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Kahne Stretches Out to Win

He makes the most of his remaining fuel to take first in the Busch Series race in Fontana, where he'll try to do the same in tonight's Nextel Cup race.

September 03, 2006|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

If only Kasey Kahne can do today what he did on Saturday night.

Kahne won the NASCAR Busch Series' Ameriquest 300 in Fontana by stretching his fuel over the final 51 laps, setting the stage for a race today that could play a pivotal role in whether he makes the NASCAR Chase for the Nextel Cup.

He is 11th in the Cup series vying for one of 10 qualifying berths for the Chase.

"I think actually this Busch car learned a lot from the Cup car," said Kahne, who gave Dodge its first victory on the two-mile California Speedway oval. "Really, the Dodge Charger drove awesome in practice today. Hopefully, we'll get a top five, lead some laps, and give ourselves a chance next week in Richmond to get in the chase."

Kahne, who led 14 laps, said the momentum from the Busch race won't hurt his effort in tonight's Sony HD 500.

"Any time you win a race it gives you a good feeling," Kahne said. "It will be nice to wake up in the morning with a win. Everybody will be pretty pumped up. The pit crew did a great job. The same guys are going to be pitting the Cup car. We hope to have a really good run especially coming off some momentum tonight."

Kahne, who topped off with fuel at the end of a caution on Lap 98 and fell back to 23rd, outdueled Paul Menard's Chevrolet over the final 16 laps. Menard, a Busch regular who led five of the final 10 laps, ran out of fuel on the backstretch of the last lap. Still, he coasted home fourth.

Kahne, who took the decisive lead from Menard on Lap 148, beat Busch Series leader Kevin Harvick to the checkered flag by 0.235 of a second, and Mark Martin by 8.088.

Martin, who led 88 laps in his Ford, didn't play the fuel conservation game and paid the price. He pitted under green on Lap 131 and fell from the lead to 25th in the 150-lap race. He cut the deficit by 10 seconds over the final 12 laps.

The biggest crash of the night took place in the back of the field on Lap 94, and it was the one that affected the outcome most. Paul Tracy's Chevrolet rubbed against David Ragan's Ford in Turn 4, and when they reached Turn 1, Ragan's left rear tire let loose. His spin collected J.J. Yeley, who was fifth in the championship, and Tracy, the 2003 Champ Car World Series champion.

Yeley finished 40th. Harvick extended his championship lead to 567 points over Carl Edwards, who finished 12th.

Kahne, Menard and Harvick pitted on Lap 94, but Kahne came back into the pits on Lap 99 to top off. It was the last of six yellow flags, which doomed Martin.

"The way there were having cautions, we didn't expect it to go green the way that it did," said Martin, who is 10th in the Cup Chase. "One of the nicest cars I've ever driven."

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martin.henderson@latimes.com

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