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Kahne puts Red Bull into victory lane

Meanwhile Kenseth's afternoon was about to go from bad to worse: on lap 178 he was rammed in the rear end by Brian Vickers and punted into the wall. It seemed like retaliation by Vickers on Kenseth for their on-track spat two weeks ago at Martinsville, every bit as blatant as the retaliation on Ron Hornaday that had seen Kyle Busch parked at Texas last weekend, so everyone held their breath to see whether NASCAR agreed that this crossed the mythic 'line' that they had evoked for Busch. No action was forthcoming, and NASCAR explained that Kenseth had been suffering from brake issues and the crash was a result of an unsuspecting Vickers coming up too fast on the rear of a coasting #17 that was having to ease unusually slowly into the turn.

Kenseth wasn't convinced. "Well yeah, obviously it is retaliation for retaliation," he said. "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 do nothing about it. It was so premeditated it just surprises me that they didn't do anything. I am disappointed but I expected it."

Referring to the Busch-Hornaday retaliation last weekend, Kenseth added: "If NASCAR is going to start parking people for being mad 25 second after you wreck and wrecking somebody then you would park somebody for that ... They need to figure out how to get the drivers to settle their difference in a different way and talk about it or figure it out or do something instead of using your car as a battering ram somewhere this fast."

Kenseth did re-emerge much later to try and claw back a few positions and points back, and everyone waited to see whether he would seek out Vickers for some revenge of his own. "No, not at all. I don't stoop to that level," he insisted. "I would never sit down there and wait for somebody and take a cheap shot like that. You can hurt someone like that and that isn't sportsmanlike and that isn't something I would do."

"I wasn't planning on paying him back," Vickers insisted. "He wrecked me at Martinsville, he got wrecked here. I'm not saying I wasn't going to pay him back, I'm just saying that wasn't it."

With Kenseth out of the way and Kevin Harvick never a threat at Phoenix - usually running around the mid-teens all afternoon - the Chase battle really had finally had come down to a two-man shootout. Edwards led Stewart to the restart on lap 182, but Smoke wasn't about to take that lying down and he promptly put the #14 back in front again to make the point that this was his race, thank you very much, and that Carl should keep his hands off it. Tony led for the next 40 laps until the eighth yellow on lap 220 when Robby Gordon managed to hit the wall (Geoff Bodine having done so much damage to the #36 by this point that he was no longer available for caution instigation incidents.)

That proved to be the last caution of the day, which left the cars with almost 90 laps to run to the end - too far to get to without a final pit stop, so fuel conservations strategies were moot. All that mattered was the timing and execution of the final pit stop, and of course who had the best cars for the cooling conditions.

Kurt Busch and Paul Menard had taken two tyres each and duly led the field ahead of Edwards and Stewart. Menard soon dropped back, but Busch proved remarkably resilient in the lead and led the next 57 laps, until suddenly he found he'd pushed the fuel too far - he'd run dry on his approach into pit lane. That meant that the ensuing stop was painfully long as the pit crew had to coax gas back into the fuel lines. Then he stalled it trying to get away and finally to add salt to the gaping self-inflicted wound he got a drive-thru for entering pit lane too quickly because of the distractions.

Busch isn't known for his calm demeanour at such moments, and once again he was on the radio venting for all to hear: "We just never learn from our mistakes. Brilliant. Just brilliant," he fumed. "Just trying to make sure we finish 11th in points, aren't we? Unreal."

That put Carl Edwards in the lead again with Kasey Kahne in second, having worked his way steadily up through the positions since the last restart. Kahne pitted first on lap 288 and took right-side tyres and fuel; Edwards was in four laps later on the same strategy and Stewart was in shortly after switching to a no-tyre, fuel-only gambit.

by Andrew Lewin



Related Pictures

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Tony Stewart leads fellow Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards during the Kobalt Tools 500 on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. [Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images]
The #4 Red Bull Racing Team celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. [Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kasey Kahne celebrates winning the 24th Annual Kobalt Tools 500, his 12th victory in 287 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Last win was Sept. 6, 2009 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This breaks an 81-race winless streak. [Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Both Johnson and Harvick are in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS finished in fourth place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS finished in 2nd place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished in 26th place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Gordon is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, loses control of the car after making contact with Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, drives with damage to his car after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates setting the pole position during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, speaks at a press conference following practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, smiles at Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brian Vickers, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field after a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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T - Unregistered

November 14, 2011 10:52 PM

Hope Tony pulls it off -4 wins from 9 races versus none for 'Cousin' Carl. Says a lot about Nascars scoring system... Kenseth Vs Vickers - Most drivers thought it was retaliation, Vickers counter claimed Kenseth brake tested him and Nascar ignored the clash completely ! No wonder kyle Busch fans where protesting outside Nascars HQ



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