 119.
Joey Logano stormed to the lead on lap 122. At the halfway lap of 134 Logano led by 0.80 seconds over Kahne, Earnhardt Jr, Stewart, and McMurray in the top five. Meanwhile Harvick and Gordon were stuck back in traffic in 18th and 19th.
On lap 139 Kasey Kahne passed Logano to take his first lead of the race. Then on lap 150 Danica Patrick, who quietly had been running between about ninth and 12th most race, passed Ryan Newman to move into seventh and was having her most impressive run of her Sprint Cup Series career.
The fifth caution would come out moments later on lap 150 when Jamie McMurray had a sudden right-front tire failure and he pounded hard into the Turn 3 wall. His car caught fire and he stopped and climbed out on pit road and was okay. He finished 39th. Under this caution the lights on the backstretch came back on. Kasey Kahne kept the lead with a two tire pit stop and Stewart was second and Denny Hamlin third off pit road also with two tires. Logano and Earnhardt Jr took four tires and restarted on lap 161 in fourth and fifth.
It didn't take long for Logano to storm to the lead again as he gained the top spot on lap 162. Patrick raced into the top five on lap 163 and on lap 169 Harvick moved into tenth and Gordon 11th. Then on lap 172 Patrick made a great move off Turn 4 and passed both Earndardt Jr and Stewart to move into third place.
The sixth caution then came out on lap 181 when Kurt Busch spun off Turn 4 and down through the infield grass. Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch did not pit and restarted on lap 185 from the front row and behind them with two new tires it was Logano, Earnhardt Jr, Kahne, Patrick, Harvick, Newman, and Gordon. Johnson got out to a lead but then the seventh caution flew on lap 187.
The caution was for a huge crash which started off Turn 4 when AJ Allmendinger got loose under Paul Menard and his No. 47 car came around. As he slide toward the infield he clipped Justin Allgaier in the right-rear sending Allgaier spinning back across the track where just before the start-finish line David Gilliland had nowhere to go and the two collided head on. Gilliland's car then violently also contacted the outside wall and came to rest mangled after busting on fire briefly. It was a gruesome looking incident but both drivers would get out and walk away thankfully. Allgaier finished 36th and Gilliland 37th while Allmendinger lost a few laps making repairs and finished 30th.
The race would restart after the cleanup on lap 195 with Johnson ahead of Logano on the front row and Kyle Busch, Harvick, Earnhardt Jr, Kahne, Patrick, and Gordon also in the top eight. Off Turn 4 Logano gained the lead from Johnson.
The eighth and final caution flew on lap 203 when Kurt Busch spun off Turn 2. It was his second spin of the night. He finished 29th.Of the top 10 Jimmie Johnson was the only car to pit under the caution as everyone still would have to make one more stop from this point in the race. The race restarted on lap 208 and Harvick took the lead from Logano in Turn 3. Jeff Gordon moved into second on lap 220 the same lap that Kyle Busch pitted for fuel for his final stop of the race if it would stay green.
On lap 234 Kasey Kahne pitted for his last stop which started a string of green flag stops. Alan Gustafson called Gordon into pit on lap 237 even though Gordon was starting to cut into Harvick's lead and had it down to almost one second after being behind by over three seconds earlier in the run. Harvick then came down a lap later on 238 but later would say he was not under full power due to running out of gas entering. When the two exited Gordon was just ahead of Harvick but the two still had to hope the caution did not come out until everyone else pitted. If that stayed true it would be a race for the win between the two.
Edwars pitted from the lead on lap 242 then Matt Kenseth did the same on lap 243. That gave the lead to Johnson who stayed out until lap 256 and did a splash and go. Brad Keselowski was the final car to pit and he did so on lap 258 which gave Gordon the lead with eight laps to try to hold off Harvick. Harvick was 0.60 seconds back. Third place Kasey Kahne was over 10 seconds back so it was truly a two car race at the front.
Over the final laps Harvick would close some and then Gordon would pull away depending on lap traffic. With one lap to go Gordon had about a one second lead but was catching a lot of traffic. Harvick ran a fast final lap and at the line finished only two car lengths behind Gordon.
Kasey Kahne was third, Joey Logano fourth, Dale Earnhardt Jr fifth, and Carl Edwards sixth. Danica Patrick scored her career best Sprint Cup Series finish in seventh place. Aric Almirola was eighth, Jimmie Johnson ninth, and Matt Kenseth tenth. Ryan Newman was 11th, Kyle Larson was the top finishing rookie in 12th, Brad Keselowski 13th, Brian Vickers 14th, Kyle Busch 15th, and Greg Biffle was the last lead lap car in 16th. Paul Menard was 17th, Denny Hamlin 18th, Austin Dillon 19th, and Tony Stewart 20th. Other notable finishers were Martin Truex Jr in 21st, Ricky Stenhouse Jr in 22nd, Clint Bowyer 23rd, and Ryan Blaney in 27th in his first career start.
Jeff Gordon leads the points standings now by 15 points over Matt Kenseth. The Chase Grid looks like this after 11 races. Joey Logano is the top seed with two wins and 346 points. Kevin Harvick is second with two wins and 302 points. Jeff Gordon is third with a win and 394 points. Kyle Busch is fourth with a win and 373 points. Dale Earnhardt Jr is fifth with a win and 368 points. Carl Edwards is sixth with a win and 367 points. Brad Keselowski is seventh with a win and 326 points. Denny Hamlin is eighth with a win and 318 points, and Kurt Busch is ninth with a win and 211 points. In tenth place is Matt Kenseth with 379 points. Jimmie Johnson is 11th with 340 points. Ryan Newman is 12th with 332 points. Greg Biffle is 13th with 328 points. Brian Vickers is 14th with 327 points, and rookies Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon are 15th and 16th with 318 and 306 points respectively.
Next weekend is the non-points All-Star weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This year the Sprint Showdown will be run on Friday night before the Truck Series race and then the All-Star Race will be held on Saturday, May 17th.Tags: Alan Gustafson, Brad Keselowski, Danica Patrick, David Gilliland, Hendrick Motorsports, Jeff Gordon, Justin Allgaier, kansas speedway, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Motorsports, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Ryan Blaney