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Top 10 Moments of 2017 - #4: Kahne Wins Wild One at Brickyard

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh of a series of 10 vignettes in which IMS Senior Communications Manager Paul Kelly picks his top 10 moments of 2017 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

There’s a simple, universal question for anyone who goes to a movie, a concert or a sporting event and wonders afterward if the event was money well spent: Were you entertained?

The answer to that question for anyone who witnessed the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 should be a resounding “YES!”

Kasey Kahne thrilled the crowd at IMS and on TV and radio with a wild, unlikely victory in the 24th edition of the annual NASCAR classic. The race endured a rain delay of nearly two hours and two red flags, and featured a series of crashes and daring passes in the closing laps and overtime before Kahne emerged with a much-needed win.

Kahne started 19th but moved his way up the field in his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet fielded by Hendrick Motorsports, which had won nine of the previous 23 Brickyard 400s.

Despite the charge toward the front, Kahne appeared to be no match early on for pole sitter Kyle Busch and eventual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. That tandem dominated the first 110 of the scheduled 160 laps.

Busch won the first two stages in the No. 18 Skittles Toyota and led 87 of the first 110 laps. Truex chased Busch in second for many of those laps and led eight circuits in his No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota.

But a portent of the wild finish to come took place on Lap 111. Truex got loose on a restart in Turn 1, sliding up into Busch. Both cars made heavy contact with the SAFER Barrier, ending their races and Busch’s bid to become the first driver to win this event for three consecutive years.

The final 16 laps featured six yellow flags and a red flag. Not exactly a breezy Sunday drive.

A major flashpoint during the stretch run came on a restart on Lap 159. Kahne and Brad Keselowski were side by side in Turn 1, with Keselowski nosing ahead in Turn 2. Kahne got loose in Turn 2, which allowed four-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson to pull alongside Kahne.

The three NASCAR superstars then went three-wide down the backstraight, with Johnson inside, Kahne in the middle and Keselowski on the outside. They entered Turn 3 in that formation, and Johnson wiggled, made light contact with Kahne, who made light contact with Keselowski.

Johnson spun into the SAFER Barrier in Turn 3, ending his chance for a record-tying fifth Brickyard victory. Keselowski and Kahne held on to continue, under caution.

Overtime ensued. Leader Kahne chose the outside lane on the restart on Lap 163, with second-place Keselowski on the inside. But a six-car tangle was triggered on the frontstraight on the restart when Michael McDowell tapped Trevor Bayne from behind, sending Bayne into a spin that collected numerous cars. A red-flag period started on Lap 164 for clean-up.

Keselowski had slipped under Kahne just before the melee with the inside lane and was judged by NASCAR officials as the leader, setting up the final restart.

Kahne’s decisive pass came on the second attempt at overtime in the race scheduled for 160 laps. Leader Keselowski chose the outside lane on the restart on Lap 166, with Kahne in second on the inside.

Former USAC open-wheel star Kahne held his line under Keselowski in Turn 1 on the restart and started to pull away. Then an accident less than a mile later, involving Denny Hamlin, Ty Dillon and Paul Menard on the backstretch, triggered the last of a record 14 caution periods and ended the race, with Kahne out front. Kahne cruised under the yellow and checkered flags on Lap 167 as darkness encroached on the 2.5-mile oval.

Kahne was mentally and physically drained after the race, requiring intravenous fluids before his winner’s press conference. But the ecstasy matched the agony, as Kahne earned the biggest victory of his career.

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