BRISTOL, Tenn. -- A week ago, Kasey Kahne dominated the race at Las Vegas, but problems on his final pit stop kept him out of victory lane.
But Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, he took advantage of problems by defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski on the final restart of the Food City 500 to grab the lead. Kahne then pulled away to a 1.7-second win over pole-sitter and second-place finisher Kyle Busch.
Keselowski took the high lane on the restart with 40 laps to go. But he seemed to spin his wheels as the green flag came out with Denny Hamlin plowing into the back of him. This allowed Kahne and Busch to roar by into the top two spots.
Kahne said his battle with Keselowski before the last caution was nerve-wracking.
"He was driving into the corner so hard I couldn't really do anything on the bottom," said Kahne. "It was just trying to get the momentum off the corner and make something happen on exit.
"It took awhile to do it. I bumped him a few times. He was sideways trying to hold me back. I got the lead, then gave it right back in lap traffic. I was definitely mad at myself at that point in time. Had to calm down. I about spun out off of two a few laps after that.
"Got a good restart. I think Brad must have spun his tires a bit. I still had Kyle right on me. We were able get away from him. That felt really good.
"I just feel like for myself it's a really big accomplishment to win here."
Busch spent the last 35 laps just trying to hold off Keselowski in a spirited battle for the runner-up spot. The heated duel between Busch and Keselowski allowed Kahne to pull away for the win.
Kurt Busch made a late-race charge to finish fourth followed by Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray.
The race was dominated by Kyle Busch and teammate Hamlin for the first half of race, but Jeff Gordon gambled on a two-two stop to vault into the lead on lap 324.
That's when the race got really exciting.
Joey Logano tried repeatedly to get around Gordon. And he was still trying to take the lead when Hamlin joined the battle for the top spot.
On lap 347, Logano went low once again to try to get by Gordon. But as he slid back up the track, he was clipped by Hamlin. Moments later, Hamlin clipped Logano again, turning Logan sideways and backward into the wall.
This led to a heated exchange on pit road after the race when Logano went to express his displeasure with Hamlin. A member of Hamlin's crew pushed Logano away from Hamlin's car and then the two crews started pushing and shoving before NASCAR got things cooled down.
"I'm not going to get run over and not do something about it," said Logano. "I'm gonna at least talk to him, so I'm done.
"I was racing for the lead and it's frustrating," continued Logano. "That's a freaking genius behind the wheel of the 11 car - probably the worst teammate I ever had (while the two were at Joe Gibbs Racing). He decided to run in the back of me. I have a scorecard and I'm not putting up with that. What goes around comes around. I had a car that could have won the race."
Logano ended up 17th.
Hamlin apologized over the radio shortly after the incident. But after Logano stuck his head into Hamlin's car to tell Hamlin what he thought of him, Hamlin wasn't quite as apologetic.
"You really got to control your car and he slid up into me," said Hamlin. "Really, he would have been in the garage with no radiator in it if I had not checked up twice. I didn't mean to spin him out. "
When asked what Logano said, Hamlin replied, "He said he was coming for me. I usually don't see him, so it's usually not a factor."
Hamlin ran into tire problems during the final 10 laps as he bounced off the wall several times and finished 23rd.
On the restart following the caution for the Logano spin, Matt Kenseth moved into second place and had closed to Gordon's bumper when disaster struck for both drivers.
With 110 laps to go, Gordon went low to pass the lapped car of Terry Labonte when the right-front tire on Gordon's Chevrolet blew out. This sent Gordon up into the wall right in front of Kenseth, who slammed so hard into Gordon's car that he lifted the rear wheels off the ground.
"We went with left-side tires to help make the car turn," said Gordon. "It definitely did that. The car was really good out front. As soon as I got into the banking, I felt the right front go. I really hate that we collected Matt Kenseth. He had a great car."
Keselowski became the leader at that point.
And for the next 50 laps, it was Keselowski and Kahne dueling for the top spot.
With 48 laps remaining, Jimmie Johnson had a right-front tire blow-out to bring out another caution.
The crowd was treated to a great duel for second place, but that battle allowed Kahne to cruise to his first win of the season and his first at Bristol."That absolutely makes up for last week," said a beaming Kahne in victory lane. "This is a great win. We had flawless pit stops all day, and I had a great car all day.
"This is a big win. That is just a tough place to win at. That's what makes it so great."
The victory, the 15th of Kahne's career, vaulted the Chevrolet driver from 14th to seventh in the Sprint Cup standings behind Keselowski, who leads Earnhardt by nine points after the first four races of the season.
Keselowski dueled with Kahne until the mishap on the late restart. He said he didn't think he spun his tires.
"All I know is my rear tires were off the ground before I got to the restart zone," said Keselowski. "Eventually I got hit so hard it pushed my foot off the gas pedal. Never had a chance (to battle for the win).
"It was gonna be a helluva battle between me and Kasey, but I didn't get a chance. I'm not sure what happened, if the 11 car got pushed from behind (by Logano) or if he just ran over me, but that's racing. Our car was pretty good at the end, not quite as good as Kasey's. But I still wish I could have raced him for the win."
Hamlin said, "The 22 (Logano) had me pinned - the 22 ran into the back of me and shoved me into the 2 (Keselowski). Sorry for the 2, but I was the pinball in the sandwich and once he throttled up, the 22 lifted me up and just flat out pinned me against the 2."
Kyle Busch was not terribly disappointed with his second-place finish.
"I just wish our car was faster there at the end," he said. "Kasey just took off and I couldn't keep up with him.
"There at the end we were probably holding up the guys behind me, but track position is everything here anymore. I was able to hold onto second, so that's good."
Busch led the first 55 laps before he was penalized for speeding on pit road. The penalty dropped him to 35th.
"We were able to get back up front, but we didn't have the best car today," said Busch. "Shoot, we probably had a sixth or seventh-place car today and we ended up second with it. So we can't complain too much."