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Kahne claims 4th win of season; moves to third in point standings
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Updated Jun 19, 2006 10:19 AM ET
Mayfield Finishes 36th In Rain-Shortened Event
Kasey Kahne claimed his fourth win of the season Sunday, winning the rain-shortened 3M Performance 400 presented by Post-It Picture Paper at Michigan International Raceway in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger. Kahne's four wins are tops in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in 2006 and vaulted the Evernham Motorsports driver to third in the season point standings. Jeremy Mayfield and his team worked hard to tame the handling of his No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger. But his car wouldn't come to him in practice on Saturday, and his team looked for solutions after final practice to tighten the loose-handling race car. The rain came too early for the No. 19 team. Mayfield finished 36th. The start of the event was delayed 57 minutes because of rain and was stopped with a red flag after 129 laps of the scheduled 200 were completed. The race was called 17 minutes after the red flag was displayed. All four of Kahne's victories (Atlanta, Texas, Charlotte, Michigan) have come in the same car -- chassis 128. It was his 10th top-10 finish in 15 races this season and fourth straight. He led four times for 19 laps Sunday including the final 13. The win was team owner Ray Evernham's 11th Nextel Cup Series victory and second at MIS. His first was scored by Jeremy Mayfield last August. Kahne's Dodge carried a special paint scheme -- that of Adam Sandler's new film, Columbia Pictures/Revolution Studios' Click, debuting in theaters on June 23. Kahne started from the Bud Pole for the fourth time this season after posting a 38.784-second, 185.644-mph lap around the 2-mile track in the No. 9 Dodge Charger. Kahne's other Bud Pole efforts came at Atlanta, Texas and Darlington. The No. 9 Dodge also had the No. 1 starting spot in the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. Kahne's crew deserves a good deal of the credit for the win. The No. 9 Dodge was involved in a mishap during Saturday's final practice session as Kahne, battling a loose racecar, scrubbing the wall exiting turn two. His crew opted to make the repairs instead of going to a backup car. The team worked late on Saturday and finished up Sunday morning. The only question was how well had the crew done its job? Mission accomplished. The crew was on the mark with the repairs, but another obstacle would have to be overcome. As Kahne was battling Jeff Gordon for the lead just past lap 40, he noted the engine temperatures were increasing rapidly. By lap 46, he had pulled along side of Gordon for the lead, but debris on the nose of Kahne's Dodge had the temps soaring. Kenny Francis (the team director) made the decision to bring the No. 9 Dodge to pit road on lap 47 to clean off the debris. During the green-flag stop, the crew also changed four tires, made a chassis adjustment and added fuel. Thanks to fast pit work, Kahne was just over a lap down and 38th. A break came just eight laps later when the fifth caution fell. Kahne got the free pass. Francis had the No. 9 back on pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments. There was another check of the grille area, just to make sure no debris was blocking the air passage. Kahne restarted 36th. As the skies grew darker, Kahne mounted a charge and picked up 13 positions in 11 laps. He was 23rd when the sixth caution appeared. Francis' strategy this time around was a two-tire stop. The crew had Kahne back on the track in the 11th spot. The No. 9 crew wasn't finished. They turned in a 13.25-second stop during the seventh caution to pick up six spots, moving Kahne to ninth. That set the stage for a curtain call for the over-the-wall-gang during the eighth caution on lap 112. Kahne entered pit road fourth and when the four-tire stop was complete, the No. 9 was back on the track in second only because the leader elected not to pit. The field took the green on lap 115 with Kahne needing only a couple of laps to move to the front. After taking the lead on lap 117, he built a comfortable margin before the field was slowed a final time on lap 125. Four laps later, as the intensity of the rain increased, the event was red flagged. It was just a matter of minutes until the celebration began. "We had a great car," said Kahne. "We had a problem early with debris and the car overheated. I was trying to pass Jeff Gordon and did take the lead, but had to pit the next lap to get the debris off the nose and go from there. We fell back to 38th and had to battle back. Kenny took two tires one time on a stop and I passed some cars on pit road and the pit crew probably picked up 10 more spots on pit road with quick stops. It was a great car to drive and a great team to work with." Kahne jumped to third in the point standings, moving up two spots from fifth. He is 170 points out of the lead. "It's been a great weekend," Kahne said. "We had some ups and downs. I hit the wall and cost my guys a bunch of extra work and that's what I didn't want to do. I knew they would do a good job fixing it. They did. The team has done a great job this season and they have given me a car capable of winning every week. I made 'em work a little harder this weekend, but everything worked out. That's the fourth time we've won with this car this season." Mayfield started 18th in the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger with a qualifying lap of 182.709 mph (39.407 sec.). When the green flag fell after the rain delay, Mayfield quickly found that the handling issues were still present. A series of yellow-flag pit stops in the early part of the race provided many opportunities for the team to work on the car. The changes included track bar, shocks, air pressure, springs and wedge adjustments, but nothing could give Mayfield the handling he needed to gain spots on the field. He finished the day in the 36th position and remained at 32nd in the points. "We've always liked this track and thought we had a good opportunity here based on our race last August," said Mayfield. "We had our strategy in place just like we did then; we just couldn't get our car to cooperate. The guys on the team really gave it their all with trying different solutions to fix the handling, but we ran out of time when the rain came. Maybe a road course and some left turns are just what we need to get us back on the right path."
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