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Kahne creeps closer to Chase



Published: Mon, September 4, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



He also won Saturday's Busch Series race at California Speedway.

FONTANA, Calif. (AP) -- Kasey Kahne overcame a penalty and a series of challenges Sunday night at California Speedway to win his fifth race of the season and close in on a spot in NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup championship with one race remaining.

"These guys fought back with great pit stops," Kahne said. "I just can't thank this team enough. They just worked their butts off to get us back in this Chase and at least now we have a chance going into Richmond next week."

Not even a penalty for speeding on pit road halfway through the 250-lap Sony HD 500 could stop Kahne, who fell back briefly to 24th. His No. 9 Evernham Motorsports Dodge stuck with the leaders and, thanks to a two-tire pit stop on lap 176 that got him up to second, Kahne was in position to drive past Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead after the green flag came back out on lap 180.

After falling back again when several other cars made two-tire pit stops, Kahne outdueled new teammate Elliott Sadler to regain the top spot on lap 197. But there was yet another challenge for the 26-year-old driver, who led a race-high 132 laps.

Several drivers tried to stretch their final tank of gas to the finish and rookie Reed Sorenson almost pulled it off, taking the lead on lap 241 after most of the top cars pitted for a splash of gas and two tires.

Kahne, who gave up the lead when he made his final stop on lap 238, was fifth, nearly 14 seconds behind when Sorenson took the top spot. Kahne charged hard, grabbing second from rookie Clint Bowyer on lap 247, but was still more than 7 seconds behind the leader.

But Sorenson lost his gamble, running out of gas starting lap 249. Kahne zoomed past and raced away for the sixth victory of his career, beating Earnhardt to the finish by 3.428 seconds.

Busch Series

FONTANA, Calif. -- Kasey Kahne outdueled Paul Menard in an exciting NASCAR Busch Series shootout Saturday night that ended with Kahne in California Speedway's Victory Lane and Menard coasting across the finish line out of fuel.

Kahne and Menard both topped off their gas tanks during the last caution period of the Ameriquest 300, with 51 of the 150 laps to go on the two-mile oval.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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