Kahne Corrals Atlanta Win
March 20, 2006 | 2:18 P.M. EST
Kahne scored his second career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victory of his career on Monday winning the rain-delayed Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
After starting his Evernham Motorsports Dodge Dealers Charger on the pole, Kahne took the checkered flag for his first win since last May's triumph at Richmond International Raceway.
Kahne pulled away from Mark Martin with twenty laps to go and crossed the start-finish line 1.9-seconds ahead to give car owner Ray Evernham his eighth career NEXTEL Cup Series win.
"This is unbelievable, these guys did such a great job all day long," Kahne said. "To win at Atlanta, one of my favorite race tracks, is so cool."
The third-year driver became the first to win an Atlanta race from the pole since Buddy Baker turned the trick back in 1979.
Kahne's win also came exactly 29 years to the day after Richard Petty gave Dodge its last Atlanta Cup win.
"I had the lead and was trying to save my tires as much as I could," Kahne said. "I was getting about all my car had those last 30 laps. I was trying as hard as I could once Mark got up there. It was quite a battle. Mark Martin is the cleanest, classiest race driver out there every week. He is also one of the fastest, so to beat him was huge."
Martin, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart rounded out the Top 5.
"We just couldn't beat Kasey," Martin said. "He was strong there at the end and really got up on the wheel when I got up with him there at the end. Man, I thought I was going to have a win here."
Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard, Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett and Reed Sorenson rounded out the first ten finishers.
"I didn't think we had anything for the two guys in front of us," Earnhardt said. "With 100 to go, we were out of the top 30. To get back to third was a pretty good effort."
Bill Lester, who became the first African-American driver to start a NEXTEL Cup race in twenty years, completed the 500 mile event and finished 38th.
"I don't really deserve all the attention I've gotten," Lester said. "I'm looking forward to the time when it's about racing instead of race."
"Quite frankly, it wasn't the finish we wanted. But we finished and that was first and foremost," Lester said. "It was a very significant learning experience for me. This is a whole different group of guys that I'm racing with as opposed to the truck drivers. I learned a lot."
Carl Edwards' bid for a third straight Atlanta Cup win ended early. Edwards and Dave Blaney made contact on pit road on lap 43, damaging the front end of the defending winner's Office Depot Ford. He later cut a tire to cause more damage and wound up finishing 40th.
Tires again were an issue on Monday with several drivers suffering blowouts including Matt Kenseth and Robby Gordon, who had both come back from being a lap down early. Gordon was as high as third in the late going, but was forced to pit for another tire problem with ten laps to go. A frustrated Gordon was then penalized for speeding on pit road and was credited with a 28th place finish.
The NEXTEL Cup Series now heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for next Sunday's Food City 500.