Kahne wins at Phoenix; Edwards, Stewart finish 2nd, 3rd
Avondale, AZ (Sports Network) - Kasey Kahne snapped a two-year winless streak
by taking the Kobalt Tools 500, while Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart maintained
their very tight points battle for the Sprint Cup Series championship after
Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Edwards' second-place finish coupled with a third-place run for Stewart
allowed Edwards to keep his three-point lead over Stewart heading into next
weekend's season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Both drivers entered the
penultimate race with a three-point separation.
"That's what we needed to come here and do -- run well, finish in front of
[Stewart] and still have the points lead going into Homestead," Edwards said.
Stewart led the most laps with 160 but fell out of winning contention after
pitting for the final time. He passed Jeff Burton for third on the last lap.
"We're still where we need to be," Stewart said. "We almost did everything we
needed to do. We led the most laps but came up two spots shy."
Kahne, in his first and only full-season with Red Bull Racing, took the lead
after the final round of pit stops concluded with 14 laps remaining. He beat
Edwards to the finish line by 0.8 seconds for his 12th career Sprint Cup win
but his first since September 2009 at Atlanta (81 races ago).
"It feels so good, and it's been a long-time coming," said Kahne, who did not
qualify for this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. "This whole Red
Bull team has done an unbelievable job. They've been working so hard. It was a
great run today. We fell back a little early, then came back and just kept
getting it better."
Kahne and his crew chief, Kenny Francis, are heading to Hendrick Motorsports
next season. Kahne will replace Mark Martin in Hendrick's No.5 car, as Martin
will move over to Michael Waltrip Racing to run a partial Sprint Cup schedule.
Red Bull is ending its involvement with NASCAR at the end of this year.
"I think this is probably the biggest win ever for me personally and probably
for Kasey," Francis said.
Kahne has been on a hot streak lately, finishing sixth or better in six of the
last seven races. He is currently 14th in points.
Burton wound up finishing fourth, while Stewart's teammate, Ryan Newman, took
the fifth spot.
A.J. Allmendinger, David Reutimann, Marcos Ambrose, Paul Menard and Clint
Bowyer completed the top-10.
There were a lot of unknowns heading into this race, since this one-mile
track has been repaved and reconfigured since the series' last trip here in
February. Saturday's 200-lap Nationwide race featured several multi-car
crashes. The Sprint Cup event had eight cautions, but none of them were for
any major crashes, with the exception of Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers'
incident on lap 177.
In retaliation for last month's race at Martinsville, VA, Vickers bumped into
the back of Kenseth, the pole sitter, sending Kenseth into the wall.
"It's a little disappointing to me that NASCAR doesn't step in soon," said
Kenseth, who finished 34th. "[Vickers] has been telling everyone for four
weeks now that he's going to wipe us out as soon as he gets a chance. Then he
does it, and it can't be anymore premeditated than that."
Kenseth intentionally wrecked Vickers in the closing laps at Martinsville
after the two had tangled multiple times during that race.
In his first race back since his suspension last week at Texas, Kyle Busch's
engine woes this weekend continued when his motor expired during the mid-
stages. Busch blew an engine during Friday's practice sessions at Phoenix,
which forced him to start from the rear of the field. He finished 36th.
"It's catastrophic failure, and it's really unfortunate," Busch said.
Edwards and Stewart are the only drivers who remain eligible for the series
championship going into next Sunday's race at Homestead.
"I hope it's a good, hard race, and I hope it comes down to the fastest car
winning this championship," said Edwards, who won last year's race at
All other drivers in the Chase have been mathematically eliminated, which
means Jimmie Johnson's bid for a sixth-straight title officially came to an
end. Johnson is 68 points out of the lead after finishing 14th at Phoenix.
Stewart had won at Martinsville and Texas before finishing third here.
"We're going to keep the pressure on [Edwards], and we're going to make him
sweat it out," he said.