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Kahne looks for success at Darlington

Posted Friday, May 8, 2009, 9:45 am in Employee News

Who can tame the “Lady in Black?” is the question NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have heading into this weekend’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

One year after NASCAR celebrated its 60th year, Darlington Raceway is set for a 60-year celebration of its own. Darlington is the second-oldest track in NASCAR and has hosted 105 Sprint Cup races over the past 59 years.

Saturday night’s event is the 11th of 36 point races on the 2009 Sprint Cup schedule. All seven Dodge drivers entered are guaranteed starting positions in the 43-car field for the 367-lap event on the 1.366-mile, egg-shaped track.

Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger) certainly knows his way around the tricky track considered by many the toughest in NASCAR. With three career poles, Kahne has proven he is plenty fast at the track called “Too Tough to Tame.” Currently 17th in the point standings, Kahne has two-top five and two top-10 finishes in 10 Darlington starts.

Staying away from the dreaded turn 2 wall and a “Darlington Stripe” are paramount. In an effort to accomplish that objective, many drivers say they focus on racing the track and not the competition.

“Just don’t hit the wall,” Kahne said. “I think every car on the track is going to hit it (wall); it’s just how hard everyone is going to hit it. It’s a pretty tough track. It’s fast. It’s really going to be tough to pass. I think the key is how hard you’re going to hit it (wall), that’s a big thing.”

Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger) looks to build on his recent success. He claimed his second top-10 finish in three weeks last weekend in Richmond. Hornish posted a career-best sixth after starting 28th.

“I am so proud to look at the progress of this No. 77 team compared to where we were as a newly-constructed team just a year ago,” Hornish said. “We’ve had some real good runs and been real strong this year. I feel like I’m learning all the time. The Mobil 1 team is growing and getting stronger and things are really starting to come together. I think the same can be said for Penske Racing as a whole.”

Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) has a little Darlington history in his blood. At the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway, Busch and Ricky Craven staged the closest finish in the history of electronic scoring and timing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Craven took the win by a mere .002 seconds over Busch.

“When Ricky and I staged that nail‐biter at Darlington back in 2003, we were racing the smaller cars on old asphalt with softer tires,” Busch said. “The conditions are totally different now than then. We have the bigger and boxier cars. We have the newer asphalt and harder Goodyear tires to race on.

And despite racing with the COT, the Penske Racing veteran has one goal in mind. He wants a win at Darlington and the fact this year’s event is being called the Southern 500 makes it an even bigger trophy.

“The goal remains the same as it was from the very first time I ever raced at Darlington,” said Busch, who competed for the first time at Darlington on March 18, 2001.

“Regardless of all the factors involved, the goal and strategy is the same as it ever was. It really is true that you race the track first and don’t worry about the competition until the later stages of the race. I just want to get a win at Darlington.”

Other Notes:
AJ Allmendinger (No. 44 Best Buy Dodge Charger) will be making his third Darlington start this weekend.

David Stremme (No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger) qualified fourth for the 2006 spring event.

Reed Sorenson (No. 43 Valvoline Dodge Charger) has one top-12 finish in three starts at Darlington.

Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Stanley Dodge Charger) earned his first career pole at Darlington in 2003. He finished second in the 2002 spring event.

2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings
(After 10 races)

Driver, points
1. Jeff Gordon, 1,441
2. Kurt Busch, 1,431
3. Tony Stewart, 1,402
4. Denny Hamlin, 1,321
5. Kyle Busch, 1,314
6. Jimmie Johnson, 1,290
7. Jeff Burton, 1,257
8. Clint Bowyer, 1,212
9. Carl Edwards, 1,204
10. Ryan Newman, 1,198
11. Greg Biffle, 1,193
12. Matt Kenseth, 1,187
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