Archive for Sunday, May 15, 2005

Kahne claims first Cup crown

Pole-sitter pulls away from Stewart for victory

May 15, 2005


— Kasey Kahne had been so close so many times in his first 46 races in NASCAR's premier series, it was starting to hurt.

But the 25-year-old driver outran another brush with agony by outpacing Tony Stewart on two restarts in the last 14 laps Saturday night and put the domination of Roush Racing and Hendrick Motorsports to rest for a night.

"Tonight's just the night," said Kahne, a six-time pole-sitter with six career second-place finishes. "We've come so close and always thought when it comes the time, we're going to win a race."

Even better was how he did it.

Kahne's crew gave him a lot of help, getting his Dodge off pit road just ahead of Stewart with about 67 laps to go. Then the Evernham Motorsports driver stayed there on restarts with 61, 43, 14 and seven laps remaining.

It took Kahne a lap to get clear of Stewart, but once he did, he left Stewart to battle Ryan Newman for second and won by 1.67 seconds.

"To beat Tony Stewart just means a lot because of how good he is," Kahne said. "It's just awesome to beat that good of a driver."

Victory came in just his 47th career Nextel Cup race and gave Dodge its first victory in a Charger since Neil Bonnett in 1977 in California.

"This is a big weight off all of our shoulders," crew chief Tommy Baldwin said. "Now we can ease up on the tension and really go racing."

Kasey Kahne celebrates after winning the Chevy American Revolution
400. He won the Nextel Cup race Saturday night at the Richmond
International Raceway in Richmond, Va.

Kasey Kahne celebrates after winning the Chevy American Revolution 400. He won the Nextel Cup race Saturday night at the Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va.

Kahne's big night kept his recent turnaround going. He started the night 19th in points, but coming off a pole position and third-place run at Darlington and two poles this weekend, including the Busch Series.

"It's been coming for a while," Kahne said.

He also became the first driver to win from the pole at Richmond since Bill Elliott, who Kahne replaced for Evernham, did it in March 1992.

Stewart, who raced against Kahne in open-wheel series before both came to NASCAR, was as happy as seemed possible after coming up short.

"The kid has done an awesome job for two years now. He just needed a perfect night, and tonight's that night," Stewart said. "If we were going to run second to anybody ... that's the guy to run second to."

Stewart's Chevrolet was followed across the line by the Dodge of Ryan Newman and the Chevrolets of Hendrick driver Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick.

The night was tough on the points leaders, with leader Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon having miserable nights and Roush's Kurt Busch having to rally from two laps down to finish 17th.

Greg Biffle finished sixth and jumped from third to second in points, just 41 behind Johnson. Gordon is third, 124 points behind, and Elliott Sadler, who ran seventh, passed Busch for fourth, 149 points back.

Roush teams had won five of the first 10 races of the year, and the Hendrick drivers had won four, but none threatened in this race.

Johnson spun and hit the wall on lap 81, then hit it again when his steering failed as he was trying to hustle the car to pit road.

He took his car to the garage, finishing 40th.

Gordon hit the wall when Bobby Labonte caused Rusty Wallace to spin on lap 165, and the four-time champion went several laps down on pit road.

"It was one of the stupidest things I've ever done in my life," Gordon said. "A car spun in front of me, I saw smoke, and I slowed down, decided to take it a little high and just ran straight into the wall."

After a second pit stop under a green flag, Gordon took his car to the garage and was more than 50 laps down when he finally came back out. Even then, he kept losing ground and finally called it a night, finishing 39th.

Busch, meantime, was running second after pit stops when the race was ready to go back to green on lap 242. But just before the final circuit under yellow, he headed for pit road after telling his crew he'd heard a bad noise. Busch dropped two laps behind while his team investigated.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.