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Kahne takes checkered flag at Infineon

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Kahne takes checkered flag at Infineon

Kasey Kahne in the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Sunday at Infineon Raceway.

Photo by Donny Yee/


POSTED June 22, 2009 12:41 a.m.
A lightning fast car, perfect instincts on restarts and the correct pit strategy propelled Kasey Kahne to victory in Sunday’s 21st running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350 at picturesque Infineon Raceway near Sonoma.

It was Kahne’s first ever win on a road course and his tenth overall in 196 Sprint Cup career starts.

“It is unbelievable to win here,” exclaimed Kahne, who qualified on the pole for last year’s race, but ended up a disappointing 33rd. “I grew up racing on dirt in a Sprint Car so to win any race and especially to win at a road course is crazy for me. This feels really good.”

Standing beside of Kahne and his #9 Budweiser Dodge in victory lane, was co car owner Richard Petty, whose last win came in 1999 with John Andretti in Martinsville.

“Man, it has been a long time. It was one of those picture perfect days when everything lined up and went right,” said ‘The King’ proudly. “Hopefully, this is just the beginning of something good for us.”

As is often the case at Infineon Raceway, an early caution on lap 21 precipitated a variety of pit strategies that continued to play their way out for the remainder of the race when some teams opted to pit early at that point while others elected to stay out.

As a result, a long procession of drivers, including pole sitter Brian Vickers, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Robby Gordon and Manteca native Scott Speed, all took turns leading at various times through the middle portion of the 110-lap race.

The field recycled from final pit stops following a lap 79 caution, setting up a 30 lap dash to the checkers when the race finally resumed, with Kahne, Stewart, Kurt Busch, Juan Montoya and Jimmie Johnson emerging as the top five.

As the old saying goes, cautions bred cautions and with the race on the line, nobody was about to concede an inch of ground. There were four additional cautions during the closing laps including on final green/white/checkers that extended the race extra three laps.

Kahne was perfect on each and every restart, getting the jump and holding off the determined Stewart, on each occasion.

“Stewart is as good as they get out here and I had to start beside him on four or five occasions and hold him off makes it even more special,” said Kahne, whose official margin of victory over Stewart was .748 seconds. “Stewart is an awesome driver and he gave me tons of room, which is typical of him.”

Kahne’s feat was even more impressive considering that it was only the third race where a recent rule change, mandating double file restarts in place of the previous single file restarts, was in effect.

Although Stewart, a former two-time winner at Infineon in 2001 and 2005, was never able to get a clean shot at Kahne for the win, he was satisfied to finish in second just ahead of Australian Marcos Ambrose.

“We were fast, but Kasey was able to match us lap for lap. We could run about the same pace, but he never made a mistake and ran a picture perfect race,” explained Stewart (#14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy). “I got a little nervous when I saw Ambrose coming in my mirror and wanted to stay ahead of him. It was a great day for us.”

Ambrose was also pleased with his result, especially after he blew his engine in Saturday’s practice, which relegated to the back of the field for the start of the race.

“It was a great recovery for us. We would have loved to have won, but with all the problems we had yesterday, it almost feels like a win,” said Ambrose (#47 Little Debbie Toyota). “I didn’t want to make an attempt at Stewart unless I had a clean shot at him. We all worked too hard to get knocked down all the way to 30th with one or two laps to go.”

It was a rough day for Speed, who started the race from the 43rd and last position after taking over the #87 car of Joe Nemechek when he failed to qualify his #82 Red Bull Toyota on Friday.

Although he managed to lead for a couple laps during a late race caution by staying out while the leaders pitted, Speed ultimately fell well back in the field to finish the race a lap down in the 37th position.   

The NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule resumes next weekend with the Sunday running of the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
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