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Kahne steers Red Bull to first win of season
Perfect timing on a green-flag pit stop helped Kasey Kahne cruise past the checkered flag before NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Carl Edwards Sunday in the Kobalt Tools 500 from Phoenix International Raceway.
It was the Enumclaw driver’s 12th victory in 287 NASCAR Sprint Cup races and his first win since September 2009. The win on the recently reconfigured Arizona race track ended an 81-race dry spell for Kahne.
“It was a big win for the whole Red Bull team,” Kahne said in post-race comments. “All our guys did an awesome job. To win on a track like this, it was technical at times. Early in the race, it was different than any time I’ve been on it.
“It was just different,” said Kahne of the track changes. “We had to work on the car as the rubber came on the track, then it started changing more. It was a hard-fought day. The Red Bull team did a great job with the pit stops and the adjustments throughout the race to get us back to the front, just put us in position to have a shot.”
It was Kahne’s fifth Top-5 finish in 15 races a Phoenix International Raceway.
Kahne may not be one of the top 12 drivers racing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title, but his statistics in the second half of the 2011 season have been spot-on. Sunday’s win is Kahne’s 14th top-10 finish this season. His third-place finish at Texas Nov. 6 was his fourth Top-5 finish in the past six races.
According to NASCAR Statistics, even though Kahne is ineligible for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, the only two drivers to accumulate more points during the first eight Chase races thus far are Edwards and Tony Stewart, who sit 1-2 in the standings. The recent upswing in performance has elevated Kahne from 21st in points entering the Chase to his current rank of 14th.
Edwards and Stewart, who will duke it out for the No. 1 spot at Homestead-Miami next weekend, have each earned 313 points during the Chase. Next-best is Kahne with 284, just ahead of Matt Kenseth (272) and Brad Keselowski (267).
Kahne will be trying to close out the season with one last Top 10 finish before he leaves Red Bull Racing and the No. 4 Toyota and heads to Hendrick Motorsports, where he will pilot the No. 5 Farmers Insurance.
“It feels great to get a win for Red Bull and get a win in the 4 car,” Kahne said. “It’s something new for both of us to come over and have a one-year deal. It takes time to get familiar with things and the people and working together. To win a race at this level, as competitive as everything is right now, for myself, to see how happy all the pit crew guys were, the guys preparing the race cars at Red Bull, it was pretty cool. Makes you feel pretty good to be part of that.”