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Cup Notes: Kahne Wins Pole In Kansas

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, October 1 2010

Kasey Kahne won the pole for the Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway on Friday. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Kansas City, Kan. – There are a lot of questions surrounding Richard Petty Motorsports for the 2011 season.

There were no questions about RPM on Friday afternoon at Kansas Speedway as drivers for the team won both spots on the front row of the starting grid for Sunday’s Price Chopper 400 Sprint Cup race.

Kasey Kahne turned a lap at 174.644 mph to win the pole for the race, which is the third of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

Paul Menard of RPM was second fastest at 174.469 mph. It will give Menard his best starting spot of the season but third top-10 starting spot in a row.

Kahne is on the pole for the third time this year. He will be attempting to win his first race of the year.

Both Kahne and Menard will be leaving RPM next season – Kahne to Red Bull Racing and Menard to Richard Childress Racing.

“To me it (the good showings Friday) shows that myself and Paul and our teams are still really interested in running strong and not backing down at all just because we have other things we are going to do in the future,” Kahne said. “At the same time it shows that RPM is giving us great race cars. Roush Yates is giving us great engines. We have the package, we just need to put it all together.

“We have struggled. We had that deal in Atlanta that maybe made us miss the Chase and we haven’t run well since. It feels got to get on the pole today and hopefully it gives us some momentum for Sunday’s race. Hopefully we can carry that.”

Third was Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano was fourth. He was followed by Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman.

Chase leader Denny Hamlin qualified 12th fastest.

The weather report from the garages at Kansas Speedway Friday was clear but chilly and that came not from the Weather Channel but from the two drivers who went nose to nose in the garages at Dover last weekend.

The nose thing happened after Sprint Cup driver Kevin Harvick rammed into the back of the car of Denny Hamlin in practice in retaliation for things Hamlin said about Harvick’s Richard Childress Racing team.

The ramming led to heated words in the garages. The heated words led to a phone call between the two in an attempt at reconciliation.

Asked about the status of that reconciliation Friday, Harvick gave the weather report.

“I think where Denny and I stand is very clear between the two of us as far as off the race track and on the race track,” Harvick said. “When it comes down to knowing what’s right for your company and what’s right for your team, those are two different things.”

And what what happened on the race was no game, he said.

“I don’t think there was any games that was all pretty serious,” Harvick said. “I think everything was pretty serious as far as where we were coming from as a company and where we were coming from as a team.

“I don’t think there was every going to be an issue with myself and Denny (Hamlin).  Off the race track, obviously, in the garage it doesn’t matter who your friends are or what happens away from the race track, it’s all about what’s happening at the race track and what’s right and wrong for your particular race team.  Obviously, it evolved into what it was, but off the race track, it was fairly simple for us to talk.”

Though just nine years old, Kansas Speedway has been the scene of several bizarre finishes. Perhaps the most bizarre happened in 2007.

Wild weather screwed with the race day schedule to the point where the number of laps had to be cut.

It also screwed with fuel strategies. At the end, in near darkness, a caution came out and the field filled in behind the pace car. Greg Biffle was leading and running low of fuel.

Then, well, let Biffle explain it:

“The thing started running out of gas on the back stretch so I shut it off and coasted. I ran it around the corner and up next to the back of the pace car and then I decided, after thinking about the rule for a minute that says you must maintain a reasonable pace, to coast the rest of the way and not try to start it again. It has fuel left in it because we did start it after that. I knew as long as I stayed coasting I was OK.

“If I had let the clutch out, for those of you that have tried to start a stick shift car, perhaps it doesn’t start right away and you could lose your momentum. If you let the clutch out and it doesn’t start it will really slow you down and then you maybe aren’t keeping a cautious pace. I just decided to let it coast the rest of the way.

“The reason that NASCAR gave me the win was because when Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer went past me, they were going 70-something miles per hour and pit road speed was 55. I was going 47 or 48. Whatever the miles per hour were, they were 15-20 miles per hour over when they raced by me. I could have started it and made some more speed, but I really didn’t have to.”

Carl Edwards considers Kansas Speedway his home track, even though he is a native of next-door neighbor Missouri and some people from those two states are still fighting the Civil War.

On Friday, Edwards was asked how badly he would like to win at Kansas and he said, “Yeah, it would be as big as any race on the circuit. If I had to pick a race to win, this would be the one I would pick, over the Daytona 500 or the Brickyard 400. It would be that special to me. I am not saying that because I am sitting here, that is the truth.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, October 1 2010
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