Kahne Climbs Back
March 22, 2005 | 1:50 P.M. EST
Kasey Kahne, Jeremy Mayfield and Bill Elliott all qualified their Dodge Chargers in the top 20 and were ahead of a 12-car pileup on the opening lap of the 500-mile event at NASCAR's fastest track. The three drivers delivered solid finishes when the checkered flag fell.
Kahne stayed in the top-10 throughout most of the day and finished a strong fifth. Mayfield had to overcome being a lap down early in the race during a long green-flag cycle, but came back to erase the deficit and finished on the lead lap in the 13 th spot. Only 17 cars finished on the lead lap. Elliott took the checkered flag in the 22nd spot.
Kahne started fifth in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger with a time of 28.891 seconds at 191.894 mph. His No. 9 Dew Crew performed stellar pit stops throughout the day. Most were in the 13-second range and would normally have improved track position had Kahne not been partially blocked on all stops under caution by the car pitting directly in front of him. Kahne had to make a sharp turn to the right to exit his pit, hampering his ability to accelerate quickly.
Team Director Tommy Baldwin and the crew continually adjusted on the No. 9 Dodge Charger, staying ahead of the changing track conditions. Those changes kept Kahne in pursuit of the leaders. On the track, Kahne kept moving his Dodge Charger around, looking for the fastest way around the 1.54-mile facility.
Kahne ran third from laps 239 to 272. With the final pit stop scheduled around lap 295, Kahne told Baldwin his No. 9 Dodge Charger was "getting off the corner fine, but it was a little snug getting in." He had dropped a couple spots to fifth when the seventh caution fell on lap 280. Baldwin called for an air pressure and chassis adjustment in addition to four tires and fuel. The Dew Crew completed the stop in the 13-second range, but once again Kahne was blocked from exiting his pit cleanly by the car pitting in front of him. He restarted ninth.
When the eighth and final caution fell on lap 296, all of the leaders elected to pit with Kahne following suit from the eighth spot. Baldwin once again called for a slight adjustment in addition to tires and fuel. Fast work by the Dew Crew had Kahne back on the track in seventh place for the restart. He worked his way up to fifth over the final 25 laps.
Kahne picked up 10 spots in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings. He is 28th, but only 60 points out of 20th and 126 points out of 10th.
"It was a good day," Kahne said. "We had to fight pretty hard at the end. This is the best the car has been all year for sure. We gained some spots in the standings and it gives us something to build on.
"The new Dodge Charger is a good car. We've just had to figure it out. It's going to take a little time, but I think we learned a lot about it today. The guys did a good job in the pits. It was a good, solid top-five finish for us."