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Kahne Stays Hot, Wins from the Pole at Pocono

Kasey Kahne
Kasey Kahne
LONG POND, Pa. (June 8, 2008) -- Polesitter Kasey Kahne recovered from missing lug nuts that dropped him to the back of the field -- and weathered myriad strategic ploys from his rivals -- to win Sunday's Pocono 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway.

The victory was Kahne's second of the season and the ninth of his career in 158 starts, but it wasn't as easy as Kahne's 3.702-second margin of victory over Brian Vickers might suggest.

After a restart on Lap 182 of the 200-lap event, Kahne passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Lap 183 and Vickers on Lap 185 to take the lead for the final time.

Denny Hamlin ran third, followed by Earnhardt and Jeff Burton, who trimmed the series points lead of 43rd-place finisher Kyle Busch to 21 points. Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Mark Martin completed the top 10.

Kahne is riding a wave of momentum that dates to the May 17 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. After Kahne failed to qualify for the event, fans voted him in. Kahne made the most of the opportunity and won the race. Eight days later he won his first points race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600.

"The fans gave (momentum) to us in the all-star race when they gave us that boost," Kahne said. "It's done a tremendous amount for our confidence in the last month."

It gave Kahne and his No. 9 Dodge crew enough presence of mind to recover from a snafu in the pits on Lap 58. Crew chief Kenny Francis changed his call from a four-tire to a two-tire pit stop under caution, but the front tire changer didnít pick up on the change and removed three lug nuts from the left front before Kahne left the pits.

Kahne had to pit again a lap later to replace the lug nuts and fell to 38th in the running order for a restart on Lap 64. With the race's dominant car and excellent subsequent performance in the pits, Kahne worked his way back to sixth by the halfway point. On Lap 116, he passed teammate Elliott Sadler for third.

With both Earnhardt and Vickers on fuel-mileage strategies, Francis kept Kahne on a normal cycle of pit stops and let the strength of the No. 9 car make the difference.

Because of the fuel-mileage ploy, Vickers' tires were 10 laps older than Kahne's at the finish, and Vickers thought that was the critical issue.

"I'm so proud of our guys," said Vickers, who gave Red Bull Racing its best finish in the Cup series. "We needed tires. He (Kahne) had a lot newer tires, and thatís all we needed. We had a great car."

Hamlin, who won both Pocono races from the pole in 2006, had a run on Vickers soon after the final restart but couldnít make the pass.

"I got to the 83 (Vickers), but as soon as we got there, he moved down into our line, and we couldn't make any headway," Hamlin said.

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