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Evernham Team Looking for Strong Finish

September 03, 2006|From the Associated Press

There have been distractions aplenty for everyone at Evernham Motorsports this season.

The nearly season-long battle of words and wills between team owner Ray Evernham and driver Jeremy Mayfield caused everyone considerable anguish and frustration, while Kasey Kahne's late-season swoon has added to the burden.

Mayfield is gone now, replaced by Elliott Sadler after a bitter parting and an out-of-court settlement with Evernham. And Kahne, the only driver outside the top 10 with any realistic chance of moving into NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup championship, appears to have gotten things turned around, perhaps just in time.

Kahne, coming off finishes of fourth and 12th after having only one top-10 run in the previous seven races, is 90 points behind 10th-place Mark Martin with two races to go until the start of the Chase.

Only 138 points separate Kahne from fourth-place Kyle Busch and, with any driver able to gain up to 156 points over another competitor in a single race, that puts seven drivers on the bubble heading into today's race at California Speedway and next Saturday at Richmond.

"We can't control what other teams do these next two races," Kahne said. "Our focus is on the No. 9 Dodge Charger and how we perform. Our objective is to make the Chase.

"Two things must occur for that to happen. First, we have to have two good races -- wins would certainly help, but we definitely need top-five finishes. Then, a driver sixth through 10th in the standings must have a problem. A 100-point swing can happen in one race."

Meanwhile, Sadler has brought a renewed spark and optimism to Evernham's No. 19 Dodge, giving that team its first top-10 finish of the season in his debut two weeks ago at Michigan. Not even a crash that left him 39th last weekend at Bristol could dampen Sadler's enthusiasm.

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