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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 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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