DOMINANT KAHNE CLOSED OUT RIVALS IN STYLE AT COCA-COLA 600, HIS THIRD WIN OF 2006

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Date: May 30, 2006
Publisher: Winston-Salem Journal
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,333 words
Lexile Measure: 1480L

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Byline: Mike Mulhern JOURNAL REPORTER

CONCORD -- So Kasey Kahne made amends Sunday night for his All-Star faux pas, that wreck he triggered a week ago while battling Mark Martin for the lead. This time, Kahne so dominated that no one could get close enough to try to rattle his cage.

The only man who had any chance of beating Kahne in this Coca-Cola 600 was his teammate, Scott Riggs. Riggs ran the best race of his career, but he had pit-road problems late, knocking him out of contention.

That left the stretch chase to Jimmie Johnson, one of the sport's best in the clutch, and nowhere more so than at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

But Johnson, who was gunning for his record-breaking fourth-straight 600 win, was chagrined at Kahne's stretch sprint. Kahne, even dealing with some traffic, charged away to a 10-length victory.

"The pit stops were awesome," Kahne said, identifying one of the key aspects of the 4 1/2-hour race on Humpy Wheeler's new smooth asphalt and Goodyear's rock-hard tires.

How crew chief Kenny Francis kept up with the tires was amazing, Kahne said: "The tire situation was crazy. We were putting on two tires most of the time, no tires once in a while."

"It was a heck of a battle," Kahne said of his fight to hold off Matt Kenseth, Johnson and Carl Edwards.

First, he had to regain the lead.

"My spotter told me Kenseth was coming, and Jimmie and Carl were side by side, and I really had nowhere to go," Kahne said. "Finally the high side opened, I got Jimmie in three and four and Carl on the bottom of three and four a lap or two later."

It was Kahne's ability to pick any groove he wanted that was so remarkable.

"Before that caution we were saving fuel," he said. "The car was cutting 10 times better after that stop.

"That's all I've ever wanted here - a car that could race with Jimmie at the end."

Kahne got a lucky break from NASCAR midway through the race when the caution flag came just as he was pitting. Instead of putting Kahne a lap down, NASCAR put him back on the lead lap.

"I thought we were probably going to go a lap down because we were pitting when the yellow came out," Kahne said. "But from what I understand, we made it (back) to the start-finish line in time and never went a lap down, and then everybody else had to pit. So actually the pit stop was perfect timing."

With small fuel cells and numerous cautions, the 600 was generally chaotic. Only Kahne's dominating performance kept things under some control.

"Early on we kept getting cautions, and I was like, 'Man, these small fuel cells are hurting us,'" Kahne said. "Every time there was a yellow, you had to pit for fuel, because the fuel window was so small (55 miles).

"It was frustrating the first 100 to 150 laps. Then things started flowing better, and we had more green-flag runs."

For car owner Ray Evernham, Kahne's rebound this season from a terrible sophomore year is rejuvenating.

"When I hired him (away from Ford), I knew he was a smart racer, and it would just take a little time," Evernham said. "This is a tough sport; you go up and down. But he studies hard, and he's committed to the things it takes to win."

Evernham hopes to get the same out of Riggs, his newest driver, but Riggs hasn't been on much this spring.

Then Sunday's pit-road mistakes aggravated everyone.

"I was a little upset, as a car owner should be," Evernham said. "You see the guys work so hard.... Mistakes in the pits have taken them out of a couple of races, and a mistake here - again a mistake we shouldn't have made. The good news is Scott has shown he can drive a car and win races. They should have been in position to win."

The key problem for Riggs was running out of fuel, then needing a push down pit road. Not only did he lose time, but NASCAR slapped him with a penalty.

Evernham said that he planned to protest that penalty.

"I am going to go to the NASCAR trailer about it, because the car didn't carry the gas can out of the pits, the gasman did when they were pushing the car," Evernham said. "I really don't understand the call."

"I don't really know what happened," Riggs said. "All I know is we had to come back in and go to the tail end. There were so many cars on the lead-lap it was hard to get back up through there."

