Kasey Kahne narrowly held off points leader Tony Stewart
to win Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma,
Calif. Kahne survived several late-race restarts to cross the finish
line 0.748 seconds ahead of Stewart and claim his first victory of the season and his first in 37 races.
The win was also the first for team owner Richard Petty since
1999 and the first since The King's team, which had been in dire
financial straits and was reportedly near collapse, merged with Gillett
Evernham Motorsports before the start of the season. The new team was
renamed Richard Petty Motorsports.
"I feel just as good as he does," Petty said, wearing his trademark cowboy hat and sunglasses. "It's great, man. It's great."
Stewart's second-place finish extended his series lead over Jeff Gordon, who finished ninth on the day. Marcus Ambrose tied his best Cup finish ever, crossing the line third.
Reigning Cup champ Jimmie Johnson was fourth and was followed by Denny Hamlin and Juan Pablo Montoya, who moved up two spots in the standings to take the 12th and final Chase to the Sprint Cup position.
Though he won a circuit-high six races in 2006, Kahne has struggled
since. After finishing eighth in the standings in '06, he has missed
the end-of-season Chase each of the past two seasons. Sunday's win
vaulted him into 13th position, just one spot shy of the Chase.
Kahne hadn't found much success, either, at road courses. Before
Sunday at Sonoma, he had never finished in the top-10 in a NASCAR
road-course race. His best finish had been 14th, a feat he had
accomplished twice at Watkins Glen, N.Y.
"I learned how to drive on dirt,” Kahne said. “So to come out and win on a road course … it feels great. I can't believe it."