Kahne Holds Off Hamiltons, Wins in NCTS Debut at Darlington Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge Tames "Lady in Black" MOORESVILLE, NC (November 13, 2004)-NASCAR Nextel Rookie sensation Kasey Kahne held off a furious challenge by the father and son duo of ...
Kahne Holds Off Hamiltons, Wins in NCTS Debut at Darlington
Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge Tames "Lady in Black"
MOORESVILLE, NC (November 13, 2004)-NASCAR Nextel Rookie sensation Kasey Kahne held off a furious challenge by the father and son duo of Bobby Hamilton Sr. and Jr. to win the Darlington 200 at Darlington Raceway in his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut. Kahne dominated the competition in his Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge, leading 95 of the 150 laps contested, but he was forced to earn the win in dramatic fashion with two late race restarts including a green-white-checker finish. On the final restart Hamilton Jr. missed a shift, slammed into the outside wall after an unintentional nudge from his father and spun to the inside collecting the luckless David Reutimann. The ensuing melee allowed Kahne to cruise to the checkered flag under caution, becoming only the third driver in NCTS history to win in his first NCTS start.
"Just to win at Darlington Raceway - this is definitely one of my favorite tracks if not my favorite track," Kahne said after the race. "It's a lot of fun to win here. It's a tough track. It's pretty neat to race underneath the lights tonight. The Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge I drove tonight was just awesome. We had great pit stops, and the truck was perfect."
Kahne started the event in the fourth position and quickly established his truck's superiority. He moved to the lead by lap 20 and led the race on four separate occasions. In the end it was a battle of new tires versus old tires as both Hamiltons, Ted Musgrave, Carl Edwards and Steve Park all stopped for fresh tires after a caution with 31 laps remaining in the event. The drivers with fresher tires were closing on Kahne in a striking fashion when NCTS Championship contender Dennis Setzer was involved in a fracas with Josh Richeson with just 12 laps remaining. Kahne was able to hold off Hamilton Jr. on the first of two late race restarts. Todd Bodine then spun on lap 145 setting up the final green-white-checker crash.
"I would have rather gone back to green and just finished the race off," Kahne said. "Yeah, I'll take a win any way I can get it for sure, but I really feel we could've held him off. The truck was really good. I could've run flat through turns one and two and strong through three and four. I think we could have run two laps really good and just won under racing conditions. On restarts, you just barely touch the throttle and your tires are spinning. I was just trying to be as smooth as I could to pick up the throttle and shift to third. So, yeah, I saw it in my mirror, I saw it happen. I guess it was just a missed shift, and Hamilton, Sr., was right on him. There was really no place for the No. 4 to go. Bobby Jr. was definitely the second-best truck tonight, though."
Ultra Motorsports crew chief Trip Bruce made the call to leave Kahne in the lead with the older tires with just 31 laps to go. That call proved to be the correct one and helped provide Kahne with his first NASCAR Touring series win of 2004.
"I thought about it a little bit each way, just trying to figure out what was going on," Kahne said. "My spotter was letting me know where the No. 59 was because he was on fresher tires. He was definitely moving up on us, slowly. I stepped it up there at the end. I think we definitely had a big enough lead to hold on at the end. I wasn't sure what was going to happen on that final restart. The crash didn't come up until the front stretch, and I'm not sure, but we had probably opened up a three car length lead on the No. 59 with seven laps to go, or whatever it was. I think we definitely had them covered tonight. I'll definitely feel better waking up tomorrow, knowing I've won my first race of the year. As much as we race and test and try to win races, it sure is nice to win a race no matter what it is. I'll wake up happier in the morning, and hopefully we'll be able to take some of that and run really strong in the Cup car."
By virtue of his second place finish, Hamilton Sr. now holds a 63 point advantage over Setzer in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings as the series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday, November 19th for the final event of the 2004 season. The Ford 200 will be broadcast live nationally on the Speed Channel, MRN Radio and XM Satellite Radio at 3:00pm ET.