Mike Mulhern can be reached at mmulhern@wsjournal.com

COCA-COLA 600 RACE RESULTS

Fin./Start Driver Model Laps Money won

1. (9) Kasey Kahne Dodge 400 $428,114

2. (3) Jimmie Johnson Chevy 400 $288,236

3. (22) Carl Edwards Ford 400 $201,050

4. (21) Mark Martin Ford 400 $166,100

5. (6) Matt Kenseth Ford 400 $180,366

6. (11) Jeff Burton Chevy 400 $154,520

7. (7) Greg Biffle Ford 400 $134,650

8. (33) Jamie McMurray Ford 400 $158,825

9. (8) Denny Hamlin Chevy 400 $111,000

10. (23) Reed Sorenson Dodge 400 $119,275

11. (34) Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevy 400 $140,071

12. (10) Jeff Green Chevy 400 $131,033

13. (1) Scott Riggs Dodge 400 $147,075

14. (36) Paul Menard Chevy 400 $95,525

15. (2) Jeremy Mayfield Dodge 400 $134,116

16. (41) Robby Gordon Chevy 400 $98,075

17. (5) Bobby Labonte Dodge 400 $134,646

18. (19) Joe Nemechek Chevy 399 $121,245

19. (15) Clint Bowyer Chevy 399 $101,725

20. (4) J.J. Yeley Chevy 399 $132,575

21. (27) Martin Truex Jr. Chevy 399 $115,833

22. (31) Travis Kvapil Chevy 399 $104,908

23. (30) Casey Mears Dodge 398 $124,933

24. (14) Johnny Sauter Chevy 398 $85,750

25. (39) Kyle Petty Dodge 397 $108,308

26. (40) Ken Schrader Ford 397 $114,664

27. (38) Scott Wimmer Chevy 397 $86,825

28. (16) Sterling Marlin Chevy 396 $95,847

29. (35) Kenny Wallace Chevy 396 $83,175

30. (26) Elliott Sadler Ford 396 $113,958

31. (25) David Stremme Dodge 396 $90,900

32. (29) Dave Blaney Dodge 395 $82,775

33. (24) Terry Labonte Chevy 393 $83,600

34. (12) Kevin Harvick Chevy 373 $119,461

35. (18) Ryan Newman Dodge 369 $127,808

36. (13) Jeff Gordon* Chevy 360 $133,111

37. (17) Brian Vickers Chevy 331 $90,050

38. (28) Kyle Busch* Chevy 313 $99,935

39. (20) Kurt Busch Dodge 290 $122,858

40. (42) Tony Raines* Chevy 264 $81,715

41. (43) Michael Waltrip* Dodge 116 $81,605

42. (32) Tony Stewart* Chevy 32 $135,456

43. (37) Dale Jarrett* Ford 0 $113,817

Race statistics

Time of race: 4 hours, 39 minutes, 25 seconds. Margin of victory: 2.114 seconds. Winner's average speed: 128.840 mph. Caution flags: 15 for 66 laps. Lead changes: 37 among 16 drivers. Lap leaders: S.Riggs 1-35; E.Sadler 36; M.Waltrip 37; S.Riggs 38-49; J.Gordon 50-67; T.Kvapil 68; J.Johnson 69-92; G.Biffle 93; S.Riggs 94-96; J.Green 97-109; M.Martin 110; J.Green 111-113; M.Martin 114-130; J.Burton 131; S.Riggs 132-144; G.Biffle 145-161; S.Wimmer 162; D.Hamlin 163-180; K.Kahne 181-200; D.Hamlin 201-203; G.Biffle 204; K.Kahne 205-235; G.Biffle 236; D.Hamlin 237-240; K.Kahne 241-248; S.Riggs 249; K.Kahne 250-289; S.Riggs 290-291; M.Kenseth 292; K.Kahne 293-305; S.Riggs 306; J.Burton 307-317; B.Labonte 318; M.Martin 319-320; K.Kahne 321-336; S.Riggs 337-359; C.Edwards 360-370; K.Kahne 371-400.

Did not finish*

Jeff Gordon (accident); Kyle Busch (accident); Tony Raines (engine failure); Michael Waltrip (brakes) Tony Stewart (accident); Dale Jarrett (accident).

Nextel Cup leaders

1. J.Johnson, 1,861. 2. M.Kenseth, 1,752. 3. M.Martin, 1,652. 4. T.Stewart, 1,630. 5. D.Earnhardt Jr., 1,590. 6. K.Kahne, 1,569. 7. J.Gordon, 1,451. 8. J.Burton, 1,450. 9. Kyle Busch, 1,437. 10. K.Harvick, 1,426. CAPTION: Kyle Busch threw his neck brace at the car of Casey Mears after a wreck late in the Coca-Cola 600. CAPTION(S):

Kasey Kahne, sixth in the Nextel Cup standings, smokes his tires for the fans. C6: Kyle Busch threw his neck brace at the car of Casey Mears after a wreck late in the Coca-Cola 600.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A146407181