CONCORD, N.C. — The 42 drivers chasing Jimmie Johnson heard the plea from the fans and saw it on the T-shirts that begged for “Anybody But Jimmie” to win the Coca-Cola 600. Kasey Kahne was the only one up for the challenge.
Kahne ended Johnson’s run of three straight Coca-Cola 600 victories by taking the lead with 29 laps to go Sunday night and pulling out to such a huge lead that Johnson never had a chance to catch him.
“That’s all I ever wanted here, was a car that could race with Jimmie at the end,” Kahne said. “You know every time you get to the end of a race at Charlotte, Jimmie Johnson is the guy to beat.”
For the first time in six races, someone not named Johnson celebrated in Victory Lane at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Johnson, winner of last week’s All-Star Challenge and seven of the past 10 races at Lowe’s, finished second. He was well over two seconds behind Kahne, who stopped his car at the finish line to grab the checkered flag and celebrate with his team. It was Kahne’s third victory of the season.
Columbia native Carl Edwards, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth finished third through fifth for Roush Racing.
“Kasey’s car was pretty awesome,” Edwards said. “I couldn’t keep up with him when he went by us, so I’m pretty happy with third place.”
Defending series champion Tony Stewart wrecked early in the race and was taken to the hospital for evaluation. He was seen and released, and a team spokesman said he broke the tip of his right shoulder blade.
Kahne led a race-high 158 of 400 laps in a race that begins in the day, ends in the night and leaves most drivers exhausted.