Kahne Breaks Through

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RICHMOND, Va. - Kasey Kahne is a bridesmaid no more.

After finishing second six times in his young NEXTEL Cup Series career, Kahne finally made it to Victory Lane Saturday night with a win in the Chevy American Revolution 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Kahne started from the pole and led 242 laps, but had to hold off his friend and mentor Tony Stewart to the checkered flag.

"It's so awesome, this whole team did a great job," said Kahne. "I can't believe it, we drove so hard all night to beat Tony. That was really cool."

Kahne and Stewart share similar backgrounds, starting their careers in short track open wheel racing. Although fierce competitors, the two consider each other friends. In fact Stewart was the first to congratulate Kahne as he drove down pit road.

"I told him the second one won't get that long to get," Stewart said. "I am just happy for him. He's long overdue. He's done a great job for two years."

Kahne became the third driver to score his first career NEXTEL Cup Series win at Richmond with Stewart, ironically, the last driver to accomplish the feat in 1999. The initial win came in Kahne's 47th career Cup Series start and with the victory, he is now eligible to compete in next weekend's NEXTEL All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

It was the second straight Richmond win for car owner Ray Evernham, who went to victory lane at RIR last September with Kahne's teammate Jeremy Mayfield.

Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick rounded out the Top 5.

Greg Biffle, Elliott Sadler, Bobby Labonte, Michael Waltrip and Jamie McMurray completed the first ten finishers.

It was not a good night for the trio of drivers who were at the top of the NEXTEL Cup point standings entering Saturday night's race.

Series leader Jimmie Johnson was the first to experience trouble when he tangled with Travis Kvapil on lap 81. Johnson's Lowe's Chevrolet spun and slid hard into the backstretch inside retaining wall.

As he tried to limp his damaged car around the track, Johnson had even more problems when he hit the inside pit road wall.

"When I was taking my lap around just trying to back to the pit road and went down the backstretch and the steering failed," said Johnson, who finished 40th. "When I climbed on the brakes, all the camber in the car and castor in it, I braked and I turned right into the inside wall again.

"If it didn't hurt that I backed it into the wall the first time, it killed it the second time."

Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon was the next to experience problems on lap 165 when he got caught up in a an accident between Rusty Wallace and Bobby Labonte, sending his DuPont Chevrolet into the wall.

"I know exactly what happened," said Gordon, who came into the race second in the standings. "It was one of the stupidest things I've ever done in my life. You know, a car spun in front of me, I saw smoke and I slowed down, decided to take it a little high, just ran straight into the wall - by myself."

Gordon finished 39th.

Kurt Busch was leading the race when an unscheduled stop brought him into the pits for a tire vibration, He went a lap down but was eventually able to battle back to wind-up 17th.

Johnson maintains the point lead which is now down to 41 over Biffle. Gordon is third 124 behind.

The series now heads to Lowe's Motor Speedway for next Saturday night's NEXTEL All-Star Challenge.

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