Kahne takes California victory

Kasey Kahne gave his NASCAR Nextel Cup championship hopes a shot in the arm by winning the Sony HD 500 at California Speedway

Kahne takes California victory

Kahne, who won the Busch series race at the same track last night, seemingly had the best car during the latter stages of the race but had to bounce back from a pit-lane speeding penalty, which dropped him to 24th.

The 26 year-old vaulted a bunch of places when his pit crew chose to change two instead of four tyres on his penultimate stop, but he looked set to lose out in the battle for victory to Reed Sorenson, who had gambled on fuel strategy.

During what proved to be the final caution period, Sorenson came back into the pits and topped off on fuel, which meant he believed he would be able to make the finish without making a further pitstop.

He took the lead when the rest of the field went for their splash-and-dashes under green flag conditions, but ultimately, he ran dry a lap and half from the chequered flag, handing the win to Kahne.

"This was an unbelievable race," Kahne said. "To fall down a lap like that and come back. It's brilliant. I didn't notice going over the speed limit.

"The car got better when the sun went down and I can't thank the team enough. This is the way we are going to get back into the Chase [positions]."

Kahne's victory sets up an intriguing race at Richmond next weekend, after which the top ten are frozen for this year's Chase.

After Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson secured their spots last week, the rest of the field are still too closely bunched for anyone to have already secured their Chase spot.

Only 147 points cover Kevin Harvick in third down to Kahne in 11th, meaning that one driver from a selection of nine will almost certainly suffer heartache next weekend by not making this year's Chase.

Dale Earnhardt Jr's hopes were boosted however by moving up three spots to sixth in the standings with his second consecutive top-three finish.

"This is my best finish here," an elated Earnhardt said. "We're just taking things one week at a time and having a good finish is what it is all about. The pressure is just trying to run good."

While Reed Sorenson's gamble failed, Clint Bowyer's similar risk paid off to give him his best NASCAR Nextel Cup finish yet. Bowyer stayed out when the rest came in for fuel in the final stages, and was happy to be rewarded with third.

"It was just an incredible call to come back in and top of with fuel in that yellow. Finally we've had something do our way. I'm just really proud of Gill [Martin, crew chief] for that call."

Carl Edwards' fourth position wasn't good enough to keep his faint Chase hopes alive, and like teammate Greg Biffle, was eliminated from the Race to the Chase tonight.

Jeff Gordon secured fifth with his own comeback drive, after he had to make an unscheduled pit-stop to get all of the wheel nuts on his car.

Pos Driver Make Laps 1. Kasey Kahne Dodge 250 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 250 3. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 250 4. Carl Edwards Ford 250 5. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 250 6. Denny Hamlin Chevrolet 250 7. Matt Kenseth Ford 250 8. Kyle Busch Chevrolet 250 9. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 250 10. Dale Jarrett Ford 250 11. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 250 12. Mark Martin Ford 250 13. Elliott Sadler Dodge 250 14. Casey Mears Dodge 250 15. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 250 16. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 250 17. Scott Riggs Dodge 250 18. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 250 19. Reed Sorenson Dodge 249 20. J.J. Yeley Chevrolet 249 21. Jamie McMurray Ford 249 22. Jeff Green Chevrolet 249 23. Ken Schrader Ford 249 24. Greg Biffle Ford 249 25. Joe Nemechek Chevrolet 249 26. Bobby Labonte Dodge 249 27. Kurt Busch Dodge 249 28. Scott Wimmer Chevrolet 248 29. Sterling Marlin Chevrolet 248 30. Dave Blaney Dodge 248 31. Michael Waltrip Dodge 248 32. David Gilliland Ford 248 33. Ryan Newman Dodge 248 34. Travis Kvapil Chevrolet 248 35. Kyle Petty Dodge 247 36. David Stremme Dodge 247 37. Tony Raines Chevrolet 247 38. Kevin Lepage Dodge 246 39. Kenny Wallace Chevrolet 246 40. Terry Labonte Chevrolet 245 41. Brian Vickers Chevrolet 237 42. Bill Elliott Chevrolet 224 43. Robby Gordon Chevrolet 193 Secure position for the Chase: ------------------------------ 1. Matt Kenseth 3638 2. Jimmie Johnson 3629 -9 Current Chase contenders: ------------------------- 3. Kevin Harvick 3296 -342 4. Jeff Gordon 3251 -387 5. Kyle Busch 3244 -394 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr 3226 -412 7. Denny Hamlin 3225 -413 8. Tony Stewart 3194 -444 9. Mark Martin 3181 -457 10. Jeff Burton 3179 -459 Still with a chance for the Chase: ---------------------------------- 11. Kasey Kahne 3149 -489 
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