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Kahne wins NASCAR's return to 'The Rock'

by Pete McCole
Sunday, April 15, 2012

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Kasey Kahne
Getty Images for NASCAR
In his rookie season in 2004, Kasey Kahne lost out on his bid for his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory after Matt Kenseth edged him at the finish line in what turned out to be the last NASCAR event at Rockingham Speedway.

On Sunday, after an eight year absence, NASCAR returned to the Rock and Kasey Kahne finally made it to victory lane, winning the inaugural Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Rockingham Speedway.

Kahne came from the back to the front, leading the final 46 laps and beating out teammate James Buescher over the final restart for his fourth truck series victory in just five series starts.

It was Kahne’s third race in three days, following his runs in Friday’s Nationwide Series and Saturday’s Sprint Cup Series events.

“Feels good to come back to The Rock and get a win,” said Kahne. “I knew we had a good truck. We’ve had really good success and been fortunate enough to race really good trucks.

“This is probably the best weekend I’ve had in a long time. I got out of the truck and realized I had three clean race cars – I raced hard this weekend and not a dent on them.”

Matt Crafton was third, followed by Johnny Sauter and Timothy Peters.

Kahne was one of the few drivers in the field with any experience at the 1-mile oval, his only start being one of the most memorable in the history of the track.

“I’ve raced that race in my mind ever since that, trying to figure out how I could have beat Matt (Kenseth),” said Kahne of his losing last-lap effort in 2004. “I just kept trying to get by him off of two and I never got by him.

“As soon as I heard about this race, I was trying to figure out who I’d race for and how I’d get here from Texas.”

With Kahne unable to make Saturday’s qualifying session, Brad Sweet put the no. 4 Chevrolet Silverado into the field in fifth place, meaning Kahne had to start the 200-lap event at the rear of the field. Once under green, Kahne quickly began tearing his way through the field, moving into the top ten by lap 70.

Polesitter Nelson Piquet, Jr. led 107 of the opening 123 laps, trading the top spot with Crafton before a speeding penalty on pit road put him at the tail-end of the field.

Crafton, who led 40 laps, fell victim to a tight race truck and started to fade before losing the top spot to Kahne on lap 155.

A final caution flag with 20 laps to go gave the front runners one last shot at Kahne, with Buescher coming off pit road in second to challenge Kahne for the win.

Kahne held the top spot on the restart and quickly pulled away, eventually opening u a 1.5 second lead over Buescher at the finish.

“A good 1-2 finish for Turner Motorsports,” said Buescher. “We qualified terrible so we didn’t start that great. In the middle of the race we went the wrong way on adjustments and got really loose and fell back a little bit. On the last adjustment, we started going forward again and the pit crew did excellent on the last stop and got us up ahead of Matt and 17 and put us up on the front row to race Kasey for the win.

“Just not having that clean air in the end hurt us a little and Kasey was able to pull away from us.”

With a near sellout crowd, Sunday’s race was a triumphant return for NASCAR and a vindication for track owner Andy Hillenburg, who purchased the facility in 2007.

One of NASCAR’s earliest superspeedways, the track opened as North Carolina Motor Speedway in 1965, with Curtis Turner taking the inaugural victory.

The track was eventually purchased by Penske Motorsports, and hosted two Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series every year until 2003, when new owner International Speedway Corp – the parent company of NASCAR – transferred one of its races to ISC’s California Speedway.

With only one race on the NASCAR schedule, Rockingham hosted its last race on Feb. 22, 2004, and shortly thereafter the track was sold to Speedway Motorsports, Inc., who shuffled Rockingham’s lone race date to Texas Motor Speedway.

After sitting idle for three years, Hillenburg - a former ARCA Series driver - bought the facility and began an extensive renovation project, eventually bringing the ARCA RE/MAX Series to the track in 2008, and this season finally securing a stand-alone NASCAR truck series event.

