Patient Kahne makes late-race gains

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Darrell Waltrip

Darrell Waltrip — winner of 84 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and a three-time champion — serves as lead analyst for NASCAR on FOX. He was selected for induction into the prestigious NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2012. Want more from DW? Become a fan on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

Cautious and patient, Kasey Kahne was faster than Tony Stewart, and he wasn't going to make a mistake. Kahne's strong suit is running high, wide and handsome, but he saw the lapped cars in front of the No. 20 car and didn't force the issue. He set up and made a clean pass. In his rookie season, Kahne was very patient. He had five 2nd-place finishes. During his second season, he was tired of finishing 2nd, but he got too aggressive. Now he's back to his old self. At Lap 99, his car jumped sideways. He had to catch the car and his breath because his car almost went out of the track.

The No. 9 car was really loose early in the race, but as track tightened up Stewart's car, Kahne's car came back to him. If you scanned the radios, you would have heard every driver talking about their cars getting tighter. It was really good news for Kahne, but if you were already too tight, ruh roh. When you tighten up the car with wedge, sometimes it makes the car looser. If you get too much wedge in the car, the right rear tire doesn't have enough weight on it so it will actually make the car loose, particularly getting into a turn. Today, teams usually go to the track bar. They don't even mess with wedge. That's what the No. 9 crew did with the track bar in their car. The other track bar is used after the race over in the Speedway Club outside of Turn 1. At Atlanta, Mark Martin took a look underneath Kahne, and the No. 9 car hit the afterburner. Kahne had the same afterburner hooked up at Texas. A good pit stop with a track bar adjustment was the best thing the team could do. As the laps ran down my heart rate picked up, but Kahne was relaxed. His hands weren't gripping the wheel. They were just holding it because the No. 9 car was on a rail. A good omen is bring the same car to Texas that won Atlanta. There's a good chance you're going to have a good run, and there's a good chance the car will race again. If I were Ray Evernham, I would have been on the radio with Kahne during his celebratory burnout. "It's fine if you blow up my engine, but please don't tear up the racecar because I've got a plan for that baby."

Top 12 countdown

  • 2nd place) Matt Kenseth: The No. 17 moved methodically from last to first. An engine change sent him to the back of the field to start the race, but he led after 159 laps. At the end of the race, Kenseth turned it up, unlike Las Vegas when he got passed coming to the checkered flag and Bristol when he was knocked out of the lead. He got the good finish that his team needed.
  • 3th place) Tony Stewart: Based on the way he came through the field from a 40th-place starting position, the inevitable happened at Lap 92 when Stewart took the lead. The way the No. 20 team is running, they could win a lot of races in a row.
  • 4th place) Denny Hamlin: Two things happened when Hamlin lost the lead to teammate Stewart. He was looking back to see where Tony was. When he looked up, he said, "Whoops, drove it into Turn 3 a little too hard."
  • 5th place) Kevin Harvick: Through pit reporter Jeanne Zelasko, "The Rookie" relayed a message to me that his No. 29 car was eating asphalt. People ask me, "Why are you always picking on Harvick?" It's because he picks on me! I'd love to have a conversation with him during green-flag racing while he's trolling along, eating asphalt.
  • 6th place) Jeff Burton: If the No. 31 car and the group of guys that he was running with weren't giving and taking, there would have been some wrecking. He got back in the fray with Reed Sorenson and Bobby Labonte for his best finish since a 5th-place run at California Speedway in February.
  • 7th place) Scott Riggs: The No. 10 car has been getting a little more consistent every week. Riggs is a good guy and a good little driver. I like the way the No. 10 team has turned around from Daytona. Missing the season-opening race could have been devastating, but they handled it well. They have moved on, and it's paying off.
  • 8th place) Martin Truex Jr.: Ninety-nine laps into the race, there were four rookies in the top 11. You can't say enough about the run that Truex had. At Bristol, he got in trouble with Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. His Martinsville race wasn't great with a 19th-place finish. Rebounding the way he did at Texas was a pretty good deal.
  • 9th place) Mark Martin: Over a 500-mile race, Martin climbed his way to another top-10 finish. Although he dropped two spots in the standings, it was a good points day for him because he actually gained 13 markers on point leader Jimmie Johnson.
  • 10th place) Bobby Labonte: When he's got a pretty good racecar, Labonte is smart. He needed a good finish, and he probably wasn't thinking win. He thought about getting back up in the points. The No. 43 team was flirting with 35th place for a while. Now he's 30th in the owner standings, 46 points ahead of Sterling Marlin.
  • 11th place) Jimmie Johnson: The 7th caution came in the nick of time for Johnson who got the "lucky dog." He should make a donation to the humane society.
  • 12th place) Dale Earnhardt Jr.: The No. 8 car had a nice line going up high, and he diamonded off the corner, searching around. He probably wished his car was as good as the No. 1 car because Truex was up in the top 10 all day long.
  • Busch vs. Biffle

    In last fall's race, Greg Biffle had a terrible day at Texas. He spun out a couple of times and had a lugnut problem. It probably cost him a championship. His crew chief Doug Richert and girlfriend Nicole Lunders were very upset again on Sunday. Biffle got turned on the back straightaway by former Roush Racing teammate Kurt Busch who lifted him up. These noses fit right under the back bumper of the car in front, and the pictures told the story. If Biffle hadn't been turning while coming back across Busch's nose, it wouldn't have caused the problem. It's one of those things that drivers can't do on a superspeedway. Busch's only excuse could be Biffle was down and moved in front him. But Busch should have been on his toes and anticipated Biffle's move. We talk about "give and take" a lot during races. At Texas, Busch should have given instead of taking.
    Ask DW

    Oh, by the way

  • 13th place) Reed Sorenson was running up in the top 10, but he got a little excited and frustrated on his final pit stop. He wasn't in his pit box and had to roll forward. He didn't have very far to go to get back on the track, but he was speeding just enough to go to be sent to the tailend of the lead lap.
  • 19th place) Clint Bowyer: It was a great move on the No. 07 team's part to take two tires during the last pit stop and try to hold on for a top 10. But Bowyer got loose and fell through the field in a hurry. Kyle Busch did a pretty good job of trying not to run into him, but Bowyer ended the race in the infield wall on the backstretch.
  • 20th place) Robby Gordon was doing everything he could do on the final restart to get back on the lead lap. He had the misfortune of pitting right before the final
  • 22nd place) Jeff Gordon is probably the only Nextel Cup driver who isn't glad that Texas has two races now.
  • 36th place) Carl Edwards needs to go back and see where his horseshoe fell out because it dropped out of his pocket during the winter. He got loose as he drove side-by-side with Gordon. It sure looked like Edwards clipped the No. 20 car as he went by, but Stewart said he was fine.
  • It was an exciting race with the normal cast of characters, but the rookies kept lurking back there. I expected any one of them to bust up front and take the win. In the end, the same old guy with the same car he raced at Atlanta turned in the same result.
    Tagged: Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Scott Riggs, Reed Sorenson, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart

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