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Kahne puts Red Bull into victory lane

That left Brad Keselowski minding the store for four laps ahead of Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton and Tony Stewart. Keselowski came in on lap 299 which put him a lap down, and handed the lead to Kahne who was over a second ahead of Edwards. Could Carl do anything about the #4 in the remaining 14 laps? He gave it a decent try and closed to under eight-tenths, but then Kahne simply pushed a bit harder and eked out the lead once more. Try as he might, Edwards had to concede he didn't have enough to get back in front in the remaining time - and sure enough, the end of lap 312 saw the chequered flag out for Kahne.

"We put the whole race together today and then had a little luck," said a happy Kahne in victory lane. "Everything that falls into winning a race, we had it today."

The win was Kahne's 12th in Cup racing in 287 starts, his first at Phoenix and also his first in 81 races, the last coming at Atlanta in September 2009 for Richard Petty Motorsports. It's a fitting way to say farewell to Red Bull Racing: regardless of what happens to the team when the drinks company ends its funding of the outfit at the end of the year, Kahne himself is definitely moving on and will be at the wheel of the Hendrick Motorsports #5 car in 2012 taking over from Mark Martin.

Edwards finished in second, and admitted that it was a bit disappointing having to play safe and leave Kahne with the win. "I felt that the strategy we went with, we had to do it that way," he insisted. "To pit early with him and leave the opportunity to be a lap down and mired back in the field if there were a restart ... I believe Bob did the right thing.

"I would have loved to won this race for sure. That is what we all do this for," he confessed. "I think we did a really good job today. I am not certain if we had the fastest car, but we performed well with it and got a good result."

Behind Edwards, Stewart battled hard with Jeff Burton to reclaim third place in the final laps. "It just looked like he got a little tight and I was able to get rotated in the centre and get underneath him," said Stewart of the pass. "But I don't think he pushed the issue really hard; I think he raced us with respect there and so I appreciate that."

It might only have been a single position, but the extra point that it gave together with the bonus point for leading most laps of the day (160 of the 312 race distance) meant that he tied Edwards for championship points on the day. They came into Phoenix three points apart; they would leave in exactly the same situation.

"Every point counts right now," agreed Stewart. "That's why we raced Carl so hard, and Kasey so hard. We led enough laps to lead the most laps today so we're going for every single point we can get right now."

It means that it all comes down to one final race to decide the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. And for the first time, we can say definitively that the new champion will be either Carl Edwards or Tony Stewart, as everyone else is now mathematically eliminated from contention: the only other Chase driver who even finished in the top ten at Phoenix was Ryan Newman in fifth, but he had long ago fallen out of reach of the title, as had Denny Hamlin who finished Sunday's race in 12th.

But it was a landmark day for Jimmie Johnson, who finished in 14th place after at one point describing the #48 as "scary, scary loose." Although he improved in the second half of the race, he still ended up 68pts off Edwards in the standings and now no longer has any hopes of retaining his title for a six consecutive season.

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 stops in the pits on his way to his win Sunday, March 1, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS races to victory Sunday, March 1, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory with a burnout Sunday, March 1, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS celebrates his victory Sunday, March 1, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Chevrolet, spins out after an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ben Kennedy, driver of the #11 Local Motors Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via 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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