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Kahne looks to repeat at Pocono

Posted Thursday, Jun 4, 2009, 2:51 pm in Employee Motorsports

The unique triangular 2.5-mile configuration of Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., will host the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend. The Pocono 500 is the 14th of 36 scheduled point races in the Sprint Cup Series.

This weekend also represents the second-half dash to the coveted Race to The Chase in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The top 12 drivers in the point standings after 26 races will compete for the championship and the Sprint Cup in the final 10 races of the season.

Kurt Bush (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) is the only Dodge driver currently in the top-12 in the driver point standings. Busch currently sits fourth, only 91 points behind series leader Tony Stewart. The 2004 Sprint Cup champion, Busch has two career Pocono wins.

A berth in The Chase is still within grasp of Petty Motorsports’ Kasey Kahne. The defending event champion, Kahne’s sixth place finish last week at Dover gained him one spot in the driver standings. He’s now 14th, just 66 points behind the 12th and final Chase spot currently held by Mark Martin.

Seven Dodge teams are entered in the Pocono 500 seeking to give Dodge its 203rd NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. All seven drivers are assured berths as they are in the top 35 in car owner points. Dodge has earned five wins at Pocono Raceway.

Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) considers the next several races on the Sprint Cup schedule the ‘summer grind’ because of the mental and physical fatigue that sets in on teams this time of the year. In the first 13 races, Busch has one win, four top-five and seven top-10 finishes. He has led a total of 332 laps, distributed among seven races.

“It’s a period of the schedule where if you can mount a good charge—if you can thrive while many of the teams are burning out—it certainly can pay big dividends down the stretch,” Busch said. “It can separate the men from the boys, that’s for sure. With the great cars we’re putting out there week in and week out, we’re really looking forward to all the races this summer and we’re optimistic about being competitive in all of them.”

Kasey Kahne(No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger) earned his ninth-career NASCAR win at Pocono at last year’s spring event. Kahne lead 69 of 200 laps en route to his first-career win at Pocono. He holds the track qualifying record with a time of 52.164 seconds at 172.533 mph set in 2004.

“Pocono is one of our better tracks,” Kahne said. “I feel like we have as good a shot to win as anybody this weekend. I think we have a great team and we’ve made some gains in the past few weeks. We’ve been running well and have had some great races, some tough races. We still have a shot to make the Chase and have some good race tracks coming up for us.”

Other Notes:

Sam Hornish Jr.(No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger) advanced four positions in the 2009 Cup Series driver standings after a 13th-place finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway last weekend. Hornish currently sits 26th.

Reed Sorenson(No. 43 Valvoline Engine Guarantee Dodge Charger) hopes to build off his strong qualifying effort (fourth) last weekend at Dover. Sorenson had a top-12 car until an extended stay under a green flag pit stop late in the race dropped the Georgia native out of contention.

Driver standings:
1. Tony Stewart, 1,853
2. Jeff Gordon, 1,807
3. Jimmie Johnson, 1,789
4. Kurt Busch (Dodge), 1,634
5. Ryan Newman, 1,680
6. Kyle Busch, 1,634
7. Denny Hamlin, 1,630
8. Matt Kenseth, 1,625
9. Greg Biffle, 1,618
10. Jeff Burton, 1,587
11. Carl Edwards, 1,582
12. Mark Martin, 1,567
14. Kasey Kahne (Dodge), 1,501

What you need to know:
The Race: Pocono 500
The Place: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa.
The Date: Sunday, June 7
The Time: 2 p.m. (EDT)
The Track: 2.5-mile triangle
The Distance: 500 miles/200 laps
Television: TNT, 2 p.m. (EDT)

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Discussion Starter #2

Hornish earns a top 10, Kahne finishes strong

Posted Monday, Jun 8, 2009, 9:56 am in Employee News

Hard-charging Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger) led the seven-car Dodge contingent at Sunday’s Pocono 500 to earn his third top-10 finish of the season.

The 14th of 36 races on the Sprint Cup’s regular-season points schedule, Pocono is one of the most physically demanding and mentally stressful tracks on the Cup circuit. Rain washed away the 90-minute practice session and qualifying on Friday, so Cup teams were relegated to two Saturday practice sessions to dial in their race cars for a long, grueling 200-lap marathon on the tricky 2.5-mile, triangular-shaped asphalt surface in Long Pond, Pa.

