Nemechek the Kansas star

Joe Nemechek fought off charging Ricky Rudd over the final two laps and won Sunday's Banquet 400 NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway. Nemechek, 21st in points and not eligible for the playoffs, won for the first time since the Richmond race in May 2003

Nemechek the Kansas star

The race was fairly exciting by Kansas standards, and somewhat confusing, as teams jockeyed for track position, pitting in different sequences. Twice cars were caught in the pits when caution flew during service intervals. Jeremy Mayfield, who led the most laps (74), and Greg Biffle (64) both fell out of contention when they pitted (with about half the field) for a final tank of fuel under caution on Lap 210.

Nemechek was one of those who ignored that round of pitstops, along with Jamie McMurray, Ricky Rudd, Elliott Sadler, Kurt Busch and others. McMurray led on the restart, with Rudd second, Sadler third, and Nemechek fourth. That brought some of the more exciting racing of the day.

Sadler worked McMurray for the lead on Lap 229 (of 267), with Nemechek following clorsely. The two then swapped the lead three times before Nemechek emerged in front on Lap 231. Two more cautions kept the field reasonably close, but the men in front, excepting Rudd, chose to run to the end on fuel, Rudd pitting on Lap 243.

Rudd, on newer tyres raced back through the field. Nemechek came off the final restart (Lap 255) to build a 1sec lead, but Rudd, who passed Sadler for second with six laps to go, began to close the gap.

Rudd, whose Wood Brothers team has caught fire the past six weeks, caught Nemechek on Lap 265. On 266, he cut to the inside of Nemechek and nosed ahead briefly, the two running side-by-side for more than a lap. In the second turn on the final lap, Rudd, seeing he was not going to be able to make the move, dropped back into line and finished on Nemechek's bumper. Biffle rallied to finish third.

Among the playoff contenders, Sadler finished fourth, jumping from eighth place to fourth in the standings. Mayfield was fifth, and leader Kurt Busch was sixth. Busch now leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 29 with six races to go, with Jeff Gordon (who finished 13th) 79 behind in third. No one else is closer than 143.

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