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Kasey Kahne Labors His Way To A Victory In Atlanta

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 7 2009
Kasey Kahne and The King celebrate Sunday night's victory in Atlanta. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kasey Kahne and The King celebrate Sunday night's victory in Atlanta. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

Hampton, Ga. – Just when Kevin Harvick appeared primed to snap a 105-race winless streak, one of his Richard Childress Racing teammates wound up breaking his heart.

When Clint Bowyer’s No. 33 Chevrolet slid through the grass to bring out the final caution in Sunday night’s Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, race leader Harvick realized he was a sitting duck.

And Chase for the Sprint Cup championship contender Kasey Kahne was set to pounce.

Kahne’s second victory of the season came at the expense of Harvick, who was in search of his first trip to the winner’s circle since the 2007 Daytona 500.

“I knew we were in trouble when that caution came out,” said Harvick, who led 66 laps. “We had a great car tonight. But I knew it took our car 15 to 20 laps to get going.”

Kahne, who jumped from 11th to sixth in the Chase standings, pulled off the winning pass during the night’s final restart on lap 315 of 325 when he lined up on the inside of Harvick’s No. 29 Chevrolet following the evening’s final round of pit stops.

“I knew we could go faster than anybody for about 15 laps,” Kahne said. “It was just after that I would get a little bit too lose to hang with Harvick and [Juan Pablo] Montoya.”

“With 11 laps to go, just getting to the front was what I was thinking I need to do. And once we did it, everything was perfect from there out.”

After clearing Harvick, Kahne pulled away to win by 1.766 seconds. Montoya edged David Reutimann and Mark Martin for third.

On the final restart, Kahne received a slight nudge from the front bumper of Reutimann’s Toyota as the green flag waved.

“It wasn’t critical to the win, but it did help a little bit,” Kahne admitted. “Once I got that little extra burst of speed, it cleared me into turn one on the bottom and I was able just to rip off the bottom and get beside Harvick off of Turn 2.

“Once I was beside him, I thought I had the preferred line into Turn 3 on fresh tires and was able to stick onto the white line and go from there.”

Saturday night’s Chevy Rock & Roll 400 in Richmond, Va. will set the field for this year’s Chase.

It was a topsy-turvy night for several Chase contenders, such as Matt Kenseth. His crew was forced to patch the right rear of his No. 17 Ford after making contact with the wall early in the event.

After dropping outside of the top 30, Kenseth rallied to finish 12th.

He holds a 20 point lead over Brian Vickers and 37 point advantage over Kyle Busch heading to Richmond in the battle for the final spot in the Chase.

“We’re capable of much better than this and, to be honest with you, more so than the Chase I’m trying to think of how in the world we’re going to get this team back to running up front where it should be and leading laps and contending for wins because we haven’t done that since Fontana (in February),” Kenseth said.

Long out of the championship picture and with little to cheer about this season, Harvick wore a big smile on his face following the race as he discussed how Sunday night’s near-miss might just be the boost he and his team need over the final 11 races.

“Our cars have run well for the last seven, eight weeks,” said Harvick’s, who had led just nine laps entering this weekend. “We just wind up wrecked or something stupid happening for the last little while.

“You know, any momentum in a good direction is a positive thing for us. It lets us know that we do remember how to race, just overcome a lot of things and, hopefully, keep it going.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 7 2009
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