It was a fuel mileage fiesta at California Speedway. The racing wasn't nearly as compelling as the various pit strategy soap operas that played out during the 250 lap event. A long green flag run as the race neared its end led to green flag pit...
It was a fuel mileage fiesta at California Speedway.
The racing wasn't nearly as compelling as the various pit strategy soap operas that played out during the 250 lap event. A long green flag run as the race neared its end led to green flag pit stops for gas with just a handful of laps left. It all came down to which team played the best cards and in the end Kasey Kahne and the No. 9 Evernham Dodge team had the winning hand.
Kahne was running second to Reed Sorenson with two to go when the No. 41 Dodge began to limp as their fuel cell dried. Sorenson's misfortune allowed Kahne to grab his fifth win this season and 11th of his career. Kahne also won the Busch race Saturday making it a clean sweep of the weekend.
"I woke up this morning and was pretty excited I won last night," commented Kahne. "But we had a big job to do today. This race was so important for our season and to put us in a position next weekend.I came here telling myself 'you've got to win, you've got to win' if you want to make the Chase.this is a big weekend for us."
Kahne didn't have an easy ride to Victory Lane. He battled back from adversity after a mid-race move to top off for gas brought Kahne back down pit road for a second time. He was scored too fast exiting and had to restart at the tail end of the field in 24th. He battled back to the win and helps his case in the Chase for the Nextel Cup; he sits in 11th just 30 points out of 10th.
"Unbelievable night," Kahne said. "To fall down a lap there, I got over the speed limit. I didn't notice it, I think it was that close. Right on the edge. These guys fought back with great pit stops. We were fast all night and we got better when the sun went down for sure. I just can't thank this team enough. They worked their butts off trying to get us back in the chase and the only way to do it was this; lead the most laps and win a race. Then we can at least hope at Richmond next week."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finally broke his curse at California Speedway by scoring a second place result. It is his 12th top-10 finish of the season and best career finish at this track.
"This is a great time to be peaking," said Earnhardt. "Hopefully it will last a few more races and we will put ourselves in a position to win the championship."
Clint Bowyer earned his best finish of the season with third, "Maybe that's God's way of paying us back for Michigan, running third and blowing up. You know, just an incredible call to come back in and top off for fuel."
Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon complete the top five.
We needed a miracle," Edwards explained. "But I had a good time and that's what it's about. I guess we're mathematically out of it. Congratulations to Kasey for sweeping the weekend. That was cool. I guess we'll just go out for 11 races and have a good time and try to win something and prepare for 2007."
Polesitter Kurt Busch was out front when Robby Gordon smacked the wall bringing out the first caution on lap 10. Kahne took two tires and assumed the lead of the race on the restart at lap 14.
Kahne was still the leader when the second yellow fell on lap 29 for debris in turn two. The leaders pitted with Denny Hamlin beating everyone off pit road to grab the lead. Hamlin led until lap 46 when Gordon made the pass for the top spot.
Gordon was still leading when he dipped onto pit road on lap 77 under green to get service. Several other lead lap cars also pitted, when the stops cycled through Gordon was at the helm once again.
The field was slowed for a third time for debris on lap 83. Gordon continued to lead on the restart on lap 87. Kyle Busch made the pass for the lead on lap 87 dropping Gordon to fourth. Kahne got around Busch a lap later reclaiming the head of the pack.
Kahne pulled out to a two-second advantage at times. He was slowed on lap 110 when Brian Vickers hit the wall causing the fourth caution. Kahne and Busch swapped the lead on the next several laps after the restart; before Kahne settled in on top.
Once Kahne found the front again he quickly pulled out to a two-second lead over Gordon, Earnhardt and Hamlin. By lap 138, Busch had faded back to fifth. The fifth caution waved on lap 155 for debris in turn three. The leaders came in for service with Gordon grabbing the lead on the restart at lap 160.
Kahne came back down pit road before that restart to top off on fuel and he was scored too fast exiting pit road sending him to the 24th spot on the restart.
Busch powered to the lead but couldn't keep Gordon at bay. The No. 24 Chevy was leading when David Gilliland spun and brought out the sixth caution on lap 173. The leaders came in for service with Gordon having to make an extra trip down pit road to tighten loose lug nuts, restarting 25th.
That gave Earnhardt the lead on the restart on lap 179, with Kahne working his way back to second after a two-tire stop. Kahne made the pass on Earnhardt successfully on lap 180 with Busch also passing the No. 8 Chevy to begin working on the No. 9 Dodge.
The two traded the lead several times before Kahne established his place out front. The No. 9 Dodge was slowed on lap 190 when the seventh caution came out for debris. Mark Martin took two-tires on his service stop and came out the leader.
Elliott Sadler (who also took two tires) easily passed Martin on the restart on lap 196; he led until lap 205 when Kahne wheeled past to reclaim the front of the pack. With 19 to go, the complexion of the race began to change when several of the leaders were forced to pit for fuel.
Kahne pitted with 12 to go as well as the second place car of Earnhardt. When stops cycled through Reed Sorenson was scored as the leader. Sorenson came up short on the gas gamble allowing Kahne to wheel to the win.
Matt Kenseth takes the lead in NASCAR Nextel Cup point standings leading Jimmie Johnson by nine points. Kevin Harvick (-342), Jeff Gordon (-387), Kyle Busch (-394), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-412), Denny Hamlin (-413), Tony Stewart (-444), Mark Martin (-457) and Jeff Burton (-489) complete the top ten with just one race left to determine the 2006 field.
"We've been gaining some points every week and that's a good thing," said Kenseth. "I'd love to leave Richmond as the point leader. I think it would help to go into the Chase as the leader, so that would be great."
Only Kenseth and Johnson are mathematically locked into the field but only Kahne who sits in 11th still has a mathematical chance of being able to make it into the Chase. All other drivers have been eliminated.
There were 26 lead changes among 10 drivers and seven cautions for 29 laps.