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Archive for Sunday, October 15, 2006

Kahne completes sweep at Lowe’s

Burton bags third-place finish, retains points lead in the Chase for the championship

October 15, 2006

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— Kasey Kahne did everything right, yet it did little to help his championship hopes.

Kahne put on a dominating performance Saturday night to complete a season sweep at Lowe's Motor Speedway, passing track favorite Jimmie Johnson with 26 laps go and pulling away for the victory.

But the win - his series-leading sixth of the season - hardly moved him in the Chase for the championship standings. He's eighth, 160 points out with five races to go before the Nextel Cup is awarded.

"We're making ground now. We had trouble at the start, but we're down to 160, we've cut it just about in half," Kahne said. "We're doing everything we can, but I think we definitely have the team to do it."

Although several Chase contenders had horrible nights - including Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon - Jeff Burton is proving to be an excellent points racer and retained his spot atop the standings in spite of a pit road miscue. He finished third and leads Matt Kenseth by 45 points.

Kahne led 134 laps to grab the win, the Dodge driver's second this season on the 1.5-mile track. He also nipped Johnson to win the Coca-Cola 600 in May.

Johnson, winner of five of the past eight races at Lowe's, finished second again. He moved up one point to seventh in the Chase standings, but is still 146 out.

Still, the top half of the standings are still pretty tight, and only 106 points separate Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished fourth Saturday night and is fifth in the standings.

Earnhardt then marveled at what Burton - the driver who couldn't find his way to Victory Lane for almost five years before this season - has been able to accomplish.

"I couldn't catch up to the Ice Man, Jeff Burton," Earnhardt said. "He's not indestructible, but he's doing a great job. He's been doing it for years. He knows what it takes."

Mayhem broke out 91 laps from the finish during a round of green-flag pit stops.

First, Kevin Harvick was caught speeding on pit road. Then Burton, his teammate, stalled exiting his pit stall. As his crew was frantically trying to jump-start Burton by pushing him down pit road, Harvick headed that way to serve his speeding penalty.

Meanwhile, out on the track, Martin was attempting to pass J.J. Yeley on the inside when the rookie cut down toward pit road. The contact sent Martin's car skyrocketing across the track - it was off the ground when it hit the wall - and came to a stop in a crumpled heap that crippled his chance at taking over the championship standings.

Martin had flirted with the points lead all night, shifting back and forth from first to second in the standings before the accident snapped his streak of 37-straight races running at the end. He finished 30th, and is now fourth in the standings, 102 out.

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