Atlanta’s final Labor Day race results in Chase berth for Kahne

(Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
(Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)

The final Labor Day event at Atlanta Motor Speedway seemed to last forever. Maybe it never wanted to end. As the bizarre race played out, Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne was thankful the action ceased –especially when it worked in his favor.

Five-hundred miles is an exhausting amount, one that’s difficult to completely fill with excitement. Lulls ensued, yet they served as needed breaks from the crazy developments.

It all started with a cat. Or a squirrel. When leader Kevin Harvick radioed in early into the race, he quickly dodged a furry object. It was first regarded as a feline, but a clear photo showed that it was a tree-dwelling critter that took a wrong turn.

A caution soon came out –thankfully, it wasn’t for the squirrel. Instead, it was for some unwanted decoration on Jimmie Johnson’s machine. AJ Allmendinger’s tire shredded apart, and a shred flew up and hooked onto the No. 48’s hood pins. BOOM, streamers.

Oh, but the insanity didn’t stop there; on one of the many restarts, turn three was a crapshoot due to a large quantity of smoke drifting into the area. It seemed to be from an infield fire. Either way, it looked creepy.

The race mellowed out, and it was shaping to be a tight battle between second-place Harvick and a leading Kahne. The former has collected three wins this season, while the HMS driver hadn’t contributed to the team count. Kahne’s lead kept growing and growing and growing as he came closer to the white flag’s appearance…

…and then Kyle Busch drove through Martin Truex, Jr. He claimed it was a misjudgment, yet he rammed into him again once the No. 78 went into the wall. Truex and his team were understandably upset, searching for some consistency. The incident sent the field up for pit stops, and Matt Kenseth rose to the occasion. He took two tires, while Kahne and Harvick went with four. They fell back, chances seemingly diminished.

On the restart, Paul Menard got a horrible restart on his two tires and back up into Harvick. Joey Logano darted out of line and set them three wide. Eating and banging followed, and Harvick smacked the wall, chances killed. When the caution flew, Kahne was third, next to a surprisingly strong Danica Patrick.

Kenseth attempted to hang onto the final restart, but Kahne wasn’t having any of it. With an accidental wiggle from the No. 20, Kahne extended his lead and took the checkered flag. His first victory of 2014 gives him seventeen wins in his career.

Some other notable headlines: Winless Kenseth also secures a spot in The Chase, and Patrick claimed her career-best finish with sixth place.

With one race remaining until The Chase begins, things are getting tight. It’s no doubt that the Richmond International Raceway event will be exciting, but can it top Atlanta’s showing? That’s to be determined.

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