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Kasey Kahne and Jeremy Mayfield deliver strong finishes at 'The Rock'
ROCKINGHAM, N.C.0.010 of a second.
The blink of an eye is all that separated rookie Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge, from his first career NASCAR Nextel Cup Series win.
In one of the most dramatic finishes in NASCAR history, Kahne proved that he is a rookie to contend with. Kenseth's 0.010 margin of victory ties Atlanta (Dale Earnhardt over Bobby Labonte - 3-12-00) for the fourth closest finish since electronic scoring was introduced in 1993.
After starting third and staying in the top 10 the entire day, Kahne broke into the top five when he passed Sterling Marlin on lap 257 of the 393 lap event. Slowly but surely, he began reeling in the front runners until he passed Jamie McMurray on lap 346.
On lap 350, Kahne came down pit road for a green flag pit stop, but at the same time Robby Gordon spun down the backstretch. The incident brought out a caution but, fortunately, Kahne was able to maintain lead-lap status.
Kahne found himself in second place during the restart on lap 363, giving him a 30-lap shootout with Matt Kenseth in front and Jamie McMurray behind. Once the green flag dropped, Kahne's assault on first place was stalled because of lapped traffic. However, by lap 363, he cleared all the lapped cars and had a clear view of Kenseth. With 10 laps to go in the race, Kahne trimmed the lead down to just 0.3 seconds. For the remaining laps, Kahne was hot on Kenseth's tail, with McMurray not far behind.
On the final lap, coming off of the final turn, Kahne ducked down to the low side of the race track and got underneath Kenseth, providing a photo finish that left the thousands of fans in the stands speechless. He came up less than a second short of the victory, but proved he is a force with which to contend.
"When I got the car turned and started to come under Matt in three and four, I was trying to give it more and more throttle, but you can only give it so much," said an exhilarated Kahne after the race. "If it had got loose I would have lost my run. I kept feeding it and feeding it.
"Tommy Baldwin (team director) taught me something interesting yesterday," said Kahne. "He gave me an egg and told me to guard it and not to break it. I had that until the race started. I never broke it, and he was on the radio all day telling me to treat the throttle like an egg. I had to be real smooth on it. I had to do that off turn four and came up a little short.
"I'm a little bit surprised to finish second. We beat so many good guys today, and that's a credit to the team. The Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge team did a great job. They gave me a great race car. To run second in our second Nextel Cup race together is definitely a surprise and a big accomplishment for us."
Jeremy Mayfield, driver of the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge, overcame several obstacles on Sunday to finish 11th.
Mayfield started sixth and quickly moved up to the fourth position. On lap 30, he radioed to his Dew Crew that the car was running a little hot. Fortunately, a caution came out on lap 38 and the Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge team pitted twice. The first time they took on four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. The second time, they opened up the hood and ran cool water through the radiator to help the overheating problem. After the restart on lap 44, Mayfield was in 39th position but reported to his crew that the temperatures were fine and the car was cooling off. Then Mayfield became a man on a mission. With one of the fastest cars in the race, Mayfield wasted no time in making his way through the field. By lap 106 he was back in the top 20.
But, Mayfield was slowed down by two speeding penalties on pit road during cautions, which forced him to the tail end of the longest line of cars during the restarts. The penalties hindered Mayfield's progress because he was forced to race against a lot of lapped traffic. In the closing laps, he managed to pick up several positions and finished the race in the 11th position.
"We went to the back three or four times, but we were able to fight our way to the front," said Mayfield. "It was a good car all day. We overcame a lot and that's all we could ask for. We were running a little hot at first and we had to come back in and put some water in to cool it off. We had some problems in the pits, but we had to come back in and work on it anyway.
"Overall, it was a good day. It could have been a lot worse considering the circumstances. Kasey did really well and I wish we could have been up there with him. They're awesome. That's the team that won here in November, and Kasey kept it going today. We're ready to tackle Las Vegas now."