SPEEDWAY, Indiana — Kasey Kahne claimed his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win since 2014 and snapped a 102-race losing streak with a victory Sunday in the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
It was his first career Brickyard 400 win.
Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman finished second and third, respectively, as the race finished under caution after two overtime restarts. A Denny Hamlin flat tire resulted in the race-ending wreck. Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five.
In addition to racing each other, NASCAR competitors raced darkness after the race was red-flagged for nearly two hours for lightning and rain after 12 laps. The red flag waved two more times for track cleanup after late-race wrecks. In all, the yellow flag waved 13 times.
Kenseth inherited the lead with 50 laps to go when previous front-runners — his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. — wrecked while racing for the lead. Kevin Harvick moved into second.
Pit strategies varied in the final 50 laps, and when the front-runners pitted under green with about 30 laps to go, Keselowski, among others, stayed out, gambling for another caution. He and the others who stayed out got multiple cautions over the course of the remaining laps, the last one sending the race into overtime.
The 10th caution came at the perfect time for Kahne. He pitted just before a wreck involving Kurt Busch, Erik Jones and Clint Bowyer with about 10 laps remaining. After a red flag for track cleanup, Kahne stayed out while almost everyone else pitted and restarted with the lead.
Kahne was the only Hendrick Motorsports driver still in the race at the finish. Chase Elliott blew his engine late in the first stage of the race, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost an engine in stage two. A flat tire resulted in a Jimmie Johnson wreck that brought the yellow flag out and sent the race into overtime.
Kyle Busch dominated the first 100 laps of the 160-lap race, including winning each of the first two 50-lap stages. Truex ran second to Busch throughout the first two stages and finished second to him in both. However, during the caution at the end of stage two, Truex got off pit road ahead of Busch to restart with the lead.
The yellow flag waved again a few laps later for a Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wreck. On the resulting restart, with about 50 laps remaining, Truex and Busch wrecked racing for the lead. Truex’s car caught fire, and both drivers were retired from the race.
Kyle Busch started on the pole, and by the time the yellow flag waved for the first time for a Corey LaJoie wreck on lap 10, Truex had joined Kyle Busch up front in second. Their domination of the first two positions continued after a nearly two-hour delay for lightning in the area that was followed by rain at the track.
Kyle Busch led and Truex ran second until they pitted on lap 72, while several others stayed out during a caution for J.J. Yeley. Jones was the leader on the restart, while Busch restarted ninth.
Ryan Blaney took the lead from Jones on the restart, as Busch and Truex made their way back toward the front. On lap 87, Busch passed Blaney for the lead, and soon after, Blaney lost second to Truex.
NOTES: Kyle Busch won both the 2015 and 2016 Brickyard 400s, but he is winless in 2017. His 2016 Brickyard 400 win was his most recent Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory. … Jimmie Johnson qualified fourth but had to start in the back because of a rear gear change after qualifying. Cole Whitt also started in the back because of a rear gear change, and Joey Gase started in the back after an engine change. … Johnson leads active drivers with four Brickyard 400 wins, trailing all-time Brickyard 400 wins leader Jeff Gordon by one. … The 2017 Brickyard 400 was the first edition of the race without Gordon in the race field, but he was the honorary pace-car driver. The 2015 Brickyard 400 was expected to be Gordon’s last, but he returned last year to drive the No. 88 as a substitute for the sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr. … Kyle Busch led a race-high 44 laps in the 100-lap NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday but finished 12th while Cup Series regulars Paul Menard and Joey Logano finished in the top-three. Busch won the Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2015 and 2016.
Xfinity rookie Byron edges Menard
With a new competition package that produced a race-record 16 lead changes and the closest NASCAR Xfinity Series finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, William Byron threw more blocks than an NFL fullback in holding off charging Paul Menard to win Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250.
Byron made the decisive pass for the lead on Lap 85, surging past JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler into the top spot. Menard gained two spots, from fourth to second during a six-circuit stretch from Laps 90 to 96 but couldn’t overtake Byron, who blocked each of Menard’s attempts to make a winning pass.
“It’s so cool — this is awesome,” said Byron, who won in his first visit to the vaunted Brickyard. “I’d never been to a Brickyard 400 or an Indy 500, but I watched it as a kid. It takes a lot to win these races, and to win here is so special.”
Joey Logano followed Byron past Sadler on Lap 85 and finished third after losing the second position to Menard on Lap 96.
The leader in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year standings, Byron won for the third time this season. Fighting a vibration he thought might have been the result of a tire issue, he finished .108 of a second ahead of Menard.
“He’s done an awesome job,” team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “I’m excited for his future and the rest of the season.”
Menard thought he might have been able to get to Byron’s bumper in the closing laps but thought better of trying to move him.
“He was better than me through Turn 1,” Menard said. “I just had to lift too much and play catch-up through Turns 2, 3 and 4 back to the start/finish line. I made a pretty aggressive dive into (Turn) 1 that last lap, just to see if I could get him loose, but he made it stick. …
“I maybe could have gotten to his bumper, but that would have definitely killed my momentum, too. All it probably would have done is chase both of us up the hill, and Joey might have won. I didn’t think that was in either of our best interest.”
Second in the standings, Byron now trails Sadler, the series leader, by 40 points. A disastrous pit stop cost JRM teammate Justin Allgaier dearly, dropping him to 35th at the finish and 133 points behind Sadler in the standings.
Allgaier pitted from the lead on Lap 57 of 100 and overshot his stall, starting a comedy of errors. The No. 7 crew began working on the car before pushing it back into the pit box. Allgaier took off early, snapping the air hose, which danced around the stall like a snake before coming to rest. The coup de grace was a right front tire that hadn’t been secured.
The tire came off the hub and lodged at an angle inside the wheel well. With his car towed to the garage for repairs, Allgaier lost 13 laps.
That was the comic relief, however, in a race where the new rules package drew overwhelmingly positive reviews.
“Overall, we’re certainly pleased with what we saw on the racetrack,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “From an eye test, it definitely passed when you look at the metrics, right? Most leaders we’ve had (eight). Most lead changes. Closest finish. Certainly, on the quick recap, some really great metrics.
“But as we said before, there’s a lot for us to digest, go back, talk to the teams, drivers, crew chiefs, see where we’re at and go from there.”