BRISTOL, Tenn. — As brilliantly deft and daring as Kasey Kahne was in his inaugural Sprint Cup victory at Bristol Motor Speedway, even more impressive is how good he's been all season.
The hot starts of defending series champion Brad Keselowski (first in the standings with finishes of fourth, fourth, third and third) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (nine points out of the lead with a career-best four straight top 10s to start the year) have garnered much of the attention.
It's easy to neglect the performance of Kahne – just as he might have been overlooked after the Food City 500. The Hendrick Motorsports driver outdueled Kyle Busch and Keselowski in stirring side-by-side battles Sunday near the end of a race that probably will be remembered mostly for a postrace confrontation between the teams of Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.
Pole-sitter Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray.
If not for some misfortune, this season's highlights might have featured lots more of his No. 5 Chevrolet.
The 15th victory of Kahne's career could have been his third of the season, which he has started apparently having lost none of the momentum from a 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup in which he finished a career-best fourth.