Kahne and Budweiser Team Dominate at Infineon Raceway
NASCAR Sprint Cup - Sonoma, CA
Kasey Kahne led the final 34 laps and held off Tony Stewart during four double-file restarts to score his first road course victory on Sunday afternoon at Infineon Raceway and first for the current Richard Petty Motorsports.
Sunday's victory snapped a 37-race winless streak for Kahne and the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Team. Kahne's last victory was June 8, 2008 at Pocono Raceway.
The win elevated Kahne to 13th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings. He is now just three points shy of the 12th-place position occupied by Juan Pablo Montoya. Kahne led the most laps in the Save Mart 350 and received 10 bonus points. The No. 9 Budweiser Team qualified fifth for the race but started third after the third-place qualifier, Marcos Ambrose, had to start at the rear of the field for an engine change.
Strategy was the word of the day at the 1.99-mile 11-turn road course and there were a variety of strategies exercised by teams up and down pit road. The Budweiser Team decided before the race started that it wanted to make only two pit stops - with the first of those two stops taking place around lap 33. Sticking with that strategy, the No. 9 Budweiser Team stayed out during the first caution of the race on lap 20 while half the cars competing came down pit road.
A tight-handling condition in turn four was the biggest issue plaguing the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge during the first half of the race. A minor air pressure adjustment corrected the issue and Kahne declared the car "the best car he's ever had? at Infineon Raceway.
The team's strategy paid dividends when Kahne was among the last drivers to make his final pit stop of the day on lap 71. He returned to the track in 12th place. A fast race car allowed him to move up through the field quickly. He was in the top five by lap 75 and took over the lead on lap 79. Despite several hard-charging efforts by Stewart, Kahne led the final 34 laps en route to the win and his 10th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
Stewart continues to lead the NSCS driver point standings over Jeff Gordon by 84 points.
Kahne discusses his win in the Save Mart 350:
"It's crazy. 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, that's 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. It's unbelievable to win here. To win any race and to win at a road course for me is crazy. It feels really good. I learned how to drive on dirt, so to come out and win on a road course... it feels great. I can't believe it."
"Since Darlington we've had a top-10 car ever single weekend. Whether we finished inside the top-10 or not, we've had a great car for a while and today on a road course. I look forward to New Hampshire next weekend."
Kahne on Double-File Restarts:
"It goes back to my crew chief Kenny Francis again. I was thinking the inside lane, he said, 'I don't know, the outside looks pretty good.' He told me not to do what he wanted, but what I wanted and it worked out. I started to think about the outside lane some more and it paid off. My biggest thing was don't spin the tires, work on getting into Turn 1 there and just being beside him at the top of the hill and hopefully hold him off there. A few of the times we were able to jump the start and beat him into 1 no problem. Today we were able to pick where we wanted to be, and it worked out really good for us, and we were able to hold him off. But yeah, two to go, another restart, I was like, 'I can't believe this.'"
Crew Chief Kenny Francis discusses the win:
"There was a lot going on there. With this new tire Goodyear brought it was a lot different complexion of racing than it's been in the past, and you kind of had to decide what to do with your tires and whether to come get tires or stay out there a couple times during the middle of the race.
"The fuel strategy is always an issue here with, 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. But we played it. There was a stretch there in the middle of the race where we were in the about the middle of the pack and the fuel thing hadn't cycled out yet so we elected to come get tires, and I think that was probably the key move for us for the race. We drove up through the field on the tires and got up near the front, and then when the pit stop stuff cycled out we were right there in the front.
"So it all worked out. We didn't know what was going to happen. We were sitting on the box and had no idea how it was going to work out. We said, we'll try to stick to our plans, hit our window that we're wanting to hit and hopefully it works out, and it did luckily."
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Loudon, N.H. for next weekend's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The race is scheduled for a 2 p.m. EDT start. TNT will provide live television coverage while live radio coverage will be provided by the Performance Racing Network (PRN).
For more information visit: www.nascar.com.
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