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Kahne gets first Nextel Cup win; first for Dodge Charger since '77

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RICHMOND, Va.

Mayfield Runs With Leaders Most of Race; Front-End Damage Spoils Top-10 Finish
Kasey Kahne claimed his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victory Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, driving the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger to an impressive win. The 25-year-old driver started from the Bud Pole, led seven times for 242 laps including the final 106 circuits in the 400-lap event, en route to victory in his 47th Nextel Cup Series start. It was the first win of the season for the Dodge Charger which returned in 2005 after a 27-year hiatus from NASCAR's premier series. The Dodge Charger went to victory lane 124 times in the 1960s and 1970s, the last by Neil Bonnett at Ontario Motor Speedway in November 1977. The win earned Kahne a berth in next Saturday's NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He also joined an exclusive club of 13 drivers to win in the Craftsman Truck, Busch and Cup series. It was the sixth win for Evernham Motorsports. For the fifth consecutive year, an Evernham Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge has visited victory lane. It was a flawless performance by the No. 9 Dew Crew. Kahne never ran outside of the top five. The crew never lost a position during a pit stop. In fact, a stop during the fifth caution on lap 234 sent a devastating message to the competition. Kahne entered pit road third and his Dew Crew "smoked" the field during the stop for four tires, fuel and minor adjustments. The No. 9 Dodge Charger was back on the track at the point. He would relinquish the lead only twice for seven laps over the final 167 circuits. Not to be overlooked was the effectiveness of Team Director Tommy Baldwin's race strategy. Baldwin had a handle on the track conditions from the first lap to the final circuit. By the half-way mark, it was evident the battle had turned into a two-way race between Kahne and Tony Stewart. When the two front runners made their final pit stop during the sixth caution on lap 333, Kahne was in and out first with time to spare. "Great job boys, that's what we needed," Baldwin told his crew. Three caution flags during the final 46 laps could not deter Kahne from his mission. Stewart had a prime seat to evaluate Kahne's performance. "He did everything right," said Stewart who also got his first Cup win at Richmond. "He ran a really, really, really smooth and what I would consider a perfect race. He didn't do anything wrong. When it came time at the end to go, he was the fastest car on the track and he made zero mistakes. He didn't give anybody an opportunity to get him." The last driver to win from the Bud Pole was Joe Nemechek at Kansas last year. Bill Elliott was the last driver to win at Richmond from the pole, taking both start/finish honors in the spring race in 1992. Kahne's performance was reminiscent of the fall race at Richmond last September when his Evernham Motorsports teammate, Jeremy Mayfield, was the class of the field en route to a victory which earned him a berth in the inaugural Chase for the Nextel Cup. Mayfield was a force again, running in the top 10 through the first 300 laps. Damage to the front end of his Dodge Charger during a pit road mishap under caution on lap 64 and a tight condition throughout the event finally took its toll in the closing laps. Major adjustments were made during two of the final three caution periods, but fell short in getting Mayfield back in the top 10. He finished 13th. Kahne claimed his second consecutive pole, driving the No. 9 Dodge Charger to a time of 20.775 seconds at 129.964 mph around the 0.75-mile track. The time was just a tick off the track record of 20.772 set during last year's spring event. Kahne made it a qualifying sweep at Richmond as he also won the pole for Friday night's NASCAR Busch Series race. It's the first time in Kahne's career he has won the pole for both racing events at a track on the same weekend. "It took longer than I thought it would," Kahne said. "As good as we started out last year, we thought we could win races. We've been leading at four to go, 10 to go, and not got it done. To win the race and have Tony on our heels, that's an unbelievable feeling." "To win at Richmond, a track we struggled at last year and a track that definitely wasn't one of my favorites last year, is pretty cool. We didn't crash, we just didn't run well. We came here and tested and made a few changes and the car was just awesome all night." "I think we're back on track. We've got two poles and a first and third the past two weeks. We're on a roll. It's an awesome win for everyone on our Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger race team. This was our last chance to get in the all-star race and we were able to do it. We look forward to running at Charlotte next weekend." "It's awesome to win here, win with Tommy. Everybody did such a great job tonight. They kept me out front and our Dodge Charger was great." Kahne claimed the maximum (190) points and jumped four positions in the season standings. He's currently 15th, just 83 points out of 10th. "To put together a package like we did tonight feels pretty good," Baldwin said. "I really wish he (his late father Tommy Baldwin, Sr.) was here to witness it, either that or I'd get a voice mail on the phone and hear what he would say. I miss him, but I was telling Ray on the way up here this was his favorite place and it was special tonight to win." Mayfield qualified 15th in the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge, posting a time of 20.995 seconds at 128.602 mph in his Dodge Charger. With the drop of the green flag, Mayfield was on the move. He was 10th by the 19th lap and had picked up three more positions in the next 10 circuits. Running seventh, Mayfield joined all the leaders heading to pit road during the first caution on lap 64. Mayfield had told Slugger Labbe, his crew chief, the No. 19 Dodge Charger was "a little tight off the corner, but good." As he left his pit stall following service by the Dew Crew, Mayfield made contact with another car and received damage to the front end of the racecar, especially the right front fender. He did not have to return to pit road, but the car never seemed to handle the way it did during the first 60 laps. Despite dealing with a tight condition in the middle and off the corners, Mayfield kept the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/ UAW Dodge Charger in the top 10 through three-quarters of the race and Labbe and the crew continued to make adjustments. Major changes on the final two pit stops failed to remedy the tight condition and Mayfield finished 13th. "We were tight all night, so staying in the top 10 as long as we did was an achievement," Mayfield said. "I thought we were going to be a lot better. I'm proud of Kasey and his crew. They've done a great job all year and they deserve it. That's two straight at Richmond for Evernham Motorsports. That's great." Mayfield is 16th in the Nextel Cup point standings, just 87 points out of 10th.

Motorsports in the news

Mayfield did a live interview with ESPN's "Cold Pizza" on Friday morning. During an open interview session on Friday, Mayfield fielded question from the media including ESPN, SPEED Channel, FSN, MRN, PRN, Dallas Morning News, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Columbia State, NASCAR Scene, NASCAR.com., Landmark Newspapers (Greensboro, Roanoke), WRNL Radio (Richmond), XM Satellite Radio and two local TV stations. On Friday night, Mayfield was the color analyst for the Fox telecast of the pre-race show and NASCAR Busch Series race. On Saturday, Mayfield was a guest on ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" for a live segment. Kahne was interviewed by MRN and SPEED Channel prior to Friday's qualifying for the Cup event. Following the event, he was interviewed by ESPN, SPEED Channel, MRN, XM Radio and three local TV stations. Prior to the race, he was interviewed by MRN and Fox did a pre-race profile on the pole winner. After the victory, Kahne was interviewed by Fox and MRN. He also did interviews for three SPEED Channel programs, ESPN, PRN, XM Radio and seven local TV stations. Kahne went to the Press Box where he fielded questions from the media which included the Associated Press, USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Charlotte Observer, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dallas Morning News, Columbia State, Winston-Salem Journal, Sporting News, NASCAR.com, NASCAR Scene and others. Ray Evernham answered questions for the Winston-Salem Journal and Richmond Times Dispatch on Friday. On Saturday, he did an interview with NASCAR Scene and WWBT-TV (Richmond) prior to the race. Following the race, Evernham was interviewed by Fox, MRN, PRN, SPEED Channel, ESPN, XM Radio and seven local TV stations in victory lane. He answered questions in the press box from the media which included the Associated Press, USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Charlotte Observer, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Columbia State, Winston-Salem Journal, Sporting News, NASCAR.com, NASCAR Scene and others. Baldwin did an interview with MRN during the race on Saturday night. Following the race, Baldwin did interviews with MRN, SPEED Channel, ESPN, XM Radio, PRN and five local TV stations in victory lane. He fielded questions in the press box from the media which included the Associated Press, USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Charlotte Observer, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Columbia State, Winston-Salem Journal, Sporting News, NASCAR.com, NASCAR Scene and others.

Sponsor news

Thursday evening, Ray Evernham and Kasey Kahne attended a dinner hosted by Trus Joist at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Richmond. Trus Joist was hosting approximately 150 guests that evening. Friday afternoon prior to qualifying, Kahne visited the Trus Joist hospitality for a question and answer session with the group. Erin Crocker then visited the group following Busch series qualifying that afternoon. Saturday afternoon, Kasey Kahne conducted a meet and greet with VIP Mt. Dew guests.

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