Reigning champion Brad Keselowski finally scored his first win of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season in a Charlotte Motor Speedway race transformed by a late caution.
Jimmie Johnson had been on course for a dominant win in what had turned into a processional event until a debris yellow with 27 of 334 laps remaining. The five-time champion's Hendrick teammates Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon, both of whom had led stints earlier in, only took two tires at the subsequent pit stops and jumped to the front.
Johnson restarted third, but a big slide as he attacked at the restart dropped him to seventh. That allowed Johnson's title rival Matt Kenseth and Keselowski to move into victory contention after making gradual progress up the order through the night following poor early stints.
"It was just a never-give-up night," Keselowski said. "We had a lot of struggles tonight. We didn't qualify well (23rd), but we kept working our way forward. I knew we had a good car. I'm not sure we were as good as the 48 (Johnson) or the 5 (Kahne).
"I never got to really race them until the end and (Kahne) had two tires, so I think we were probably pretty even. When (crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) made the call to take four tires, and I saw we were that close to the front, I knew we could get them."
As Gordon swiftly fell back, Keselowski passed Kenseth and began to attack Kahne. At first the Hendrick driver was able to sweep back in front using a wider line every time Keselowski's Penske Ford got alongside. The battle was finally resolved with eight laps to go, and Keselowski was able to pull clearly ahead and go on to win by a second.
"I was on two (tires) and he was on four, and he could just move around a little bit better," Kahne said. "I was trying to move around, but I was just a little bit on the tight side with the front end, then I would get loose if I got the front working.
"I was doing all I could and felt pretty good, but he made some nice moves and just really had some speed there late in the race and was able to get by me."
Kahne held off Kenseth and Johnson for second, meaning Kenseth keeps a four-point championship lead.
Kyle Busch was fifth, followed by front-row starter Kevin Harvick and Gordon.
Results - 334 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford 3h09m53.000s
2. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet +1.023s
3. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota +1.074s
4. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet +1.409s
5. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota +3.069s
6. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet +5.589s
7. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet +6.427s
8. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +7.631s
9. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota +7.871s
10. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford +12.637s
11. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota +19.411s
12. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +26.291s
13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford +30.284s
14. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet +1 lap
15. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet +1 lap
16. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford +1 lap
17. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford +1 lap
18. Joey Logano Penske Ford +2 laps
19. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +2 laps
20. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +2 laps
21. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet +2 laps
22. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota +3 laps
23. Aric Almirola Petty Ford +3 laps
24. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet +3 laps
25. Brian Vickers Waltrip Toyota +4 laps
26. David Reutimann BK Toyota +4 laps
27. Brian Scott Childress Chevrolet +4 laps
28. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota +5 laps
29. David Gilliland Front Row Ford +6 laps
30. David Ragan Front Row Ford +6 laps
31. Casey Mears Germain Ford +6 laps
32. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet +7 laps
33. Landon Cassill Circle Sport Chevrolet +7 laps
34. Cole Whitt Swan Toyota +7 laps
35. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota +8 laps
36. Timmy Hill FAS Lane Ford +10 laps
Kyle Larson Phoenix Chevrolet 247 laps
Blake Koch Leavine Ford 216 laps
Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 149 laps
Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 83 laps
Josh Wise Front Row Ford 81 laps
Mark Martin Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 80 laps
JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet 23 laps