HAMPTON, Ga. — Kasey Kahne is no longer chasing a spot in NASCAR’s 10-race championship playoff.
Kahne made a strong move on a green-white-checkered finish restart to overtake Matt Kenseth, whose care wiggled on the next-to-last lap, costing him a shot at victory. But Kenseth, by finishing second at Atlanta Motor Speedway late Sunday night, is also locked into the postseason Chase.
The 10th and final caution of the night set up the wild finish when Kevin Harvick — who had the most dominant car of the night — got entangled with Paul Menard.
Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman will be the top drivers in position to lock up the last two Chase spots Saturday night in Richmond.
The dominant Hendrick Motorsports team has now advanced all four of its drivers into the Chase.
“The guys stayed with me and worked hard,” Kahne said. “Really happy, really thankful … We’ve had kind of a downer year at times. One thing after another, but we’re in the Chase with my teammates.”
Things did not go as swimmingly for Tony Stewart, now down to a final mad dash at Richmond to try to qualify for the Chase.
The tragic turns that enveloped Stewart in the month of August took a race-related frustrating twist on Sunday night when his No. 14 Chevy hit the wall on Lap 173.
So ended an emotional return to racing for Stewart, competing for the first time since his car clipped and killed fellow sprint-car driver Kevin Ward Jr., 20, during a dirt-track race in upstate New York on Aug. 9.
“Not the end of the day that we wanted,” Stewart crew chief Chad Johnston said. “We thought we had a shot at winning and with two races to go to get into the Chase. This was one of the two chances obviously left to get it done and to get into the Chase. We will just have to lick our wounds and go onto Richmond and see if we can’t do it there, and if so it will be pretty exciting.”
It was a rough night for Stewart, who qualified 12th overall after NASCAR gave him a waiver allowing him to be eligible for the Chase despite missing three races. Stewart did not address the media, staying in his team’s garage area after the accident ended his night.
Earlier, Kyle Busch made contact with Stewart on a restart, shoving Stewart into the wall and likely setting up Stewart’s troubles down the road.
“We were just kind of biding our time and taking care of our stuff and got into an incident there off of (Turn) 2 and knocked the tow out of it and had some pretty heavy right side damage,” Johnston said. “We ended up blowing a right-front (tire) because of it.”
Stewart, a three-time Cup champion, received a rousing ovation after he was introduced before the race. The NASCAR Nation, as a whole, has extended a warm embrace to Stewart, who became entangled in tragedy and controversy because Ward’s death.
The Ontario County Sheriff’s Department released a statement saying the investigation into Ward’s death will continue for at least another two weeks.
Whatever legal issues he may or may not face, Stewart is running out of time to try to win his fourth Cup title.
He came out of seclusion on Friday, the occasional crack in his voice dispelling any notion that his focus was strictly on racing.
“This is one of the toughest tragedies I’ve ever had to deal with, both professionally and personally,” Stewart said.
He has been extended encouragement in the garage area as well, despite some competitive dynamics involving a handful of drivers on the Chase bubble who could lose a spot in the Chase if Stewart wins in Richmond.
Distributed by MCT Information Services