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Kahne Holds Off Stewart To Win On Roads Of Infineon

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 22 2009
Team owner Richard Petty and Kasey Kahne celebrate Sunday's victory at Infineon Raceway. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Team owner Richard Petty and Kasey Kahne celebrate Sunday's victory at Infineon Raceway. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Kasey Kahne  makes great television commercials, was one of the best-ever USAC drivers and is considered quite dreamy by young female fans. But a great – or even good – road racer? Did we mention that he was dreamy?

But late Sunday afternoon in the wine country of Northern California, Kahne got his first victory of the season and the first road-course victory of his career when he won the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Infineon Raceway.

To get that victory, Kahne had to hold off none other than Tony Stewart – one of the best road racers in Sprint Cup – through four restarts, the final one of those being a green-white-checker job.

Oh, those whacky restarts. They were tough before the new double-file rule was implemented. With the new rule in place at Infineon, “It was intense,” said Boris Said. “They were a riot. It was just chaos – a free-for-all.”

Kahne, however, shook them off like a dog shakes off sudsy bath water.

Stewart was impressed. There was nothing he could do on restarts or anywhere else on the track when the race was on the line.

“I wasn’t waiting for anything but he made one mistake and we closed in on him and we couldn’t do anything when we got there,” Stewart said. “He never made a mistake. That one time in the last 16 or 17 laps he made one mistake and on a road course where you have 11 corners to only make one mistake like that he did an awesome job.”

Stewart finished second and Marcos Ambrose was third.

“My biggest thing was don’t spin the tires,” Kahne said, “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. So that was it was tough.

“That new restart deal is tough. For the last three weeks I’ve been I think every weekend I’ve had some good ones and some bad ones as far as the restarts go. 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.”

Finishing fourth was Jimmie Johnson, a driver yet to win on a road course.

“Yeah it was a good finish,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately we were speeding on pit road earlier and I had to come back from that. I passed a lot of cars so very proud of the effort, very proud of the race car. Unfortunately I got together with the No. 2 (Kurt Busch) getting into the esses and got him into the wall so I had to find him and apologize. It was just a racing deal nothing more. Left a bruise on the left front but other than that it was a good day.”

By finishing second, Stewart increased his points lead to 84 points over Jeff Gordon.

The victory moved Kahne and his No. 9 Dodge from 15th to 13thin in points and within three points of the all-important 12th spot.

It was the first victory of any kind in Cup since he won at Pocono 37 races ago.

The victory was the first for Richard Petty Motorsports, which was formed when Gillett Evernham Motorsports merged with Petty Enterprises for this current season.

Moving to the 12th spot Sunday was Juan Pablo Montoya, who finished sixth at Infineon.

It was another good points day. To finish top five or top six is pretty good,” Montoya said.

“But the car just wasn’t up to it. We struggled putting the power down so much. We made some changes in practice and it was a lot better and today it was like we went back to where we were. So it’s a little disappointing, but it’s good. This is all we needed to do and we did that. It was a good points day and the bigger picture is good. I can’t really complain.”

The victory was a bit of a shocker as Kahne’s best finish in his previous four races at the Sonoma, Calif. track was 23rd and his average finish had been 31st.

Kahne led the final 38 laps.

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 22 2009
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