Despite not breaking into the top 12 until lap 130, the Ohio native used patience and fuel strategy to maneuver his way up through the field

“We started off the race pretty good, but then we lost the handle on the car a bit,” Hornish said. “We got it back, got some grip and track position, and then we had to come in late to top-off (for fuel) and try to make it to the end (of the race).”

For the second-year veteran, the 10th-place finish represents the maturity of not only driver, but race crew. Since Richmond four races ago, Hornish has jumped seven positions in the driver standings and now sits 23rd, only 63 points outside of the top 20.

“It was another great point’s day for us,” Hornish said. “We’ve had a great month or so, and all the hard work is starting to show in our results. We’re 23rd (in points), now we have our eye on the top 20.”

Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) started fourth and chased an ill-handling race car most of the race. Despite running in the top-10 for the first 100 laps, Busch encountered a broken water pump that sent the Penske Racing veteran to the garage for repairs, resulting in a loss of 17 laps to the race leaders. Busch finished 37th and now sits fifth in the driver point standings.

“It was just a bad day for our Miller Lite Dodge team, a bad day in this race and bad for the big picture too,” Busch said. “We fought a tight condition for most of the first half of the race. We had a spring rubber pop out of the right rear. We kept working on it, but it just wanted to plow into the wall. Then (on Lap 129) I heard something just blow off…a loud poof. I hit pit road immediately. It was a broken water pump, and we sheered the pulley. We had to go to the garage to fix it and also changed a shock while there. We got back out there and the rains came. The shock change had us running decent, but it was too little too late … just a bad day all around.”

Defending Pocono 500 winner Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) has been on the move in recent weeks with a seventh in the Coca-Cola 600 and a sixth at Dover. Starting 14th, Kahne had an extended pit stop on lap two due to a loose throttle cable that dropped the Kenny Francis-tuned Dodge to 41st. The Richard Petty Motorsports veteran used patience to drive his way up to fourth by lap 167.

Chasing down the leaders, Kahne moved within striking distance to third with 18 laps to go, gaining nearly one-tenth-of-a-second on the leaders each lap. Kahne’s run would fall short as a green-flag pit stop for fuel late in the race pushed him down the leader board to 15th at the checkered flag.

“We had a really good Budweiser Dodge today,” Kahne said. “To start up front, have a throttle cable issue early in the race, fall back to 41st and race our way all the way up to third was awesome. I can’t tell you how great of a job that Kenny (Francis, crew chief) and the Budweiser guys did in the pits all day. We knew that everybody was chasing fuel mileage late in the race and so were we. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of it.”

Richard Petty Motorsports teammate AJ Allmendinger (No. 44 Stanley Dodge) started 30th and had worked inside the top-12 by lap 50. By gaining track position early in the race, Allmendinger used a well-balanced race car to methodically move towards the front of the field. He was sixth by lap 120. Racing in 11th with 10 laps to go, Allmendinger fell on the short-side of fuel mileage strategy. He ran out of gas on lap 199 and finished 30th.

Tony Stewart led 39 laps en route to the event win.

The Dodge Boys results:

Driver, team, finish
Sam Hornish Jr., No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger, 10th
Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger, 15th
Reed Sorenson, No. 43 Valvoline Dodge Charger, 20th
Elliott Sadler, No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger, 25th
AJ Allmendinger, No. 44 Stanley Dodge Charger, 30th
David Stremme, No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger, 34th
Kurt Busch, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger, 37th

NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings
(after 14 of 36 races)

1. Tony Stewart, 2,043
2. Jeff Gordon, -71
3. Jimmie Johnson, -103
4. Ryan Newman, -203
5. Kurt Busch (Dodge), -224
6. Carl Edwards, -281
7. Greg Biffle, -290
8. Matt Kenseth, -298
9. Kyle Busch, -312
10. Jeff Burton, -318
11. David Reutimann, -342
12. Denny Hamlin, -364
13. Mark Martin, -365
14. Kasey Kahne (Dodge), -424
15. Juan Pablo Montoya, -426

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan next weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The green-flag drops at approximately 2:15 p.m. Sunday.
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