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Patience certainly a virtue for Kahne
By BRANT JAMES
Published April 18, 2006
Kasey Kahne was in no mood for a weekend off, not with two wins and five top-10s in the first seven Nextel Cup races of the season. Not standing fourth in points.
Making a strong statement about his ability to come back from a woeful 2005 season, the 2004 rookie of the year has won two races in four weeks - from the pole at both Atlanta and Texas - to re-energize his career.
But if those wins proved anything to Kahne, it was that he is a better race car driver when patient. So he bided his time like the rest of the field during a leaguewide test at Richmond before racing resumes Sunday at Phoenix.
"Last year when you're running 20th, you want to get up front. You want to get in the top 15. You want to get points, and your car is capable of running 20th," Kahne said. "Sometimes I was going overboard and not getting the results we needed. At the same time, it's tough when you're that far back."
Patience has been easier to come by now that certain Dodge teams seem to finally be grasping the intricacies of the devilish Charger. After a humbling debut, the second-year racing brand has won three of the past four Cup races, including Kurt Busch 's victory at Bristol for Penske Racing. Kahne's Evernham Motorsports team appears to have the best handle, at least with one car. Kahne used the same one to win both races.
"I've had much better race cars," Kahne said. "Our Dodge Chargers have been handling a lot better. It takes a lot of work to get the Charger to where it needs to be in order to run with the other manufacturers each week and the top teams."
BONE UP: NASCAR's decision to allow just six all-teams tests at tracks hosting Cup events has forced teams to be more clever and judicious in what they try to accomplish in the three-day sessions. Checklists cannot be track-specific anymore, Jeff Gordon said, noting his team last week did a great deal of advance work for Sunday's Phoenix race in addition to two upcoming Richmond races.
"We're actually doing things and applying things we learn here to other tracks, mile-and-a-half tracks, Phoenix, all different types of tracks," he said, "because of the technology that we have and because of the direction that we're going into with the setups these days. You'll learn a lot from every single track that you go to."
NEW DEAL: Jamie McMurray moved to the ultra-successful Roush Racing organization because he said its equipment would give him a much better chance to win than what he was getting at Ganassi Racing. The logic made sense, as Roush had won driver championships with Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth in 2004 and 2003, respectively.
Thing is, McMurray has done little with his new equipment, sinking to 21st in points and helping prompt Roush to swap crew chiefs this week. Bob Osborne , who helped Carl Edwards to a tie for second in points last year, takes over for Jimmy Fennig as McMurray's crew chief and everyone is saying the right things as they prepare for their first race together.
"This is obviously going to be an interesting week for us," said McMurray, who has one career Cup win, in 2002. "There will be an adjustment period for both myself and the team."
Edwards also has struggled this season, sitting 22nd in points as he begins his tenure with new crew chief and former Roush lead engineer Wally Brown .
BIG IN JAPAN: Defending Indy Racing League champion and St. Petersburg resident Dan Wheldon will attempt to win at Motegi, Japan, for the third straight year Saturday. Wheldon trails points leader and Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner Helio Castroneves by 29 in the standings. The Japan race is the IRL's last before the May 28 Indianapolis 500, which Wheldon won last year for the first time.
"To go into Indy with momentum is extremely important, and the only place to get that is Motegi," he said.
FILL-IN: Team owner/driver Eddie Cheever announced that former Panther Racing driver Tomas Enge will replace him at Motegi so he can compete in the Grand Am Series event at Virginia International Raceway. Cheever came out of retirement to drive four races, including the Indy 500.
OBITUARY: Louise Smith , the first woman inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999, died Saturday in Greenville, S.C., after battling cancer. She was 89. Mrs. Smith was on the NASCAR circuit from 1945-56 at the behest of young promoter Bill France , who was looking for a way to get people to the track. Known for her fearless style, she won 38 modified events.
--Information from Times wires was added to this report.