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Evernham Dodges among elite racecars at Pocono Raceway
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Updated Jun 14, 2004 11:37 AM ET
LONG POND, Pa.
Mayfield's Gas Gamble Pays Off with Chance for Third Pocono Victory, While Kahne Breaks Qualifying Record in Pocono Debut
The Evernham Motorsports Dodges dazzled Pocono race fans this weekend in the 23rd Pocono 500. Rookie Kasey Kahne led the field upon earning his series-high fourth pole position of the season, and Jeremy Mayfield conserved enough fuel to earn a shot at a win in the closing laps of Sunday's race. Mayfield, driver of the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge, recorded a lap of 52.406 seconds, 171.736 mph, to earn a seventh place qualifying position on Friday. His Dodge continued to run among the fastest cars in the weekend's practice sessions, posting the second quickest lap to teammate Kahne's Dodge on Saturday. Mayfield got off to a quick start on Sunday, assuming a top-five position by lap 20. He reported that his Dodge had started just a little bit tight, but it continued to handle better after every lap. After a round of green flag pit stops and one visit to pit road under caution, Mayfield reported that his Dodge felt as good as it had been all day. He worked his way into the third position by lap 79. However, an incident on pit road slowed his momentum midway through the race. As Mayfield approached his pit stall the No. 16 team tire carrier lost control of a tire, allowing it to collide with and damage the left-front fender of Mayfield's Dodge on lap 129. Mayfield restarted the race in 19th place, and battled very tight driving conditions due to the damaged state of his front fender. Team Director, Kenny Francis, called for the team's next pit stop during the ensuing caution on lap 156 to repair Mayfield's Dodge, make a rear end adjustment, change tires and add plenty of fuel. Mayfield and the No. 48 car pitted early in the caution period, just outside of their respective windows of fuel required to finish the race. Mayfield and the No. 48 car leaped to the front of the pack as the rest of the lead lap cars began to come in for their last fills of gas at the end of the caution period on lap 161. A quick caution just seven laps later gave the team an opportunity to fill up on fuel and ensure that they could complete the race without running out. However, Mayfield, who had already been able to conserve gas throughout the late portions of the race, encouraged the team to gamble on fuel and let him draw out the last drops of gas in his Dodge and go the distance without returning to pit road. The decision proved monumental. As most of the field returned to fuel up, Mayfield assumed the lead spot in the race. The final 28 laps in the race set up a duel between Mayfield's Dodge and the No. 48 car of Jimmie Johnson, who employed a similar fuel strategy to position himself behind Mayfield. The No. 48 car got a quick run on Mayfield's Dodge, overtaking the lead spot before a series of four more cautions broke up the final laps of the race. Mayfield benefited from the yellow flag laps, which allowed him to conserve just enough fuel to finish the race running; however, he needed more time to unseat the lead car. The race ended under caution with Mayfield running second. "It was certainly a good day for us," Mayfield said. "Our Dodge ran great all day and we had a good day in the pits, a good day overall with the race team and we came home second. I'm so proud of our race team to gamble like that (on gas). Normally we would have been conservative, come in and pit, put in gas and put on four tires, gone back out and we'd have finished about 15th. To stick our necks out like that and come home second is great. A day like this builds confidence." The finish was Mayfield's second runner-up finish, and third consecutive top 10 this year. He earned five bonus points for leading five laps on the day and has now led laps in four of his last five races. Mayfield moves up four spots to 11th in the season's points standings, just two points shy of the top 10, and 182 out of the top five. Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge, claimed his fourth career Bud Pole in Friday's qualifying session, lapping Pocono Raceway in 52.164 seconds at 172.395 mph. The lap eclipsed Tony Stewart's track-qualifying record of 52.207 seconds, 172.391 mph, set July 21, 2000. Kahne was the only driver to break the 2000 record, and the first rookie to claim a Pocono pole position. The No. 9 Dew Crew worked hard to keep Kahne's Dodge fast all weekend, and it showed when Kahne also posted the fastest lap in Saturday's final practice. Early in the race, Kahne battled extremely tight driving conditions partially brought on by the cool weather conditions that afternoon. When Kahne's car refused to loosen up, he was forced to make a scheduled pit stop running 18th on lap 30. The No. 9 Dew Crew began to implement a series of rear chassis adjustments that would help bring Kahne's Dodge around to become one of the most competitive cars of the day. Effective pit support and savvy driving helped move Kahne from the 27th position on lap 55 into the top 20 on lap 85. Kahne joined the top 15 at the race's midpoint, and another round of adjustments during a lightening-quick green flag pit stop enabled him to break into the top 10 on lap 117. Kahne continued to knife through the field with a Dodge that exhibited excellent handling conditions, joining the top five race leaders just 10 laps later. However, trouble struck when Kahne was forced up into the turn three wall as he began to pass the No. 88 car on lap 134. His Dodge sustained minimal damage but would require repairs to his right front fender. As soon as Kahne pitted for repairs on lap 155, caution flags began to wave. In a turn of good fortune, however, rather than being caught a lap down, Kahne resumed to the field before being lapped by the lead car. Kahne re-joined the lead lap and was shuffled into the lead position as the remainder of the lead lap cars took their scheduled pit stops shortly thereafter. Kahne's Dodge required some additional pit support when the caution on lap 168 was issued, and he returned to pit road for a track bar adjustment and some cosmetic work to his damaged front fender. He rejoined the field in the 15th position, where he battled for position throughout four green flag runs (none of which would last longer than five laps.) Without the necessary time to mount a run in his repaired Dodge, Kahne finished the race running 14th under a yellow-checkered flag. "We just started really tight," Kahne said. "We had a tight racecar, and the guys fixed it. I think we had a great Dodge towards the center part of the race, and I was passing Dale Jarrett on the outside in turn three and got into the wall off the corner there. It just screwed up our right front fender. From there it was just way too tight. There at the end we loosened it up enough that our Dodge was pretty decent again. We just needed some laps. We needed laps to run, and everyone kept crashing." Kahne earned five bonus points for his four laps led on the day, making this the third consecutive race that he has led laps in. He moves to 13th in the 2004 championship points standings, just 23 points out of the top 10, and 203 points out of fifth place. Next week, the Dodges of Evernham Motorsports go the Michigan Int'l Speedway for the DHL 400.
Evernham Motorsports in the News
Kasey Kahne grabbed plenty of headlines as this weekend's pole-sitter for the Pocono 500. He spoke with ESPN, SPEED-TV, FOX, Totally NASCAR, XM-Radio and MRN from Friday's Bud Pole ceremony, and placed feature stories in print outlets from Washington D.C, Chicago, Seattle and Orlando, among others. Kahne also did a number of local TV interviews, and graced the front pages of multiple local papers on Saturday. A number of outlets featured Jeremy Mayfield and his past success at Pocono Raceway this week. Mayfield was the subject of feature stories in the Chicago Tribune, Charlotte Observer, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Houston Chronicles among others. Mayfield spent time taping feature segments with Totally NASCAR and FOX Sports that focused on his confident outlook on Pocono, and he contributed to a special segment on the importance of drivers' safety harnesses that aired during FOX's Sunday race coverage. Ray Evernham was the focus of coverage by local dailies such as the Easton Express Times, and he spoke with radio outlets like MRN and XM Radio throughout the weekend. Tommy Baldwin contributed to a feature on Evernham's building of the No. 9 team that ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Thursday evening Ray Evernham visited a local Dodge dealer, Tunkhannock Dodge, where he helped the dealership by cutting the ribbon to signal the official opening of their new building and showroom. Evernham also signed autographs for employees and fans that had gathered for the event. Saturday following final practice Evernham visited with 20 Freightliner guests outside the #19 hauler signing autographs, posing for pictures and answering questions. Sunday morning Evernham and Jeremy Mayfield toured 10 Mountain Dew guests through the #19 hauler.
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