Victory on Labor Day in Atlanta, Georgia, propelled Kasey Kahne up the table in the race for the final berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, while Brian Vickers has one more chance to reach the play-off.
Kevin Harvick was leading by a country mile until a yellow flag for a late spin by Clint Bowyer handed Kahne the chance to get past and cross the finish line just 1.766 seconds ahead.
But it would be churlish to say the win was anything but deserved: last year Kahne was deprived of a place at NASCAR’s high table after a dramatic decline in form. The result also sees a return for Richard Petty Motorsports who look almost certain to reach the final stages of the Sprint for the first time since the Chase format was introduced in 2004.
Juan Pablo Montoya was third and Vickers did his chances no harm by finishing a creditable seventh despite suffering a broken axle halfway through the race.
While Kahne is now almost certain of going to the Chase, Denny Hamlin’s sixth place finish guaranteed his spot in the final reckoning. Vickers is still one place short. To get there, he needs to outscore Matt Kenseth by more than 20 points in Richmond, Virginia, on September 12.