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Stewart crashes, Kahne wins Coca-Cola 600

by Pete McCole
Sunday, May 25, 2008

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Kasey Kahne celebrates
Rhonda McCole/AutoRacing1

Kasey Kahne took advantage of Tony Stewart’s misfortune to snap a 52-race winless streak with a victory in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

One week after coming from the rear of the field to win a cool $1 million, Kahne passed Stewart with three laps to go after Stewart blew tire following a round of splash-and-go pit stops, beating out Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch to the finish. Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the top five.

“It’s nice to be here (in Victory Lane),” said Kahne. “This is a really special race, a really special weekend.

“We were one of the best cars all night long. We’ve really stepped it up in the last couple of weeks. We’re getting back to where we need to be.”

Kahne trailed Stewart by more than five seconds after coming to pit road for a last splash of fuel, but was in perfect position to steal the top spot after Stewart’s tire let go.

“I was thinking second (place), but I saw Tony (Stewart) slow up and I thought he was out of gas, and at that point I just could believe it”, said Kahne. “From there I just tried to hit my marks and make sure I brought it home.”

The victory was the eighth of Kahne’s career and his first since his win here in October of 2006, becoming the sixth driver to sweep the All Star race and the Coca-Cola 600.

With the win, Kahne moves to 12th in the series points, looking to re-gain the championship form his team had in 2006, where the team captured sixth victories.

“As I said last week, sometimes it just takes one thing to get some momentum going,” said team co-owner Ray Evernham. “These guys, they’re winners. They’ve won a lot of races for me in the past and they seem to be clicking again. They’ve got the momentum.”

Biffle’s second place finish mirrored his finish from a week earlier, when he finished second to Kahne in the All-Star event.

“We had a good run all night,” said Biffle. “We probably had a fast enough car to run up there with the nine (Kahne). I managed to pass the 18 (Busch) on the last lap, but (Kahne) had a lot of track position on us.”

After winning the pole and leading 33 laps early in the event, Busch’s team rebounded with a third-place finish after falling a lap down early and battling battery problems for much of the race, allowing Busch to retain the series points lead.

“We’ll take it,” said Busch of his third-place finish. “We just didn’t have the car capable on the long runs to run up front tonight and win this thing. It’s just unfortunate for us, but we’ll take it and go on with a good points night.”

For the second year in a row, NASCAR’s longest race became a fuel-mileage race, with teams gambling on fuel strategy late in the event.

With 16 laps to go, Kahne gave up the top spot for his final fuel stop, giving the lead to Stewart, who pitted three laps later.

As the field cycled through their gas-and-go stops, Stewart’s team got him out ahead of the field, but a cut tire put Stewart in the wall, allowing Kahne to steal an easy victory.

Earnhardt, Jr.’s fifth-place finish was a remarkable comeback for a team that looked to be headed for 20th-place finish.

After leading a race-high 76 laps, Earnhardt blew a tire on lap 298 and smacked the wall. His team managed to repair the car and stay on the lead lap, and brought Earnhardt to the pits during the final caution flag to top off his tank, hoping to gain track position late in the race.

The strategy paid off as Earnhardt salvaged his fifth top-five finish of the season.

“We got lucky at the end,” said Earnhardt. “Got gas and made it. It was all gas mileage. I was working that throttle or not working the throttle and made it work. Made it last more than it should. We were about two laps short, but we saved and saved and came home good.”

Leading the race proved to be a bad omen during Sunday’s race, as many of the leaders – including Stewart, Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers – all experienced problems.

For Vickers, the problem was terminal, as a loose left-rear wheel put him in the wall and ended his night, joining Johnson, Paul Menard and Robby Gordon among those who failed to finish.

Results

FIN

ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 2 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 190/5 400 Running
2 1 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 175/5 400 Running
3 4 16 Greg Biffle Ford DISH Network / DishDVRs 170/5 400 Running
4 18 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 160/0 400 Running
5 6 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / AMP Energy 165/10 400 Running
6 14 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 155/5 400 Running
7 12 17 Matt Kenseth Ford R×L Carriers 151/5 400 Running
8 9 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Best Buy / Garmin 147/5 400 Running
9 30 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 138/0 400 Running
10 28 44 David Reutimann Toyota UPS 134/0 400 Running
11 23 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / Trix / Lucky & Friends 130/0 400 Running
12 5 6 David Ragan Ford AAA Insurance 132/5 400 Running
13 20 77 Sam Hornish Jr. * Dodge Mobil 1 124/0 400 Running
14 19 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 121/0 400 Running
15 7 8 Mark Martin Chevrolet U.S. Army "Salute the Troops" 118/0 400 Running
16 8 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 120/5 400 Running
17 11 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 117/5 400 Running
18 31 20 Tony Stewart Toyota The Home Depot 114/5 398 Running
19 16 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Freight 111/5 398 In Pit
20 37 01 Regan Smith * Chevrolet DEI / Principal Financial Group 103/0 398 Running
21 27 84 A.J. Allmendinger Toyota Red Bull 100/0 398 Running
22 38 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Alltel 102/5 398 Running
23 17 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Target 94/0 398 Running
24 15 26 Jamie McMurray Ford IRWIN Industrial Tools 91/0 398 Running
25 39 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Jack Daniel's / USO "Toast to the Troops" 88/0 397 Running
26 41 28 Travis Kvapil Ford Lumber Liquidators 85/0 397 Running
27 29 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS 82/0 396 Running
28 13 66 Scott Riggs Chevrolet Haas Automation 79/0 396 Running
29 21 5 Casey Mears Chevrolet CARQUEST / Kellogg's 81/5 395 Running
30 42 42 Juan Montoya Dodge Texaco / Havoline 73/0 395 Running
31 26 40 Sterling Marlin Dodge Wii Fit / Target 70/0 395 Running
32 40 00 Michael McDowell * Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 67/0 394 Running
33 24 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 64/0 394 Running
34 33 33 Ken Schrader Chevrolet Camping World/ RVs.com 61/0 394 Running
35 43 70 Johnny Sauter Chevrolet Haas Automation 58/0 394 Running
36 36 45 Kyle Petty Dodge Coca-Cola celebrates 2008 Olympics 55/0 388 Running
37 34 10 Patrick Carpentier * Dodge LifeLock 52/0 363 Out of Race
38 35 96 J.J. Yeley Toyota DLP HDTV 49/0 352 Running
39 10 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 51/5 351 Out of Race
40 32 38 David Gilliland Ford FreeCreditReport.com 43/0 342 Running
41 25 15 Paul Menard Chevrolet Johns Manville / Menards 40/0 244 In Pit
42 3 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 42/5 184 Running
43 22 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Jim Beam 34/0 181 Out of Race

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