Hillenburg, making his way through the grandstands prior to the start of the race, received a standing ovation from the crowd.

“The show that was put on was everything that I’d thought it would be,” said Hillenburg. “Seeing those guys getting on and off the gas pedal and going three wide as soon as they dropped the green flag – that’s what Rockingham is all about.

“I hope we made NASCAR proud. I feel really good about our event. It was a great race, it was a great crowd, it was a great day, surrounded by wonderful people everywhere I go. I want to get back NASCAR’s report card. I hope I get an A-plus.”

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 5 4 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Rockwell Tools 0 200 Running
2 16 31 James Buescher Chevrolet Koike Aronson 42/0 200 Running
3 8 88 Matt Crafton Toyota Ideal Door / Menards 42/1 200 Running
4 10 13 Johnny Sauter Toyota Hot Honeys / Curb Records 40/0 200 Running
5 3 17 Timothy Peters Toyota Strutmasters.com 40/1 200 Running
6 17 22 Joey Coulter Chevrolet Strutmasters.com 38/0 200 Running
7 1 30 Nelson Piquet Jr. Chevrolet Qualcomm / Autotrac 39/2 200 Running
8 12 3 Ty Dillon * Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats 36/0 200 Running
9 6 29 Parker Kligerman Ram Draw-Tite 35/0 200 Running
10 19 6 Justin Lofton Chevrolet CollegeComplete.com 34/0 200 Running
11 27 27 Jeb Burton * Chevrolet State Water Heaters 33/0 200 Running
12 22 9 Ron Hornaday Chevrolet Joe Denette Motorsports 32/0 200 Running
13 21 81 David Starr Toyota Zachry 31/0 200 Running
14 11 98 Dakoda Armstrong * Toyota EverFi.com 30/0 199 Running
15 23 32 Miguel Paludo Chevrolet Duroline Brakes and Components 29/0 198 Running
16 29 2 Tim George Jr. Chevrolet Applebee's 28/0 198 Running
17 13 33 Cale Gale * Chevrolet Rheem 27/0 197 Running
18 15 24 Max Gresham * Chevrolet Made in USA Brand 26/0 197 Running
19 18 92 David Reutimann Chevrolet fleetHQ.com / BTS Tire & Wheel / QMI 0 197 Running
20 20 09 John Wes Townley * Toyota RAB Racing 24/0 197 Running
21 24 275 Caleb Holman* Chevrolet Food Country USA / Wise Snack Foods 23/0 197 Running
22 32 39 Ryan Sieg Chevrolet RSS Racing 22/0 197 Running
23 30 214 Brennan Newberry Chevrolet Ironclad Performance Wear 21/0 197 Running
24 28 23 Jason White Ford GunBroker.com 20/0 196 Running
25 14 08 Ross Chastain * Toyota Florida Watermelon Association 19/0 196 Running
26 2 5 Paulie Harraka * Ford Send a Soldier to The Rock 18/0 195 Running
27 36 170 Jeff Agnew Chevrolet Team 7 Motorsports 17/0 195 Running
28 26 202 Tyler Young Chevrolet Young's Building Systems 16/0 193 Running
29 33 93 Chris Cockrum Chevrolet RSS Racing / Advanced Communication-s 15/0 193 Running
30 35 57 Norm Benning Chevrolet Lady Bug Cleaning 14/0 189 Running
31 7 11 Todd Bodine Toyota Toyota / Red Horse Racing 13/0 135 Running
32 31 99 Bryan Silas * Ford Rockingham Speedway 12/0 119 Accident
33 25 7 John King * Toyota CONSOL Energy 11/0 56 Accident
34 4 18 Jason Leffler Toyota Dollar General 10/0 19 Engine
35 34 07 Johnny Chapman Toyota ASI Limited 9/0 13 Clutch
36 9 60 Grant Enfinger Chevrolet Turn One Racing 8/0 12 Transmission

* Denotes Rookie

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