2009-09-10 / Sports

Kahne Gets Second Win Of Year

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

HAMPTON, Ga. - Kasey Kahne passed Kevin Harvick with 11 laps to go and pulled away down the backstretch to win the Pep Boys Auto 500 Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, beating Harvick to the checkered flag by 1.766 seconds.

The ninth and final caution of the race on lap 310 gave Kahne a chance to win. Clint Bowyer spun off turn four on lap 310 of the 325- lap event, giving Kahne the short run he needed to chase down Harvick.

"It feels awesome to win at Atlanta, to win on a night like tonight when the Chase and everything has been so tight for the last two months," Kahne said. "This team has stepped up. The pit stops were awesome all night. The calls from Kenny Francis' crew chief were perfect. I knew we could go fast for about 15 laps, faster than anybody."

"We came into this race just like we came into the last few. It worked. I think we're kind of a veteran group. We've worked together for a long time. We knew each other a lot. We know a lot of things that we're thinking. The way I say something, Kenny understands it. It's great to have that relationship and that communication line."

Rounding out the top 15 spots were Juan Montoya, David Reutimann, Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, David Stremme, Paul Menard and Robbie Gordon.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 17th.

Kahne climbed five positions in the Sprint Cup Series championship standings with his victory at Atlanta. He is sixth, 76 points ahead of 12th-place Matt Kenseth, entering the Sept. 11 race at Richmond

This race started with some of the drivers a little more nervous than normal for the start of the race. Just two races stood between them and the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, 10- race playoff for the championship.

The top 12 drivers qualify for The Chase after 26 races, and points are recalibrated among the qualifiers to separate them from the rest of the starting fields.

Top-15 Chase leaders with one to go before the 10-race Chase begins: 1. Stewart-3694, 2. J. Gordon-3457, 3. Johnson-3404, 4. Hamlin-3296, 5. Edwards-3162, 6. Kahne-3153, 7. Kurt Busch- 3152, 8. Montoya-3145, 9. Newman 3138, 10. Martin-3126, 11. Biffle-3125, 12. Kenseth-3077, 13. Vickers-3057, 14. Kyle Busch- 3040, 15. Reutimann-2945

Harvick dominates Atlanta Nationwide race

Top-10 Nationwide Series leaders after 26 of 35: 1. Kyle Busch-4209, 2. Edwards-3988, 3. Keselowski-3917, 4. Leffler-3532, 5. Allgaier-3010, 6. S. Wallace- 2994, 7. Keller-2873, 8. Gaughan- 2857, 9. Bliss-2835, 10. McDowell 2796

Skinner wins at Iowa

Mike Skinner picked up his second Camping World Series win of the season Saturday night at Newton, Iowa.

Top-10 Truck leaders after 17 of 25: 1. Hornaday-2753, 2. Crafton-2528, 3. Skinner-2472, 4. Scott-2292, 5. Bodine-2275. 6. Braun-2261, 7. Starr-2195, 8. Crawford-2163, 9. Peters-2156, 10. Cook-2145

Keselwski signs with Penske

Brad Keselowski will a have a full-time Cup ride in 2010.

The 25-year-old native of Rochester Hills, Mich., will drive the No. 12 Penske Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next season. He will also run a fullseason schedule in the Nationwide Series, where he will compete for the championship.

He will join two other Penske drivers, Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish. David Stremme, current driver of the No. 12 Cup Penske Dodge will be released.

"Penske Racing is one of the top teams in all of motorsports and I am honored to join Roger Penske's organization and compete for wins with his Cup and Nationwide Series teams," said Keselowski. "This is a great opportunity for me to continue competing in the Nationwide Series and to run my first full season in the Cup Series with a strong and experienced team."

Keselowski pulled off one of the most stunning wins of the season when he won the Spring race at Talladega, while driving the No. 1 Chevrolet for James Finch of Phoenix Racing, and has three top-10 finishes in just eight Cup Series starts this season.

A third-generation driver, Keselowski has won at every level in which he has competed. He is currently ranked third in the Nationwide Series standings with three wins to his credit in 2009, including a dramatic victory in August at his home track at Michigan International Speedway.

It seemed like young Keselowski might have to sit on the sidelines next year. Hendrick Motorsports, which fields cars for JR Motorsports, had the opportunity to sign him, but failed to do so.

Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, who co-owns JR Motorsports with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and is fielding Keselowski in select Cup races this season in a fifth Hendrick Motorsports car, was interested in the possibility of keeping Keselowski tied to his stable. But with NASCAR's new four-car limit in 2010 and Hendrick having no Cup ride available, Keselowski ultimately decided to look elsewhere.

"It became obvious that it was just not in the cards," Keselowski said. "There was just too many things going against us with the team limit and so forth."

Keselowski turned his attention to the Penske organization, which is essentially making driver David Stremme a free agent in 2010 to make room for Keselowski.

JR Motorsports is considering several drivers for its two NASCAR Nationwide Series teams next year, team spokesman Mike Davis said Tuesday, although he declined to identify them.

The team also has entered the No. 5 car in several races with a variety of drivers, including team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Scott Wimmer and Ron Fellows, and Tony Stewart is also slated to drive before the end of the year. Weekend racing: The Cup and Nationwide teams will be at the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway. This is the last race before the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins. The Camping World Trucks will race at Madison, Ill., just across the river from St. Louis, Mo.

Friday, September 11, Nationwide Series Richmond 250, race 27 of 35; starting time: 7 p.m. (EDT); TV: ESPN2.

Saturday, September 12, Camping World Trucks 200, race 18 of 25; starting time: 2 p.m. (EDT); TV: Speed Channel.

Saturday, September 12, Sprint Cup Chevy Rock & Roll 400, race 26 of 36;starting time: 7 p.m. (EDT); TV: ABC.

Racing trivia question: Richard Petty has 200 Cup wins. Who is the number-two driver?

Last week's question: What is the name of the camp operated by Kyle Petty and his wife for kids with healthcare needs? Answer. The Victory Junction Camp.

Contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@earthlink.net

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