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Kahne sprints to victory in Atlanta

by Pete McCole
Monday, September 07, 2009

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Kasey Kahne
Rhonda McCole/AR1.com

In the first Labor Day race run in the Southeast since 2004, Kasey Kahne moved a step closer to cementing his place in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with a late race pass over Kevin Harvick to win Sunday night’s Pep Boys Auto 500 under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

In front of a packed grandstand for Atlanta’s first ever Sprint Cup race under the lights, Kahne jetted past Harvick on a restart with 11 laps to go and checked out to a two-second lead to score his 11th career Sprint Cup victory and his second win of the 2009 season.

More importantly, the win bumped him from 11th to fifth in the points standing and solidly in contention for a slot in the 12-driver Chase field with just one race left before the playoff season begins.

“It’s all about making the Chase,” said Kahne. “I knew Harvick and Montoya were going to be tough. Kevin was best on the long run, but when we got that last caution and the restart with 11 to go, I knew we had a shot.

“I knew we could go fast for about 15 laps, faster than anybody. Once we got out front, everything was perfect from there out.”

Juan Pablo Montoya came home third, followed by David Reutimann and Mark Martin.

Fresh off his win in the Nationwide Series race on Saturday night, Harvick had the field covered for most of the night, working his up from his 18th-place starting spot to take the top spot on lap 168.

With a car that seemed unbeatable on the long runs, Harvick easily outpaced the field during the long green flag stretches, leading in a Sprint Cup race for just the second time this season while hoping to finally snap a 95-race winless streak.

With 15 laps to go and a nearly two second lead over Montoya, Harvick appeared to have the race in the bag until Harvick’s teammate Clint Bowyer spun coming off turn four to bring out the ninth and final caution of the day.

Harvick’s team got him off pit road with the lead, followed by Kahne, Reutimann and Montoya.

Harvick chose the outside line for the restart, with Kahne to his inside. At the green flag, Kahne got a strong push from Reutimann to pull even with Harvick and then powered past for the lead as they came through the backstretch.

Harvick’s car, so dominant on the long runs, proved no match for Kahne, who went unchallenged to the checkered flag.

“I knew we were in trouble when that caution came out,” said Harvick. “We had a great car on the long runs. (Kahne) was a lot better on the short runs. It just came down to the short run tonight.

“I knew I wasn’t going to catch (Kahne) once he got by. He went by me like he was making qualifying laps. We didn’t give up, we went as hard as we could and came up one short.”

Montoya led 31 laps looking for his first oval-track victory, but was satisfied to just finish in the top five and advance to eighth in the points standings, looking to make the Chase for the first time in his four-year career.

“This third place makes it a little bit closer to the Chase,” said Montoya. “Everybody is working so hard to make this happen. If we keep running like this, we might even have a shot at the championship.”

With one race left before the Chase begins, several drivers came into Sunday night’s race all fighting for a shot at the final spots in the field.

Matt Kenseth managed to hold onto the 12th and final spot in the Chase thanks to a 12-place finish in Sunday’s race. Brian Vickers kept himself in the hunt with a seventh-place finish that moved him from up one spot to 13th in the standings, just 20 points behind Kenseth.

Looking for a victory to help propel him into the top-12, Kyle Busch led early in the event before falling back to a 13th-place finish, knocking him to 14th in the points but still just 37 points behind Kenseth.

Several of the front Chase contenders suffered through a miserable night under the lights, including Carl Edwards and defending series champion Jimmie Johnson.

Nursing a broken foot from playing Frisbee earlier in the week, Edwards’ car suffered a damaged oil cooler that put him behind the wall for several laps, eventually finishing 23 laps down in 37th.

Johnson, after leading earlier in the event, began to fade with an ill-handling car before finally spinning out on lap 200. Later in the race he broke an axle during a pit stop, costing him 22 laps behind the wall for repairs. Johnson ended up 36th and fell to third in the points behind Jeff Gordon, but still solidly locked into the Chase field.

Kurt Busch, winner of the spring race here in March, was unable to pull off the season sweep, dropping out of the event after hitting the wall on lap 244 and finishing 38th, sliding to seventh in points behind Kahne.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 2 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 190/5 325 Running
2 18 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 175/5 325 Running
3 22 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 170/5 325 Running
4 28 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 160/0 325 Running
5 7 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Carquest / Kellogg's 155/0 325 Running
6 10 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota Farm Bureau Insurance 155/5 325 Running
7 8 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 151/5 325 Running
8 4 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 147/5 325 Running
9 23 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 143/5 325 Running
10 26 16 Greg Biffle Ford American Red Cross / 3M 139/5 325 Running
11 12 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Old Spice 130/0 325 Running
12 15 17 Matt Kenseth Ford R+L Carriers 132/5 325 Running
13 5 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Pedigree 129/5 325 Running
14 9 12 David Stremme Dodge Penske Racing 121/0 325 Running
15 41 98 Paul Menard Ford Johns Manville / Menards 118/0 325 Running
16 29 7 Robby Gordon Toyota Polaris Off-Road Vehicles 115/0 325 Running
17 31 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / Amp Energy 112/0 325 Running
18 25 171 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet TaxSlayer.com 109/0 325 Running
19 17 21 David Gilliland Ford Motorcraft 106/0 325 Running
20 35 44 A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Hunt Brothers Pizza 103/0 325 Running
21 21 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Stanley Tools 100/0 325 Running
22 34 20 Joey Logano * Toyota The Home Depot 97/0 325 Running
23 11 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Clorox / Kingsford / Bush's Beans 94/0 325 Running
24 32 82 Scott Speed * Toyota Red Bull 91/0 325 Running
25 33 07 Casey Mears Chevrolet Jack Daniel's 88/0 325 Running
26 1 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Guitar Hero 95/10 325 Running
27 13 43 Reed Sorenson Dodge U.S. Air Force 82/0 325 Running
28 27 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 79/0 323 Running
29 20 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet BB&T 76/0 323 Running
30 42 96 Erik Darnell Ford Academy Sports + Outdoors 73/0 323 Running
31 40 34 John Andretti Chevrolet Taco Bell 70/0 323 Running
32 19 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 72/5 323 Running
33 16 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 64/0 322 Running
34 24 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar / Cat Financial 61/0 322 Running
35 30 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 58/0 320 Running
36 3 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 60/5 303 Running
37 14 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac Cancer Center 52/0 302 Running
38 6 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 49/0 244 Running
39 43 08 Terry Labonte Toyota Carter / Simo Racing 46/0 148 Out of Race
40 39 113 Max Papis * Toyota GEICO 43/0 100 In Pit
41 38 09 Mike Bliss Dodge Miccosukee Resort & Gaming 40/0 38 Out of Race
42 36 187 Joe Nemechek Toyota NEMCO Motorsports 37/0 25 In Pit
43 37 66 Dave Blaney Toyota Prism Motorsports 34/0 19 Out of Race

* Denotes Rookie

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