Kahne joins elite Winner's Circle program

KASEY KAHNE JOINS ELITE WINNER'S CIRCLE PROGRAM Evernham Team Takes Wild-Card Spot with Atlanta Win DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 23, 2006) -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne has joined an elite group of drivers as a result of his...

KASEY KAHNE JOINS ELITE WINNER'S CIRCLE PROGRAM
Evernham Team Takes Wild-Card Spot with Atlanta Win

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 23, 2006) -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne has joined an elite group of drivers as a result of his victory last Monday in the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Kahne's second career victory earned the Ray Evernham-owned No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge team a spot in NASCAR's Winner's Circle Program, if Kahne enters, qualifies and competes in the remaining 32 races on the schedule this season beginning with Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kahne joins the Winner's Circle Program as a "wild card," leaving one more "wild card" slot open to an additional race winner this season that is not already in the program.

The Winner's Circle Program, which starts each season with the top 10 winning drivers from the previous season, is designed to reward teams who have typified the best in NASCAR racing. Two "wild card" slots are available each year, making a total of 12 maximum spots open for the program in any season.

Teams are rewarded through prize money posted by each track running a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event. A total of $130,000 is posted by each track for the Winner's Circle participants for each of the races.

Kahne and the Evernham team are joining some of the biggest names in the sport on the Winner's Circle Program, including Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, and Matt Kenseth, as well as some of the sport's rising stars such as Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman.

Biffle led the selection process this season by winning six races in 2005. He was followed by reigning NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Stewart, who won five times last year. Newcomer Edwards was next with four victories. Johnson followed, having also won four races. (Ties are broken by finishing position in the final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup car owner point standings.) Biffle was second in points.

Following Johnson in the selection were Gordon (four wins, 11th in points) and Jamie McMurray, who replaced 2004 series champion Kurt Busch (three wins, 10th in points) at Roush Racing. The Winner's Circle Program eligibility remains with a winning car owner in the event driver changes occur from one season to the next.

Kyle Busch (two wins in 2005 and 20th in points) was the next driver selected, followed by Martin (one win, fourth in points); Newman (one win, sixth in points); and Kenseth, the 2003 series champion (one win, seventh in points).

Each Winner's Circle driver, on behalf of their car owner, makes several appearances during the season to assist tracks in publicizing their NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events.

Gordon, for instance, just completed a Winner's Circle appearance in Dallas/Fort Worth for Texas Motor Speedway in which he did interviews with every local television station, numerous radio affiliates and local newspapers while also touring Lockheed Martin Aero, sitting in the cockpit of an F-16 and running a mission in the F-35 Striker simulator.

Mike Zizzo, director of media relations for Texas Motor Speedway, called it one of the most successful one-day media events in the history of the track, saying he certainly understands why "Gordon continues to be an outstanding ambassador for NASCAR and its tracks."

Kahne will join the others for scheduled appearances this season. Kahne, who will turn 26 in April, is in his third year driving a Dodge for Evernham. The Atlanta victory was the second in his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup career. Kahne's first win came in the spring Richmond race a year ago. He also won Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors in 2004.

The likeable, blue-eyed youngster from Enumclaw, Wash., continues to attract new fans to the sport with his hard-charging driving style and laid-back personality. He holds the No. 2 position in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10, just 50 points behind leader Johnson after four races.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Jamie McMurray , Ray Evernham , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin