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NASCAR Nation – Despite Shortened Race, Win Still No Short Feat for Kahne-6-21-2006

By Rick Racela

It was a beautiful weekend in Michigan all weekend long. Clear skies on Friday for qualifying; the Craftsman Truck Series raced in near perfect conditions on Saturday, but on Sunday, it rained. a lot. After a 45 minute delay at the start of the race, Kasey Kahne led the field to the green flag. Kahne lead the field down pit road 129 laps later to their final resting points as the checkered flag came out with the red still in the air.
Kahne happened to be in the right place at the right time when the rain started. All of the teams knew it was coming and that the race would probably end when it arrived. So many tried to get their drivers up front so that they would be in position when the skies opened.
Brian Vickers’ team even stayed on the track at lap 81 to take the lead in hopes that he would hold on for the minimum 100 laps that needed to be run for the race to be official before rain hit. Vickers tried to lead too early, and finished 17th.
Kahne’s win hurdled him from fifth to third in the standings. But when Kahne was asked if he felt he would have won if the race went the scheduled 200 laps, he sounded a bit skeptical. “I know we would have challenged for it. I know Carl, Greg, the Hendrick cars were good. There were a few of them that were really good and we were one of them.”
Back-flipping sensation Carl Edwards finished second, his season best, in the 3M Performance 400. Dale Earnhardt Jr. also had a strong run, finishing third. Defending race winner Greg Biffle finished fourth, while rookie Reed Sorenson finished fifth. Bill Lester, making his second start of the season, improved on his first career start with a 32nd place finish. Martin Truex Jr. finished 16th.
Busch Series:
It was a surprising weekend in the Busch Series. The fact that a Nextel Cup Series driver didn’t win was surprising. But the Busch Series driver that did was more of a surprise. Making only his seventh career start, rookie driver David Gilliland took the checkered flag at the conclusion of the Meijer 300 Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.
Gilliland gained the lead in the later stages of the race and maintained it through restart after restart to win his first career race. He was quick to mention his intentions of eventually racing the Nextel Cup Series. “That’s where I want to be,” he said. “To be able to do it you’re going to have to race with them, you’re going to have to beat them. We did it tonight.'”
A wreck filled race saw many cars get what many would call “totaled”. Reed Sorenson took one of the hardest licks when he lost control of his Discount Tire Dodge and slammed hard into the outside wall early in the race. But the worst incident of the night was when Jason Leffler spun on the backstretch. Cars swerved out of the way to avoid Leffler’s idle car, including the car piloted by Jeff Fuller.
He turned his car into the grass to avoid contact from others but lost control and made incredible hard contact with the infield wall. His car burst into flames, but the flames were quickly put out by NASCAR’s top notch safety crews. Fuller was helped from his car, placed onto a stretcher, and taken to the University of Kentucky Hospital where he was listed in critical condition at the time of printing. We wish Jeff Fuller the best and hope for a quick and full recovery.
J.J. Yeley finished second in the race, followed by his teammate Denny Hamlin in third. Mike Wallace finished fourth and Ashton Lewis Jr. rounded out the top five.
Truck Series:
It was a weekend of first timers, but this time the new winner has been around quite a while. Johnny Benson won the Con-way Freight 200 last Friday night at Michigan International Speedway in his 60th career start. Benson held off Mark Martin in a green-white-checkered finish after New Jersey Native Martin Truex Jr. spun out to bring out the caution. Truex was making only his second career Truck Series start and finished 34th.
Benson, a native of Michigan, was very excited after his win. “This is awesome, I finally got this stupid win,” Benson said. “I have a lot of fans sitting up in Section 23. This is way cool. I don’t know what to say, this is pretty neat.”
Martin finished second, and fellow Nextel Cup Series driver Bobby Labonte finished third. Points leader Todd Bodine finished fourth. He was followed by Matt Crafton in the fifth position.
Coming Up:
The Nextel Cup Series heads off to the road course at Infineon Raceway in California while the Busch and Craftsman Truck teams head to the Milwaukee Mile for a weekend of stand-alone action. Don’t miss one second of all the exciting NASCAR action.
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Bruce Knoll, 14, of Eldora, can be contacted by email at bknoll jr4cmcherald@yahoo.com

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