Kasey Kahne became the 16th different driver to win for Hendrick Motorsports, as he claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory for the organization in Sunday night's 600-mile race at Charlotte.
Kahne's win makes it three weekends of consecutive success for the team after Jimmie Johnson scored Hendrick's 200th Cup win at Darlington and then triumphed in the following week's All-Star race.
Before Kahne's late surge Roush Fenway's Greg Biffle had dominated. However, as the race entered its decisive stages in dusk, Biffle started to struggle with balance following a two-tire pit stop. Then, following the fifth and final caution with 75 laps to go and with a fuel stop ahead for the leaders, Kahne passed first his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. and then Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin, who had both stayed out to gain track position as most of the leaders pitted.
Kahne reclaimed the lead for good 68 laps from the end and was unchallenged from then on, beating Hamlin by more than four seconds.
"It felt really good to put the entire race together," said Kahne following his 13th career win and his third in NASCAR's longest race. "Our car was really fast, pit stops were great and the adjustments the team came up with during the race were awesome."
Hamlin's strategy gamble on the last caution paid off as he was able to make good use of his track position advantage on the last restart, helping him to a second-place finish ahead of his Gibbs teammate Kyle Busch.
Biffle's 204 laps in the lead were to little avail in the end as he finished fourth and had no chance to contend for the victory, though his points lead remains solid.
"It seemed like when the speeds picked up and it was cool out, our car just started sliding the tires a little bit," said Biffle. "I can't believe how fast we were... we gained a little in points, but we really wanted the win."
Penske's Brad Keselowski recovered from an early penalty for speeding in the pits, plus pit road contact with reigning champion Tony Stewart, to round out the top five despite damage to the right front of his Dodge.
Three of Hendrick's four cars made it into the top seven as Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon followed Keselowski, while Johnson lost a possible shot at victory following a mistake at his final stop, which resulted in a penalty as he left his pit stall while his car was still being refueled.
Stewart had another disappointing night, finishing three laps down in 27th place, only three places ahead of his teammate Danica Patrick, who crossed the finish line five laps behind the winner, surviving her third Cup outing without any big dramas.
Only nine cars finished the race on the lead lap, the last of them being Roush Fenway's Carl Edwards.
Results - 400 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 3h51m14.000s
2. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota + 4.295s
3. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 10.676s
4. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 16.010s
5. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 19.174s
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Chevrolet + 22.533s
7. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 24.561s
8. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 26.083s
9. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 27.239s
10. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 1 lap
11. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 1 lap
12. Martin Truex Jr. Waltrip Toyota + 1 lap
13. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 2 laps
14. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 2 laps
15. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 2 laps
16. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 2 laps
17. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 2 laps
18. Landon Cassill BK Toyota + 2 laps
19. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 2 laps
20. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 2 laps
21. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 3 laps
22. Casey Mears Germain Ford + 3 laps
23. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 3 laps
24. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford + 3 laps
25. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 3 laps
26. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 3 laps
27. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet + 4 laps
28. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 4 laps
29. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 5 laps
30. Danica Patrick Stewart/Baldwin Chevrolet + 5 laps
31. TJ Bell FAS Lane Ford + 10 laps
32. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 33 laps
33. AJ Allmendinger Penske Dodge + 39 laps
Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota 338 laps
David Ragan Front Row Ford 281 laps
Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 228 laps
Scott Speed Leavine Family Ford 136 laps
David Stremme Inception Toyota 86 laps
Stephen Leicht Little Joe's Chevrolet 74 laps
Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 54 laps
Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 47 laps
Cole Whitt Turn One Chevrolet 33 laps
Josh Wise Front Row Ford 15 laps