Kasey Kahne, driver of the #4 Red Bull Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 13, 2011 in Avondale, Arizona.
(Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kasey Kahne snapped an 81-race winless streak with his victory at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, while Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart finished second and third to keep the title race tight headed into next weekend’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
While Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart have been battling for the title, Kahne has been quietly tuning up his performance for next season.
“If I’m in a racecar, I want to do the best that I can,” Kahne said, crediting crew chief Kenny Francis for giving him strong Toyotas that have allowed him “to perform with and run with Carl and Tony, who have been probably the two best.
Next Sunday, one of them will officially unsteat Jimmie Johnson, who has won the last five NASCAR championships.
Edwards will take a three-point lead over Stewart into the Ford 400.
In the media center after the race, both drivers looked amped and ready for the main event.
Stewart said “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a dead heat going in there. I want to go to Homestead tomorrow and start. I want tomorrow to be Friday. I’m pumped up, I’m excited about it and ready to go.”
Edwards was the same way.
“This is going to be a battle. I truly believe it’s going to be a good race,” Edwards said. “That place is magical for us. I really enjoy going there. I hope it comes down to the fastest guy winning the race.”
Stewart, who has won the last two weeks in a row, dominated Sunday and led 160 of the 312 laps. With 18 laps to go, he had to put for gas and was forced to work his way back to the front.
“We had an awesome day. We came up two spots shy. I don’t know how you could have asked for a better day,” he said. “We led the most laps, we were on the same pace we were last week, just to have a perfect day. Just fought as hard as we could all day.”
Edwards had a great race too, even if he had to chase Stewart for the majority of the race.
Edwards is a two-time winner at Homestead-Miami. Stewart is trying to become the first owner/driver since Alan Kulwicki in 1992 to win the championship, won the first two Cup races at Homestead in 1999 and 2000.
The end of the race officially marked the end of Jimmie Johnson’s reign as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion. He finished 14th and was mathematically eliminated from title contention.
After the race, No. 48 took to twitter and posted “It’s been one hell of a run.”
Kahne, who hasn’t woin a race since Atlanta 2009, is coming up on his last race at Red Bull Racing. As you will recall he is moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012.
His win was only the second for Red Bull Racing, which came into the sport in 2007.
Kahne, who won in a brand new car, said it’s a shame Red Bull is leaving.
“I wouldn’t say there’s anyone out there that’s building better cars at this time. The Red Bull guys are doing an awesome job and they haven’t given up,” he said. “It’s tough to hear it’s shutting down in eight days. Over the last three months, you have one of the top five cars in NASCAR shutting down and that’s crazy.”
Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth found each other on the track as well on Sunday afternoon. Kenseth was wrecked when Vickers ran into the back of him, an act Kenseth told ESPN was deliberate. He also wondered why NASCAR didn’t punish Vickers the way Kyle Busch was at Texas.
“You have someone that has been telling everybody for four or five weeks that as soon as he got a chance at a fast race track he was going to make it hurt and wipe us out and they (NASCAR) do nothing about it,” Kenseth said. “It was so premeditated it just surprises me that they didn’t do anything. I am disappointed but I expected it.”
Vickered denied it was intentional.
“If he wants to doubt us, that’s fine,” Vickers said. “He wrecked me at Martinsville, he got wrecked here, but it actually wasn’t (payback). I’m not saying I wasn’t going to pay him back, but I’m just saying that wasn’t it.”
The race was also the first for Kyle Busch, who was parked last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway for intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday, Jr., work
Kyle Busch, who was racing again after NASCAR parked him at Texas last weekend for intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday, Jr. during the Camping World Truck Series race, worked his way up to third before his engine failed. He would finish 36th.
“It’s just devastating,” Busch said. “To go through turmoil like this, all you can do is group together and pull through it and try to persevere and move on.”
What do you think NASCAR fans, Can Carl Edwards hang on for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, or will Tony Stewart become three time champion?
Results from Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 from Phoenix International Raceway can be found after the jump.
1. Kasey Kahne
2. Carl Edwards
3. Tony Stewart
4. Jeff Burton
5. Ryan Newman
6. AJ Allmendinger
7. David Reuitimann
8. Marcos Ambrose
9. Paul Menard
10. Clint Bowyer
11. Joey Logano
12. Denny Hamlin
13. Greg Biffle
14. Jimmie Johnson
15. Juan Pablo Montoya
16. Mark Martin
17. Jamie McMurray
18. Brad Keselowski
19. Kevin Harvick
20. Martin Truex, Jr
21. Bobby Labonte
22. Kurt Busch
23. Brian Vickers
24. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
25. Cole Whitt
26. Casey Mears
27. Dave Blaney
28. JJ Yeley
29. Landon Cassill
30. Mike Bliss
31. David Gililland
32. Jeff Gordon
33. David Ragan
34. Matt Kenseth
35. Robby Gordon
36. Kyle Busch
37. Geoffrey Bodine
38. Regan Smith
39. Scott Speed
40. Michael McDowell
41. Joe Nemecheck
42. Mike Skinner
43. Travis Kvapil