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Kahne has year’s best finish at Bristol

Posted Monday, Mar 23, 2009, 9:11 am in Dodge, Employee Motorsports

Kasey Kahne posted his best finish of the 2009 season, a fifth-place effort Sunday in the Food City 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. It was two spots better than his seventh two weeks ago at Atlanta and moved the driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger to sixth in the season point standings.

Kurt Busch overcame a disappointing 32nd qualifying effort and an early-race mishap to finish 11th and move up to second in the season point standings, only 76 behind the leader. Busch’s No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger received front-end damage when drivers checked up because of a mishap in front of them on lap 59.

Busch couldn’t get his Charger stopped in time, hitting the rear of the car in front of him. Once again, Busch had to battle his way from the rear of the field after repairs were made. It was his fourth finish of 11th place or better this season. He dominated at Atlanta two weeks ago to give Dodge its first win of the season.

All seven Dodge teams are assured starting spots in next week’s race at Martinsville Speedway, another short track. The first five events this year were based on 2008 owner points. Starting with Martinsville, the 2009 owner points will be used.

Kahne started ninth and dropped out of the top 10 only briefly in the early part of the race. By the time the event had reached the 200-lap mark, Kahne was back in eighth and stayed with the leaders the rest of the afternoon in the event which needed three extra laps for a green-white-checkered finish after a late-race caution.

“The car (handling) went away there at the end of that last segment of the race, but it was still a good run for our Budweiser Dodge Charger today,” said Kahne. “The guys did a great job in the pits. Kenny (Francis, crew chief) gave me a solid car all day and we ended up with a top-five run and another great day in the points. Today was a good day for us.”

Kahne has finished 12th or better in the last four races to move into the elite 12.

“We’ve made gains the last two weeks,” he said. “The first three races, I felt like we were on the edge and not sure really which way we were going. The last two weeks, everybody at Petty Motorsports has done an awesome job on this Budweiser Dodge Charger and we’ve made some nice gains.”
Busch wasn’t helped by the three cautions in the final 60 laps. His No. 2 Dodge worked well on long runs, but he still managed to improve his starting spot by 21 positions.

“We had a great Miller Lite Dodge,” Busch said. “We just got in trouble early on. We kept battling back. On long green runs, that’s where we thought we could catch up. Man, everybody had good cars today. We finished 11th, just one shy of a top 10. The overall big picture, we just need to get our cars to turn better at the short tracks. I think we’ve fixed the mile-and-half stuff.”

Other Dodge drivers

AJ Allmendinger (No. 44 Charter Dodge Charger): After starting 26th, Allmendinger worked his way inside the top 20 by lap 200 and remained there the rest of the race, finishing 16th.

David Stremme (No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger): Stremme started 22nd and had moved into the top 15, running right behind his teammate Kurt Busch, when contact with another car cut down a tire and sent the No. 12 Dodge into a spin on lap 455, still finishing 19th.

Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger): Sadler had the services of Robbie Loomis on the pit box serving as crew chief. Loomis was filling in for Kevin Buskirk who was ill. Sadler started 22nd, but a bit of pit strategy had the No.19 Dodge up to third by lap 75. Dealing with handling issues over the final 300 laps, Sadler finished 20th.

Reed Sorenson (No. 43 Dodge Charger): Sorenson said the No. 43 Dodge was “tight at the beginning and stayed that way”. He finished 23rd.

Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger): Hornish accomplished his primary mission - finish the race on the .533-mile track. He finished 31st, a career best on the high banks in three starts.

The track, which seats in excess of 160,000, enjoyed its 54th consecutive sellout. Bristol Motor Speedway is the largest full-enclosed motor racing venue in the world.

Dodge Boys performance

Driver, Team, Finished
Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger, 5th
Kurt Busch, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger, 11th
AJ Allmendinger, No. 44 Charter Communications Dodge Charger, 16th
David Stremme, No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger, 19th
Elliott Sadler, No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger, 20th
Reed Sorenson, No. 43 Dodge Charger, 23rd
Sam Hornish Jr., No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger, 31st

NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings

(After 5 of 36 races)
1. Jeff Gordon 794
2. Kurt Busch -76
3. Clint Bowyer -79
4. Kyle Busch -85
5. Carl Edwards -129
6. Kasey Kahne -155
7. Tony Stewart -161
8. Denny Hamlin -163
9. Jimmie Johnson -167
10. Matt Kenseth -184
11. David Reutimann -187
12. Kevin Harvick -210
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