Sports

Kahne wins race at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Kasey Kahne beat Kevin Harvick off the restart with 11 laps to go to win the Pep Boys Auto 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“Well, it feels awesome to win at Atlanta," Kahne said. "To win on a night like tonight when the Chase and everything has been so tight for the last two months, you know, this team just stepped up. The pit stops were awesome all night. The calls from (crew chief) Kenny Francis were perfect.

“It was great to drive there," Kahne said about the finale of the 325-lap race. "I knew we could go fast for about 15 laps, faster than anybody. It was just after that I would get a little bit too loose to hang with (Kevin) Harvick and (Juan Pablo) Montoya. Eleven laps to go, you know, just getting to the front was what I was thinking I needed to do. Once we did it, everything was perfect from there out."

Kahne, an off-and-on leader all night, claimed the outside pole during qualifying Saturday and led six times during Sunday's race before taking the checkered flag. He was racing in the top five when the final caution came out. Kahne's No. 9 Budweiser crew shot him out of the yellow-flag round of pit stops in the No. 2 position for the restart. With four fresh tires, he was ready to go.

“That was something else," Francis said. "I said about three-quarters through the race that if it came down to a short run, we might have a shot at it (the win). Man, when that caution came out, it was perfect for us. Kasey took off with a great restart, got the lead and drove away. I just couldn’t believe it. The guys did a great job all night. The pit stops were flawless. We picked up spots just about every stop. The car was real good on that short run. It got a little too loose on the long run, but it still wasn’t bad. It just played into our hand today. We just thank the Lord for making us smart enough to make the right decisions.”

“The entire Budweiser Dodge team did great," Kahne said. "The pit stops were awesome. (Kevin) Harvick was best on the long run, but when we got that last caution and the restart with 11 to go, I knew we had a shot at the victory. It’s all about making the Chase. That certainly put us in a better position going to Richmond. I knew Harvick and (Juan Pablo) Montoya were going to be tough. I hadn’t gotten through the gears all night and (David) Reutimann gave me a push on the front stretch and got me going. It was a great win for Richard Petty Motorsports and the Budweiser Dodge team.”

The win was Kahne's second for the 2009 season. He also won on the road course in California earlier in the year. It was also Kahne's second victory at Atlanta, winning from the pole in 2006.

Sunday's victory pushes Kahne into sixth in the Sprint Cup drivers' standings and helps solidify a spot in the chase for the championship. To be one of the top 12 drivers before the final 10-race shootout for the title, Kahne will have to have a good showing at Richmond Saturday night.

“Oh, man, I've been on both sides of it," Kahne said of his chances entering Richmond. "In '04 we missed it by 20 points or 29 points, right in there. I think (Jamie) McMurray took the final spot. We came into that race looking pretty good. Then in '06 we made it at the final race. We ran third at Richmond and made it.

“It's a lot on the line," he continued. "You're just going to that race trying to focus as hard as you can, do the best job you can. But it's tough. It's kind of like you're racing for some type of a championship right now. All the guys just trying to make it in the Chase so they have a chance at the Cup. It's going to be intense. I just look to the points. Carl is right in front of me. From fifth to 14th is going to be really intense at Richmond next week.”

Racing coverage begins at 4 p.m. on ABC.

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