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Kahne Hopes Double Duty Results in First Busch Win

MOTOR RACING

April 25, 2003|SHAV GLICK

It is difficult enough to drive a 3,300-pound NASCAR Busch series stock car 300 miles at speeds of 195 mph on a big track like California Speedway. But how about immediately afterward jumping into a passenger car for a 31-mile trip from Fontana to Irwindale, then racing 50 laps in a 900-pound open-wheel midget car at speeds approaching 125 mph on a tiny half-mile oval?

That is the scenario Saturday for Kasey Kahne, former U.S. Auto Club midget car champion and now a Busch series driver.

The 23-year-old driver from Enumclaw, Wash., will be in the Akins Motorsports No. 38 Great Clips Ford for the Busch California Speedway.com 300 at Fontana, looking for his first victory in his second year in the series. The race will start at 1 p.m.

Immediately after finishing, Kahne -- it's pronounced Cain -- will head down Interstate 10 for Irwindale and hop into Steve Lewis' new No. 91 Ed Pink Ford-powered Beast for the $50,000 Mopar Twin 25s, a USAC midget car doubleheader at Irwindale Speedway.

"I'll get some practice in the midget Friday night, so I should be ready Saturday," Kahne said. "Qualifying isn't until 5, so I think I'll be OK. I'm a little rusty, though, it's been a while since I was in a midget."

Kahne last drove a midget last Thanksgiving in the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Irwindale. He finished second to Michael Lewis.

"I was pushing him, but I couldn't get by," Kahne said. "All the oil and rubber laid down from such a long race [100 laps] made it a one-groove track. In shorter races, like the Mopar Twins, the track should be wide with chances to pass."

The program will start with a 25-lap main event, followed by another 25-lapper with the field partially inverted and the first-race winner starting in the back row. If one driver wins both heats, as David Steele did last summer in Indianapolis, he'll collect a $50,000 bonus.

The 45-car entry will be the strongest for any midget race this year. Other contenders include Jason Leffler, 2001 Turkey Night winner, who will be in the car Lewis won with last Turkey Night; J.J. Yeley, USAC Silver Crown champion, who won a USAC midget feature last Friday night at Madera Speedway; Dave Darland, defending USAC midget champion; Tracy Hines, USAC sprint car champion; Lewis and Steele.

In the Busch race, Kahne will be looking for a breakthrough. He qualified second at Talladega Superspeedway three weeks ago in Alabama before being caught in a multi-car accident on the eighth lap. He was credited with 37th place.

"I started on the outside of the front row, but when the race started, all the guys behind me dropped to the inside and left me hung out on the outside," he said. "I was around sixth or seventh when the 21 car blew a tire and got sideways. I was three cars behind him. When I checked up, I got hit by the car behind me and I got into the back of the car in front of me and started spinning. I hit the wall a couple of times and got hit by a lot of different cars.

"You wish something like that wouldn't happen. It was just a bad deal. It wasn't anybody's fault, it was just a tire."

Kahne will be in a different Ford this week, one in which he finished ninth at Texas.

And what will happen to his Irwindale plans if he wins the Busch race?

"That would be a nice problem to work out, wouldn't it?" he said with a smile.

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There will be other double-duty drivers at Fontana.

Kevin Harvick, in fact, will do triple duty. Harvick will drive in the Busch race Saturday afternoon, then fly to Bakersfield to drive a late model stock car Saturday night at Mesa Marin Raceway, then will be back at Fontana on Sunday for the Winston Cup race.

Ron Hornaday will race Saturday night at Mesa Marin Raceway,then again Sunday in the Winston Cup feature, and Brandon Whitt will drive in the morning Winston West race Saturday, then fly to Stockton for a Featherlite Southwest Series race that night.

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Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart has said he would not drive in this year's Indianapolis 500 because it would put too much strain on Joe Gibbs' team, but he was busy last weekend. Stewart drove in three main events at Madera Speedway, winning a USAC sprint car race and a super-modified feature. In the sprint car, he defeated national champion Hines and western regional champion Rick Hendrix. Stewart also drove in a midget race, finishing 14th.

Tonight, Stewart will be at Edison Field to throw out the first ball before the Angel-Boston Red Sox game. The last ballgame he can remember playing was in 1978, when he was 7 and playing T-ball for the Columbus (Ind.) Parks and Recreation Dept. That was the year he began to take racing seriously.

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Quarter midget racers from the Pomona Valley Quarter Midget Assn., ages 5 through 16, will compete Saturday morning on a 1/20th-mile flat track built in the Irwindale Speedway parking lot. Racing in various age groups will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

NHRA Motorsports Museum

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