SONOMA, Calif., (Sunday, June 21, 2009) Kasey Kahne drove his Budweiser Dodge Charger to his 10th career victory and first on a road-course at Sundays Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway. The win was the second of the season for Dodge in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.
Dodge placed four cars inside the top-15 including all three Richard Petty Motorsports entries. In addition to Kahne, RPMs AJ Allmendinger finished seventh and Elliott Sadler was 10th. Kurt Busch rounded out the strong showing by the Dodge Boys, finishing 15th.
The race at the 1.99-mile, 12-turn facility was the first of two-road course races on the 2009 Cup schedule. The early stages of the 110-lap race developed into a fuel mileage and pit strategy battle. That changed in the final 20 circuits as the field was slowed by five caution flags.
Kahne, who started fifth, had to fight off five double-file restarts including a two-lap green-white checkered flag finish holding off a hard-charging Tony Stewart for the event win. On each restart, Kahne was a picture of perfection. Not once was Stewart able to offer a serious challenge for the lead on the double-file restarts.
The race win was the first of the season for Richard Petty Motorsports (Gillett Evernham Motorsports and Petty Enterprises merged at the beginning of the season to form a four-car team under the RPM banner) and the first time that King Richard Petty has visited victory lane since the spring event at Martinsville in 1999.
With the win, Kahne jumped two spots in the NSCS driver point standings. He is currently 13th, only three points out of 12th. The top 12 drivers in points after the first 26 races will compete for the season championship and Sprint Cup over the final 10 races of the season. Nine races remain to set the Chase field.
Kahne started fifth to lead the seven car Dodge contingent to the green flag. He took over the race lead for the first time on lap 30, earning five bonus points for leading a lap. Despite an average finish of 31st at Infineon, Kahne stayed free of contact and used two scheduled green flag pits stops to race within the top-five for most of the race. A green-flag pit sequence dropped Kahne as far down as 31 just over 40 laps into the race. But patience and perseverance paid dividends. The fact Kahne had a well-balanced and fast Dodge Charger made the mission a bit easier.
Its crazy, Kahne said. We qualified really well here the last couple of years and it feels good to qualify well here, run out front, and to hold off Tony Stewart, thats awesome. That guy (Stewart) is as good as it gets on any type of race track and we were able to go hard with our Budweiser Dodge Charger. Kenny (Francis, crew chief) and the guys did an awesome job. Its unbelievable to win here. To win any race is great. For me to win on a road course is crazy. It feels really good.
Francis, the veteran crew chief for Kahnes No. 9 Budweiser Dodge, was cool from his perch atop the pit box knowing that racing at Infineon usually comes down to fuel strategy.
Fuel strategy is always an issue here. Can you pit early and make it all the way, or do you risk the cautions, or do you come in when you get your window, said Francis. But we played it. There was a stretch there in the middle of the race where we were in about the middle of the pack and the fuel thing hadn’t cycled out yet, so we elected to come get tires. I think that was probably the key move for us in the race. We drove up through the field on the tires and got up near the front. Then when the pit stop stuff cycled out, we were right there in the front.
Allmendinger (No. 44 Best Buy Dodge Charger) had a most interesting day. He started 20th, had a brake problem early which left him a lap down, but managed to rebound and raced in the top 10 over the final 30 laps. He finished seventh.
“It was a tough day for us early in the race, said Allmendinger. I was just clicking off laps when the car just locked up and sent me into the gravel. We ended up cutting down a left-front tire and had to come in under green to pit. After being the fastest car in happy hour yesterday, we knew that our Best Buy Dodge was going to be fast today. It was just a weird deal with the car locking up like that.
Penske Racings Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) struggled during Fridays qualifying and started 27th. By lap 43, Busch had gained 25 positions, via pit strategy and a fast Miller Lite Dodge. On lap 89, Busch was running fifth when the Blue Deuce was hit by the No. 48 and sent into a slide and into the retaining wall. The mishap brought out the fifth caution and the 2004 series champion restarted 38th after a pit stop. Busch worked his way back through the field, picking up 23 spots to finish 15th.
“I initially was thinking that it was a pretty tough day out there when you’re running fourth and a three-time champion dumps you, Busch said. I was so worried we were going a lap down and finish way back there. He (Jimmie Johnson) hit the curb and just launched into us. He came over and apologized right after the race. It was just two champion drivers going after the same spot. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it should have been much better.
Driver Team Finished
Kasey Kahne No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger Win
AJ Allmendinger No. 44 Best Buy Dodge Charger 7th
Elliott Sadler No. 19 Stanley Dodge Charger 10th
Kurt Busch No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger 15th
Sam Hornish Jr. No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger 38th
David Stremme No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger 39th
Reed Sorenson No. 43 Valvoline Dodge Charger 40th
Driver Rank Starts Points Behind Wins Poles T5s T10s
Kurt Busch 4 16 2084 -280 1 0 4 8
Kasey Kahne 13 16 1914 -450 1 0 2 5
Elliott Sadler 23 16 1570 -794 0 0 0 4
Sam Hornish Jr. 26 16 1496 -868 0 0 0 1
Reed Sorenson 27 16 1487 -877 0 0 1 1
AJ Allmendinger 29 16 1467 -897 0 0 1 3
David Stremme 31 16 1362 -1002 0 0 0 0
NASCAR SPRINT CUP
SERIES POINT STANDINGS
(Top 12 after 16 of 36 races)
1. Tony Stewart 2364 –
2. Jeff Gordon 2280 -84
3. Jimmie Johnson 2207 -157
4. Kurt Busch 2084 -280
5. Carl Edwards 2051 -313
6. Ryan Newman 2046 -318
7. Denny Hamlin 2009 -355
8. Greg Biffle 1992 -372
9. Kyle Busch 1962 -402
10. Matt Kenseth 1957 -407
11. Mark Martin 1926 -438
12. JP Montoya 1917 -447
13. Kasey Kahne 1914 -450
The Sprint Cup Series returns to action for Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire next Sunday, June 28. The green flag is scheduled to drop at 2:15 p.m. ET
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