Sunday's race at Pocono could have been a race that was a sizzling filet mignon for the NASCAR conspiracy set.
Kasey Kahne was leading by over seven seconds with 11 laps to go when a caution flag flew on lap 149 for debris. Just like that, the lead was gone, and Kahne was restarting with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon to his inside for an eight-lap dash to the finish.
A race that had become just a matter of counting laps was suddenly set up for another wild and potentially four-wide restart heading into turn one.
On that restart, the field fanned out and Gordon took the lead. Uh oh, the grill was getting hot and the meat was prepared. But those plans got put on hold when Matt Kenseth spun to bring out another yellow and set up a two-lap sprint to the finish.
This time, it was Kahne's restart to own. After getting beat at the flag, Kahne powered alongside Gordon through turns one and two, and drove away for his second win of the season. That filet mignon was instead another unmemorable boring slab of unseasoned ground beef.
"I about gave it away, Jeff got by me," Kahne said. "And then on that final restart I spun my tires and he got a great jump. Kurt (Busch) pushed me all the way into (turn) one which really helped and I had one opportunity; it was either go for it and make it work or not."
Kahne was a couple carlengths back of Gordon heading into one, but was suddenly alongside Gordon as the two exited turn one. They stayed that way down the Long Pond straight, but as Kahne inched ahead and kept Gordon down low as the two headed towards the tricky tunnel turn, Gordon wisely got off the gas and Kahne was gone.
It wasn't the 42nd birthday present Gordon thought had fallen into his lap moments earlier.
"It's so funny how our emotions go up and down in this sport," Gordon said. "Going into the race if you would have told me I could finish second I'd have said that was a great birthday gift. When your leading -- take the lead away from Kasey the way we did on that restart, I thought we had him. He was better than us, but I thought out in front we could hold him off."
"I got a perfect restart on that last one, probably jumped him a little bit. Got in front of him and looked like I needed to block the inside so I kind of protected the inside and he just blasted up there on the outside and flat outdrove me through one."
Before the penultimate restart, Kahne had built the advantage thanks to some quick work on pit road by his crew during the final cycle of pit stops for the leaders. In a day dominated by differing pit cycles throughout the field, Kahne took over for teammate Jimmie Johnson in the role of dominant car fo the day after Johnson cut a tire and hit the wall while leading on lap 76. Kahne led 66 laps while Johnson, the polesitter, led 43.
Busch finished third, while last week's winner Ryan Newman was fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fifth. Despite the run-in with the wall, Johnson finished 13th and his points lead actually grew by a point as Clint Bowyer finished 16th.